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Threatened Eiders of North America. Byram L. Feltner Bio 586. Eiders of North America (4 species). Common Eider King Eider Spectacled Eider (Threatened) Steller’s Eider ( Threatened ). Eider Characteristics. Large diving ducks (some can dive to depths of 180 feet)

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Threatened Eiders of North America

Byram L. Feltner

Bio 586

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Eiders of North America(4 species)

  • Common Eider

  • King Eider

  • Spectacled Eider (Threatened)

  • Steller’s Eider (Threatened)

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Eider Characteristics

  • Large diving ducks (some can dive to depths of 180 feet)

  • Feed mainly on mollusks and invertebrates. Some diets can consist of some plant matter (rarely exceeds 5%).

  • Found in extreme northern habitats. (Some spend the winter in openings of the sea ice.)

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  • Typically line nest w/ down feathers

  • Usually nest near rocky areas above water.

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Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Anseriformes


Family: Anatidae


Tribe: Mergini

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Common EiderSomateria mollissima

  • Largest duck in North America (Length: 17”, Wingspan: 41”)

  • Feed primarily on mollusks

  • Population: 1-1.5 million

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King EiderSomateria spectabilis

  • Large Duck (Length: 16”, Wingspan: 37”)

  • Feeds primarily on mollusks

  • Population: <1 million

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Spectacled EiderSomateria fischeri

  • Threatened Species

  • Large Duck (Length: 15”, Wingspan: 36”)

  • Diet varies according to time of year.

  • Population: <100,000

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Spectacled Eider Identification

  • Identification Tip:

    • Bill feathered to nostril

  • Adult male:

    • Pale green head with large

      white patch around eye

    • Yellow bill

    • Black underparts

    • White upperparts

  • Adult female:

    • Dark brown plumage with fine

      black barring

    • Pale brown patch around eye

  • Similar species:

    • The male is very distinctive. The female may be mistaken for another eider female, but the eye patch and extensive feather on the bill sets it apart.

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Spectacled Eider Diet

  • Breeding/Growth Season

    • Insects and Vegetation

  • Rest of Season

    • Mollusks and Vegetation

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Threatened Listing

  • Effective Date: June 9, 1993

    • Populations had declined by 94-98% within the principle breeding range.

      • Alaska’s population declined 14% the following year (1994).

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Steller’s EiderPolysticta stelleri

  • Threatened Species

  • Smallest of Eiders (Length: 12”, Wingspan: 29”)

  • Feeds mainly on crustaceans (amphipods, isopods, and barnacles)

  • Population: 150,000 – 200,000

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Steller’s Eider Identification

  • Identification Tips:

    • Gray unfeathered bill

    • Squarish head

    • Long tail

  • Adult male alternate:

    • White head and flanks

    • Black on throat and back

    • Black around eye

    • Greenish patch on lores and rear of head

    • Black spot on breast

    • Black and white scapulars

    • Brownish belly

  • Adult female:

    • Dark brown plumage

    • Pale eyering

    • Square head

  • Similar species:

    • Male is distinct. The female could be missidentified as another eider. The female Steller’s has and unfeathered bill, squarer head, longer tail, and is smaller in size.

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Steller’s Eider Diet

  • Throughout Year

    • Mainly on various crustaceans (amphipods, isopods, barnacles)

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Threatened Listing

  • Effective Date: 1997

    • Alaskan breeding populations has nearly disappeared.

      • Estimates range from hundreds to low thousands.

      • Problem not well understood.

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Cause for Listing(Steller’s and Spectacled)

  • Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Habitat or Range

  • Over utilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes

  • Disease or Predation

  • Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

  • Other Natural or Manmade Factors

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Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Habitat

  • Destruction of habitat is low.

    • Many areas unaltered and uninhabited

  • Alaskan North Slope

    • Altered by oil and gas development

    • Only small portion of breeding range

  • Marine habitat still poorly understood

  • Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). Elevated concentrations of many trace elements, noticeably cadmium, selenium, and copper, but these were below levels associated with toxicological risk to marine birds.

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2. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scietific, or Educational Purposes

  • Were traditionally harvested during migration

  • Alaskan and Siberian natives

    • Take eggs and birds for food

  • Skin and feathers used for clothing.

  • Bones used for household purposes

  • Feathers were used in fans for tourists

  • Spring harvest supplied traditional source of meat to coastal communities.

  • Illegal harvest for taxidermy trade

    • Magnitude unknown

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3. Disease and Predation or Educational Purposes

  • Increases in fox and common raven populations.

    • Never proven to have affected populations.

  • Gull (glaucous-winged) populations increased due to fish processing wastes.

    • Prey on chicks

  • Parasites (acanthocephalans)

    • Lowering reproduction/survival.

    • Not affected in good habitat.

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4. Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms or Educational Purposes

  • Harvest was regulated under authority of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. 703-711).

    • Hunting has been closed since 1991

  • Historically hunted in Russia

    • Estimates for harvest is high

      • No records of harvest was recorded in Russia

  • Hunting was not regulated strictly despite the M.B.T. (Prohibited hunting between March 10 and September 1)

    • This was due to the fact that many residents historically and traditionally took eiders for food.

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5. Natural or Manmade Factors or Educational Purposes

  • Oil Spills

  • Oil Fields

    • Low nesting numbers in active fields

  • Pollution

    • From offshore oil development and fishery vessels

  • Fishing Nets

  • Lead shot

    • Very few cases

  • Severe weather

    • Natural die off

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Conservation Measures Taken or Educational Purposes

  • Recognition

  • Recovery Actions

  • Requirements for Federal Protection

  • Prohibition against certain practices

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Recognition or Educational Purposes

  • Encourages and results in conservation actions by Federal, State, and local governments and private agencies, groups and individuals.

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2. Recovery Actions or Educational Purposes

  • Act provides for possible land acquisition and cooperation with the states and requires that recovery actions be carried out for all listed species.

  • Land isn’t always secured!

    • The spectacled eider is one of the many migratory species that depend on the globally unique habitat at Teshekpuk Lake inside the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska along Alaska's western Arctic coast. The area is also critical to Pacific black brant, yellow-billed loons, tundra swans, king eiders, and northern pintails. But the Bush administration wants to lease the lands along Teshekpuk Lake to the oil and gas industry.

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3. Requirements for Federal Protection or Educational Purposes

  • Prohibits taking and harm of the listed species.

  • Provided habitat protection rather than just species protection that was covered in the M.B.A.

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4. Prohibition against certain practices or Educational Purposes

  • Scientific studies

    • Permit system

  • Zoological exhibition, educational purposes

    • Permit system

      • No threatened species on exhibit

Como Zoo, MN

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Importance or Educational Purposes

  • Balance

    • Keystone species

      • Specific niche

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Ten Most Wanted or Educational Purposes

  • Spectacled Eider

  • Ross’s Gull

  • Ivory Gull

  • White morph Gyrfalcon

  • Snowy Owl

  • Albatross

  • White-tailed Tropicbird

  • Atlantic Puffin

  • Trogon

  • Ivory-billed Woodpecker