This week on Metinic we had the opportunity to participate in the annual Common Eider round up! We grabbed our boots and our nets and headed into the brush! Now finding an Eider in the bushes isn’t easy, and getting a net in front of her before she can flush to the water is even harder. Jennie disagrees; she scared one right into her net!
Common Eiders are devoted mothers. They do not feed during incubation, and may lose up to 45% of their initial body mass! Within the first week of incubation females will leave the nest to drink freshwater, then stay on their nests around 20 days unless disturbed. Once ducklings hatch, the hen leads them to the water and nonbreeding hens join them to create a protective “crèche”. These crèches are crucial for defending the ducklings against predation from Great Black-Back Gulls
Common Eiders are an important harvest species in Maine, and require management to protect the populations from decline. Mark and recapture roundups like ours on Metinic, combined with band reports from hunting mortalities allow biologists to set bag limits. In recent years those limits have had to decrease in response to increased hunting pressure.
These long lived ducks have reproductive models more similar to seabirds then other ducks. They have deferred sexual maturity, small clutches, and long lifespans. Because of this, females have the option of taking a year off from breeding. Traditionally there were 300 Common Eiders nesting on Metinic Island, this year it was estimated to be about 25 on the north end. There were plenty of female Eiders on the water so hopefully they are just taking a year off. At least our new ducklings will have a lot of “aunts”!
A giant Metinic Thank You goes out to Maine Departmaent of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologists Brad Allen and Kelsey Sullivan, and U.S. Geological Survey biologist Dan McAuley. We had a blast on our Eider round up!
~ The Metinic Crew (Charlie Walsh, and Jennie Wiacek)