Common eiders (Somateria mollissima) are large sea ducks with a circumpolar distribution and have high cultural significance to sport hunters and indigenous peoples in many countries. Their gregarious habits, including colonial breeding and forming large flocks during migration and winter, make eiders susceptible to environmental stressors during breeding and non-breeding seasons. Our objective was to assess whether low adult survivorship could be contributing to suspected local population declines in Nova Scotia, Canada. We banded molting male and breeding female common eiders along the marine coastline of Nova Scotia and recaptured them in later years. We found that from 1997 to 2011, when males and females were banded, male survival (S) was high (S = 0.92; 95% CI = 0.87–0.95), whereas female survival was approximately 10% lower (S = 0.83; 95% CI = 0.78–0.87) and at a level comparable to what has been reported in other regions of the world where eider populations are thought to be in decline. Recovery rates (f) of harvested male and female eiders were indistinguishable (f = 0.013; 95% CI = 0.010–0.016), suggesting that lower female survival is attributable to factors other than hunting. Supplementary analyses using a longer-term data set for females only (1978–2011) and including live recapture data indicated that female survival rates have not changed markedly during the past 40 years and that the emigration rate from colonies is low (∼6%). We conclude that to successfully conserve this population, sources of non-harvest female mortality should be investigated and used to develop targeted management solutions. We speculate that one of those sources of mortality is predation on females at breeding colonies, notably from eagles and mustelids. © 2016 The Wildlife Society.

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Keywords common eider, Nova Scotia, predation, recovery rate, Somateria mollissima dresseri, survival rate
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Journal Journal of Wildlife Management
Milton, G.R. (G. Randy), Iverson, S.A. (Samuel A.), Smith, P.A, Tomlik, M.D. (Molly D.), Parsons, G.J. (Glen J.), & Mallory, M.L. (Mark L.). (2016). Sex-specific survival of adult common eiders in Nova Scotia, Canada. Journal of Wildlife Management, 80(8), 1427–1436. doi:10.1002/jwmg.21135