The ASLC houses captive research flocks of both Steller’s and spectacled eiders, which are listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act. Over the years, the captive birds have helped provide behavioral and physiological information that can be applied to wild birds and overall conservation goals for each species.
Beginning in April, staff starts to transform the outdoor pens into smaller breeding units. Nesting areas are created to feel as natural as possible, which involves bringing in small and large driftwood pieces, moss and fake plastic vegetation, and placing nesting boxes.
Birds are moved into breeding units in the beginning of May, and a few weeks later the first egg typically arrives. We are underway for the 2017 season! The first spectacled eider egg arrived May 17 and first Steller’s eider May 23.
For Steller’s eiders, continuing to develop captive propagation techniques is a high priority recovery task for the species. We have accomplished a lot since 2007, when our program became the first one to successfully breed Steller’s eiders in captivity in North America. We continue to refine captive breeding techniques. This year, there are 8 designated breeding pairs of Steller’s eiders in which we hope to continue to encourage natural breeding behaviors like incubation.
One goal this season with the three pairs of breeding spectacled eiders will be to hatch ducklings for the NPRB funded project to investigate effects of salinity on growth of threatened Steller’s and spectacled eider ducklings.
Written by: Sadie Ulman