This summer the Eider Team has been busy working on many breeding season goals. One of the main objectives for the season was to hatch out spectacled eider ducklings for the NPRB funded project to investigate effects of salinity on growth of threatened Steller’s and spectacled eider ducklings.
Why salinity? An increase in periodic storm surges on some coastal areas is depositing increasing amounts of saline water into breeding habitats of eiders and other waterfowl. Because newly hatched waterfowl lack functional salt glands to process saline water, increases in salinity levels in brood rearing ponds may impact growth and survival of ducklings.
Our first spectacled eider ducklings hatched around Summer Solstice and we have been rocking ever since! The last of the ducklings just turned 60 days old and have ‘graduated’ the project. This year, there were 19 spectacled eider ducklings part of the research project.
To help understand any potential effects of salinity on the ducklings, there is quite a bit of time spent observing behaviors and monitoring a duckling from hatch until just after flight feathers are fully grown. Growth monitoring includes collecting data on weight, morphometrics, and flight feather growth quite regularly. Growth data on our captive birds will provide beneficial information for interpretation of data collected on eiders in the wild.
Understanding how species will respond to climate driven changes in habitat is essential for predicting future patterns of distribution and abundance, and necessary for management agencies to make informed decisions about habitat and species conservation priorities.
Written by: Sadie Ulman