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Spectacled Eiders Dive in the Ice in Winter

A bird with a built-in down comforter!
© Laura Whitehouse View Large

Many Spectacled Eiders spend the winter in ice-free openings in the Bering Sea, above what was once the Bering Land Bridge. In spring, the ducks, which live only along the coasts of Alaska and far eastern Russia, fly to tundra lakes to breed and feed on aquatic insects. After breeding, they return to the sea. This cold environment is no challenge for a bird covered with eider down and dense waterproof feathers. But finding open water in the dead of winter is. Learn more about the Spectacled Eider at ABCBirds.org.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 
BirdNote®
Spectacled Eiders in the Ice

Written by Todd Peterson

This is BirdNote.
[Water and calls of Spectacled Eider]
Not long ago, we didn’t even know where they went in winter. Spectacled Eiders, vividly colored ducks that look as though they’re wearing large eyeglasses, just seemed to disappear. But biologists flying transects across the vast, mostly frozen Bering Sea found them in ice-free openings. [Sound of ice cracking] Imagine diving for clams 100 feet down in the middle of the Arctic winter.
[Winter winds]
These Spectacled Eiders are calling from a patch of open water, south of St. Lawrence Island, above what was once the Bering Land Bridge. [Calls of Spectacled Eiders.] In spring, the ducks, which live only along the coasts of Alaska and far eastern Russia, fly to tundra lakes to breed and feed on aquatic insects. After breeding, they return to the sea.
[Spectacled Eider calls]
We don’t know why the number of Spectacled Eiders declined greatly near the end of the last century. They’re now listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. But there is hope. An active recovery plan for the birds is under way.
This cold environment is no challenge for a bird covered with eider down and dense waterproof feathers. But finding open water in the dead of winter is…[Sound of ice floes crackling, winds]
[Spectacled Eider calls]
For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.       
                                                                   ###
Sounds of Spectacled Eider provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, recorded by B. McCaffrey, #163291
License purchased from The Recordist for use of the sound of ice breaking.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2013 Tune In to Nature.org          November 2016     Narrator: Michael Stein

ID# SotB-SPEI-01-2011-11-09

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