Sea-associated birds were recorded during systematic aerial surveys of marine mammals in south-western Greenland, the Davis Strait and southern Baffin Bay in March 1981, 1982, 1991, 1993 and in April 1990. Most surveys included the northern part of the south-west Greenland Open Water Area, which in most years lies between 62° and 67°N. but none of the area south of 63°N was surveyed. The bird data are generally semi-quantitative and provide information on distribution and relative abundance in different areas during different years, under different ice conditions.
In all years, regardless of ice conditons, large concentrations of king eiders Somateria spectabilis were found in water <50m deep on the shallow banks off south-west Greenland, especially on the northern portion of the Store Hellefiskebanke. We estimate that in 1981 and 1982 about 270000 king eiders overwintered on the banks off south-west Greenland.
Compared to king eiders, flocks of common eiders Somateria mollissima were considerably more dispersed. They were found mainly close to shore off south-west Greenland, where they were distributed along rocky coastlines.
A few thousands of large guillemots Uria spp. were recorded in the study area in March 1981, 1982, 1991 and 1993, but large numbers (>65000 birds) were recorded north of the south-west Greenland Open Water Area in April 1990. indicating that northward spring migration was underway at this time.