Our Beautiful World

Ducks - or no Ducks?
Is that a question to day?

West Indian Whistling-Duck,, Dendrocygna javanica, in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. 2.2.2007
Photo: J.M.Garg

Since late 1990'es at least 7 different species of sea-ducks have dropped by 65% in Northern Europe, according to an article
"Ducks are disappearing from our seas"  BirdGuides Weekly Newsletter, May 17th, 2012. The mysterious nature of sea ducks
and the challenges in monitoring their numbers have meant that the situation had gone largely unnoticed.

Key areas for sea-ducks during the winter are the coasts of UK, Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia. As an example of the
decline, the Velvet Scoter, Melanitta fusca, have gone from several thousand to fewer than 100 and Long-tailed Ducks,
Clangula hyemalis
, have plummeted tenfold, to fewer than 1.000, according to counts on the Moray Firth in Scotland.

While smaller species like Steller's Eider, Polysticta stelleri, have attracted concern since 2000, some of the more shocking
recent declines have been among common and widespread populations such as the Common Eider,
Somateria mollissima,
which has halved since 1993, and the Long-tailed Duck, Clangula hyemalis, which has declined by over 65%.

The causes remain unknown, however, though the widespread nature of the declines has prompted concern that it is linked to environmental change across much of the arctic and sub-arctic regions where most of these species breed.

Till very recently the size and location of the flocks of ducks that live in shallow seas remained a mystery. Often they're beyond the
horizon, out of sight of land, so you need to get up in a plane just to count them. From these surveys observers are finding that
numbers are dropping off the edge of a cliff, yet they still barely understand the basics like their migration routes, breeding success
or life expectancy in the wild. What is clear is that this problem of rapid decline is widespread.

Once upon a time there were pesticides causing the eggshells to be weak, and often eggs were destroyed before hatching.

Male and female Velvet Scoter, Melanitta fusca
Photo: www.arthurgrosset.com

Velvet Scoter, Melanitta fusca - The species is migratory, congregating on the sea during the winter. Small populations winter
in the North Sea, in the north-west Mediterranean, the Black Sea and inland on central European lakes. However, the majority
of birds in Europe winter in the Baltic. These migrate by day along the Estonian coast in spring. In autumn, the males migrate
nocturnally over the Baltic Sea in July to moult around Denmark. The females and young then join them to moult about 6 weeks

Distribution of the Velvet Scoter

Moulting and wintering concentrations of this species are highly vulnerable to oil spills and other marine pollutants (an oil spill could
destroy a large proportion of the global population if it occurred in a key moulting or wintering area). The species is also vulnerable
to the effects of commercial exploitation of marine benthic organisms and shellfish, and is threatened by drowning in fishing nets.
It is threatened by habitat degradation as a result of the human exploitation of natural resources in the taiga and lower tundra regions
of its breeding range and by lake drainage for irrigation and hydroelectric power production (Armenia). It is vulnerable to disturbance
from tourism in remote coastal and freshwater habitats in its breeding range, as well as disturbance from wind farms (wind turbines).
The species suffers predation from American mink, Neovison vison. on islands and is also susceptible to avian influenza so may be
threatened by future outbreaks of the virus. The species is hunted in Denmark.

Hunting in Denmark, number of birds shot.
Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
Sweden 75.000
Norway 25.000
Other swimming Ducks
Sweden 900
Other Diving Ducks

Source for Hunting in Denmark: Vildtinformation 2009, Udgivet af Miljøministeriet, Skov- og Naturstyrelsen
Svenska Jägareförbundets jaktstatistik för jaktåret 1 juli 2006 till 30 juni 2007:

Long-tailed Duck, Clangula hyemalis
Photo: Wolfgang Wander
licensed under the GFDL, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Long-tailed-duck.jpg

Long-tailed Ducks, Clangula hyemalis - Large flocks winter in the Baltic, having moved down the coast from their breeding grounds
in Scandinavia and Arctic Russia. Smaller numbers winter in the North Sea, off the coasts of Britain and in Skagerak. About 2. million
birds winters in Gulf of Bothnia and the Baltic Sea. Large numbers having been wintering further south and west, pass through the Baltic
in May, returning to their breeding grounds. The birds from Eastern Siberia and North America, winters along the Pacific Coast and in
the Northern Atlantic Sea.
Source: Various sources.

Distribution of the Long-tailed Ducks

According to monitoring data from the Baltic Sea, where the western Siberian and northern European populations winter, the population
there decreased by up to 70% between 1995 and 2009.

The species is threatened by wetland habitat degradation and loss from petroleum pollution, wetland drainage and peat-extraction.
It is also threatened with direct mortality from oil pollution, drowning through entanglement in fishing nets and from hunting on migration
routes over certain regions of the Arctic. The species has previously suffered heavy losses from an outbreak of avian cholera and is
susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of these diseases. The species is hunted for sport in Denmark.
The source for these data comes from BirdLife International 2011. Clangula hyemalis. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 18 May 2012.

Before learning of the Birds and Pesticides Campaign I was unaware that some 672 million birds are directly
exposed to pesticides on farms alone and that nearly 10 percent of them die. Even more frightening, the most
toxic pesticides to birds-diazinon and chlorpyrifos-are used mainly in home gardens. Approximately one billion
pounds of pesticides are applied annually in the United States, with 4.4 billion applications in yards and

Birds are particularly susceptible to backyard pesticides, but the problem is not well documented because few
scientists can confirm that a bird death is pesticide related. Testable specimens are difficult to obtain, because
dead birds are often overlooked, eaten by scavengers, crushed by cars, washed away, or destroyed by bacterial
decay. Evidence of pesticide poisoning is often non-existent.

Source: Pesticides and Birds By TINA PHILLIPS, http://static.birds.cornell.edu/Publications/Birdscope/Summer2001/pesticides.html


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