We studied the chronology and success of nesting Spectacled Eiders (Somateria fischeri) along the lower Kashunuk River on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta from 1991-1995. Nest initiation dates ranged from 16 May-22 June, Median nest initiation dates were correlated with the break-up of ice on the Kashunuk River. Clutch sizes declined seasonally, and mean clutch size varied among years ranging from 4.8-5.6 eggs. The frequency of nests containing inviable eggs (24% of successful nests, x?? = 0.6 unhatched eggs per successful nest) did not differ among years or nest initiation dates, and may be related to exposure to contaminants. The rate of partial depredation also did not vary among years or initiation dates (23% of nests, x?? = 0.5 eggs taken/successful nest). We detected no effect of marking or visitation on daily survival rate of nests. Nests initiated early in the year were more successful than late nests; thus, early nesting females laid larger clutches and were more likely to nest successfully than late nesters. Nest success varied among years and declined from 73% in 1991 to 18% in 1994. Nest success increased to 76% in 1995 when we reduced the Mew Gull (Larus canus) population on the study area. While inviability and partial depredation averaged over 1 egg per successful nest; the production lost in nests that were abandoned or completely destroyed by predators was much greater. Our data indicate that Spectacled Eiders nesting on our study area experience relatively high production; however, without information regarding annual survival and recruitment, it is not possible to draw conclusions about population growth rates.
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Productivity of nesting spectacled eiders on the lower Kashunuk River, Alaska