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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

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Observations: Little is known about the longevity of these animals. Record longevity from banding studies is 8.8 years (http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/BBL/homepage/longvrec.htm). Considering the longevity of similar species, however, maximum longevity could be significantly underestimated.
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Untitled

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Although their winter residence is still unknown, some researchers suspect it is somewhere in the Bering Sea and possibly on southern edge of the ice pack. The ducks are sometimes seen resting on floating ice.

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Van Arsdale, M. 1999. "Somateria fischeri" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Somateria_fischeri.html
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Michael Van Arsdale, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Behavior

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Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Van Arsdale, M. 1999. "Somateria fischeri" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Somateria_fischeri.html
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Michael Van Arsdale, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Conservation Status

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The spectacled eider is uncommon. This is mostly due to the small location of where the bird is found. The bird population has been reported as declining in the past. To counteract this decline there have been attempts to raise the birds in captivity, but these efforts are limited by the difficulty of obtaining the eggs during the arctic summer. Spectacled eiders were first hatched in captivity in 1976. The major concern for the bird now is determining the location of the non-breeding habitat. This is important to know because the habitat of this bird could be unintentionally destroyed, especially if it is in a very concentrated area.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Van Arsdale, M. 1999. "Somateria fischeri" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Somateria_fischeri.html
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Michael Van Arsdale, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Benefits

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Humans have hunted the spectacled eider in the past. Eskimos have stated that this is the best tasting eider. The pelts and eggshells have also been used for decorative purposes. Another benefit of the eider is the esthetic value that comes from seeing such an unusually colored bird.

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Van Arsdale, M. 1999. "Somateria fischeri" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Somateria_fischeri.html
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Michael Van Arsdale, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Trophic Strategy

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The ducks are omnivorous. The majority of their diet includes mollusks, such as Razor clams. They also feed on terrestrial and freshwater plant material. Juveniles have been found to eat caddis fly larvae. The spectacled eider rarely dives and is seen mostly dabbling for food.

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Van Arsdale, M. 1999. "Somateria fischeri" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Somateria_fischeri.html
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Michael Van Arsdale, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Distribution

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The Spectacled Eider is found along the west coast of Alaska, between Point Barrow and the Lower Kuskokwim River. They are most abundant in the Yukon Delta.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Van Arsdale, M. 1999. "Somateria fischeri" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Somateria_fischeri.html
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Habitat

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The breeding habitat of the spectacled eider is generally near shores, lakes, and deltas along the coast of Alaska. The ducks prefer lowland tundra with small ponds and close proximity to the salt water. They require high grasses to build the nests. The non-breeding habitat is uncertain.

Terrestrial Biomes: tundra

Aquatic Biomes: coastal

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Van Arsdale, M. 1999. "Somateria fischeri" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Somateria_fischeri.html
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Michael Van Arsdale, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Life Expectancy

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Average lifespan
Status: wild:
106 months.

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Van Arsdale, M. 1999. "Somateria fischeri" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Somateria_fischeri.html
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Michael Van Arsdale, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Morphology

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These ducks are sexually dimorphic. With wings folded, the adult male duck is 255-267 mm long, while the female is 240-250 mm. The weight is approximately 1.63 kilograms for males and 1.6 kilograms for females.

The spectacled eider differs from other eiders in that its feathers extend down to the nostrils on the bill. This bill is bright orange on males and blue-gray on females. Both sexes have bright yellow feet. Male eiders, however, have a black chest and pale green head. They are best distinguished by their white patches around the eyes, which are encircled by black feathers to give the appearance of spectacles. Female are drab in comparison. They are brown with black discontinuous streaks and bars of brown. The females also have patches round the eyes, but they are light brown.

Range mass: 1600 to 1630 g.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Van Arsdale, M. 1999. "Somateria fischeri" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Somateria_fischeri.html
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Michael Van Arsdale, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Reproduction

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Breeding generally occurs on the Alaskan coast and in northeastern Siberia. Pair bonds form at the beginning of each breeding season, during which there is constant contact between members of a pair. These bonds break immediately after the breeding season is over. To initiate breeding, females perform inciting movements and calls. Males respond by performing ritualized displays that include exposing the blackened chest. Nesting occurs in the grass flats or on the periphery of tundra ponds. The nest is built by the female and is lined with grass stems and a large amount of down. Once eggs are laid, the female is very protective of the nest and will often be extremely hesitant to leave, even allowing people to touch her. Clutch sizes average 4.5 eggs and range in number from one to eight. An egg is laid every other day. Incubation lasts for approximately 24 days while the fledging period lasts for 53 days. Drakes are able to mate when they are two years old.

Behavior:

Average eggs per season: 4.5.

Average time to hatching: 24 days.

Average fledging age: 53 days.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

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Van Arsdale, M. 1999. "Somateria fischeri" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Somateria_fischeri.html
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Michael Van Arsdale, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Spectacled eider

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The spectacled eider (pronounced /ˈ.dər/) (Somateria fischeri) is a large sea duck that breeds on the coasts of Alaska and northeastern Siberia.

The spectacled eider is slightly smaller than the common eider at 52–57 cm (20–22 inches) in length. The male is unmistakable with its black body, white back, and yellow-green head with the large circular white eye patches which give the species its name. The drake's call is a weak crooning, and the female's a harsh croak.

The female is a rich brown bird, but can still be readily distinguished from all ducks except other eider species on size and structure. The paler goggles are visible with a reasonable view and clinch identification. Immature birds and eclipse adult drakes are similar to the female.

The binomial commemorates the German scientist Johann Fischer von Waldheim.

Distribution

Currently, spectacled eiders occur along the coast of Alaska and easternmost Russia and into the Bering Sea. There are two breeding populations in Alaska and one in Russia. Historically there were more breeding individuals in Alaska but more recently the Russian population is much larger.[2] Currently the United States population is an estimated 3,000-4,000 nesting pairs[3]

The spectacled eider molts at sea anywhere from 2 to 45 kilometers from the shore and north of 63°N. Since they are rarely seen outside of their breeding grounds, their wintering grounds in the Bering Sea were not known until recently[4] with the help of satellite telemetry in 1995.[5]

Conservation status

The spectacled eider was listed as Threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1993 but remains listed as under Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. The Red List keep the listing in this category because the spectacled eider does not meet the range size criterion or the population trend criterion.[6] The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service originally listed the spectacled eider as Threatened because of a more than 96% drop in breeding population size in Alaska. With this listing and protection from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1991, it is illegal to harvest any individuals through either sport or subsistence hunting.[7]

Life history

As a diving duck, the spectacled eider forages for food in the water by swimming and diving underwater. It is believed to be able to remain submerged longer than most diving ducks and mostly feeds on mollusks while at sea and aquatic insects, crustaceans, and plant material while on the breeding grounds.

Breeding pairs are formed in the wintering grounds before spring migration through male displays and female selection. Once at the nesting sites, females build a nest close to the pond on a raised ridge, called a hummock, that are lined with plant materials and feathery down. Nests may be reused for future years. Females are the sole incubators and caretakers of the eggs and chicks and will lay on average three to six eggs with an olive buff color. Eggs are incubated for 24 days and chicks leave the nest shortly after hatching to be led to the water by the female. The female protects the chicks but they do find all their own food. Spectacled eiders have a fairly rapid development to be such large birds; it only takes about 53 days or less before they can fly.[8]

Threats

There are multiple factors that threaten spectacled eider populations in the future including climate change and habitat loss. Historically their range was much larger than just the coast of Alaska and Russia. It also used to extend from the Nushagak Peninsula to Barrow and almost all the way to the Canadian border. Since spectacled eiders live in frigid areas that are not easily accessible to humans their main habitat loss has been a result of climate change. A future threats to their habitat is the possible development of oil and gas drilling near Teshekpuk Lake which has well been established as a globally significant important bird area.[9]

Gallery

References

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Spectacled eider: Brief Summary

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The spectacled eider (pronounced /ˈaɪ.dər/) (Somateria fischeri) is a large sea duck that breeds on the coasts of Alaska and northeastern Siberia.

The spectacled eider is slightly smaller than the common eider at 52–57 cm (20–22 inches) in length. The male is unmistakable with its black body, white back, and yellow-green head with the large circular white eye patches which give the species its name. The drake's call is a weak crooning, and the female's a harsh croak.

The female is a rich brown bird, but can still be readily distinguished from all ducks except other eider species on size and structure. The paler goggles are visible with a reasonable view and clinch identification. Immature birds and eclipse adult drakes are similar to the female.

The binomial commemorates the German scientist Johann Fischer von Waldheim.

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