Steller’s Eider – Accepted

1. 16 Jan–30 May 1983


Crescent City DN



Fig. 22, ph., AB 37:333, originally published as a female

2. 19 Nov 1983

HY male

s spit Humboldt Bay HUM



ph., age and sex per Harris (1996), privately held specimen later discarded

3. 27 Oct 1991–02 May 1992


Bodega Bay SON



ph., AB 46:144, Patten et al. (1995)





Figure 22. California’s first Steller’s Eider frequented the waterfront at Crescent City, Del Norte County, where it was photographed on 22 February 1983. Although it was considered a female during observation, the sprinkling of white on the breast and in the head, as well as the bird’s clean wing bars and fairly large bill, suggest that it could have been a first-winter male (1983-009; Alan Wormington).



Steller’s Eider

STELLER’S EIDER Polysticta stelleri (Pallas, 1769)

Accepted: 3 (100%)

Treated in Appendix H: no

Not accepted: 0

CBRC review: all records

Not submitted/reviewed: 0

Color image: none

This duck breeds along the northern and western coasts of Alaska and in Siberia. Most birds winter in the southern Bering Sea (east to Cook Inlet on the south-central coast of Alaska), with smaller numbers in Norway and the Baltic Sea. In the New World, vagrants have strayed laterally to Baffin Island, eastern Quebec, Maine, Massachusetts, and Greenland. Along the Pacific coast south of Alaska, six have been found in British Columbia, two in Washington (including one inland at the Walla Walla River delta 9–13 September 1995), and one in Oregon.

A Steller’s Eider present from 16 January to 30 May 1983 at Crescent City, Del Norte County, was the first to be recorded in California (Morlan 1985; Figure 22). This bird was thought to be a female at the time, but a first-winter male is now considered more likely. Steller’s Eiders are unlike King and Common Eiders in that some young males may not acquire substantial male-like plumage until their second prebasic molt, which begins in July (P. Pyle in litt.).

The state’s second record refers to a first-fall male that was shot by a hunter on 19 November 1983 at the south spit of Humboldt Bay, Humboldt County. The specimen remained in private hands for some years (Langham 1991) before being discarded (Harris 2006). Photographs of it are in the CBRC archives.

The third and most recent record involves a bird present from 27 October 1991 to 2 May 1992 at Bodega Bay, Sonoma County. This individual was widely thought to be a young male during the first part of its stay, but opinions changed as the bird only became browner with the passage of time. The final verdict holds that it was a female, possibly an adult.


[SPECTACLED EIDER Somateria fischeri (Brandt, 1847) – see hypothetical section]