In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and research partners initiated a satellite telemetry study focused on mapping the seasonal movements of Common Eiders (Somateria mollissima) breeding among the Boston Harbor outer islands. The telemetry effort is in response to annual die-off events of Common Eiders near the Wellfleet, Massachusetts area. Between 1998 and 2011, eleven recognized mortality events have occurred in Common Eiders along the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The numbers of eiders involved in these outbreaks have ranged from 30 to 2,800 eiders, with estimated total losses exceeding 6,000 birds. Most of the affected eiders were found dead along shoreline beaches of Cape Cod. Between 2009 and 2011, eider carcasses were collected and examined at a laboratory. In 2010, a novel orthomyxovirus (influenza virus) tentatively named Wellfleet Bay Virus (WFBV), was isolated from a few birds. Currently, Common Eiders are the only species known to be infected with WFBV.
In the spring of 2013 and 2014, BRI biologists partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others to capture Common Eiders at the Boston Harbor outer islands nesting colonies. We used a floating mist net technique to capture male and female Common Eiders near their nesting colonies. Land-based crews were also capturing female eiders on their nesting islands. We mist net trapped a total of 64 Common Eiders. A total of 31 healthy adult male (15) and female (16) eiders were selected to receive a satellite transmitter. In addition, all captured eiders were banded, weighed, measured, and a blood and feather sample collected for WFBV, contaminant, and stable isotope screening and analysis.
The eiders selected for radio attachment were immediately shuttled by boat to a neighboring island containing an enclosed structure suitable for surgeries. Wildlife veterinarians performed the surgeries to implant satellite transmitters in the eiders.
The field team consisted of wildlife biologists from Biodiversity Research Institute, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA/APHIS Wildlife Services, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, National Park Service–Boston Harbor Islands Recreation Area, and Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.
This study is spearheaded and funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 5.Project collaborators include:
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