Molt ecology of White-winged Scoters in the St. Lawrence estuary

Project Number: 87
Year Funded: 2006
Lead Institution(s): Canadian Wildlife Service
Project Lead: Christine Lepage
Collaborator(s): Jean-Pierre Savard (EC), Jean-Francois Giroux (UQ), Scott Gilliland (CWS)
Location: Quebec
Focal Species: White-winged Scoter (Melanitta delgandi)
Project Description: A recent compilation by the Sea Duck Monitoring Working Group suggests that White-winged Scoter (Melanitta fusca) harvest may represent as much as 14.1% of the eastern population (SDJV 2005). Although these figures are rough approximations, they raise serious concerns about the eastern population and at least about the need of better data on that population. White-winged Scoters are the largest and least numerous of the scoters in the east so that extreme caution is needed in their exploitation.

Management of the eastern population, is impaired by lack of knowledge on its ecology, distribution and behaviour (Brown and Fredrickson 1997, SDJV 2001). Little is known of the breeding distribution and post breeding ecology of White-winged Scoters in eastern North America (Brown and Fredrickson 1997). The first breeding evidence in Quebec dates from 1976 when a brood was sighted in northern Quebec (Savard 1977). Since then several other sightings were made (Limoges and Morrier 1996) and a relatively high density breeding area was found in the lowlands of the east coast of James Bay (Benoit et al. 1994, Bergeron et al. 1996). However, the number of birds breeding there accounts only for a small portion of the eastern population.

Brown and Fredrickson (1997), in their review of the state of knowledge on the species in North America, emphasized the absence of knowledge on the molting distribution and ecology of White-winged Scoters. Given the amount of research done in the last decade on Surf Scoters (Melanitta perpicillata), Black Scoters (M. nigra) and the western population of White-winged Scoters (Bordage and Savard 1995, Brown and Fredrickson 1997, Savard et al. 1998, SDJV 2006) the eastern population of White-winged Scoters has become the least known of the scoter populations. The recent discovery of White-winged Scoter molting sites in the St. Lawrence estuary (CWS unpublished data; >4,000 birds) provides a unique opportunity to learn more about the eastern population of Whitewinged Scoters. Not only this molting population provides an opportunity to learn more about the molt ecology of White-winged Scoters, but also a way of getting at movements and harvest location and rates.
Project Reports:
Molt ecology of White-winged Scoters in the St. Lawrence estuary