Enjoying a beautiful Monday morning on the Merriconeag Neck, I spotted four female Common Eider adults on Card Cove. A single Eider duckling was with them, feeding along a lobster dock. Normally, one would see 10 to 20 ducklings when there are 4 females but Black-backed Gulls and Bald Eagles snatch up the chicks for a quick meal.
When danger arises, adults form a tight ring around the ducklings to protect them from attack. They do this with the help of “Aunties” which are females without young which assist brood-caring females in defending a brood.
A recent study in the Bay of Fundy showed exceptionally high depredation rates by Great Black-backed Gulls on Eider ducklings and at one colony only 12 of 3000 ducklings produced in this colony fledged. High duckling mortality is a common phenomenon in Eiders and survival of ducklings does not apparently regulate Common Eider population numbers; however, it may potentially limit the growth rate of the population.
I can’t help wonder if this duckling will make it to adulthood.