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KODIAK: Refuge Study Evaluates Contaminants in Sea Ducks
Alaska Region, October 25, 2012
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Volunteer Marie McCann preparing to band a Barrow’s goldeneye in Blue Fox Bay, Kodiak NWR.
Volunteer Marie McCann preparing to band a Barrow’s goldeneye in Blue Fox Bay, Kodiak NWR. - Photo Credit: Jenna Cragg University of Victoria
The sea duck capture net being taken down as the ducks are removed from the trap for banding in Blue Fox Bay, Kodiak NWR.
The sea duck capture net being taken down as the ducks are removed from the trap for banding in Blue Fox Bay, Kodiak NWR. - Photo Credit: Jenna Cragg University of Victoria

In a study conducted this summer, Kodiak Refuge biologists are looking to evaluate the level of contamination in sea ducks. Refuge biologists collected blood samples from 30 harlequin ducks and 21 Barrow’s goldeneye to look for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and trace metals (lead, selenium, mercury, cadmium, and copper) as well as to establish baseline levels. The project is specifically interested in comparing ducks banded at remote locations on the refuge to bays close to the town of Kodiak where exposure to contaminants may be higher. Kodiak is a major national port for marine vessel traffic and has a number of contaminated sites primarily as a legacy of its military history.

 

In 2006, refuge biologists discovered a group of over 100 female Barrow’s goldeneye molting in Blue Fox Bay, a part of Kodiak Refuge located on Afognak Island. Although Barrow’s goldeneye are a common nesting duck on Kodiak, they generally molt on large freshwater lakes in Alaska’s interior boreal forest. Blue Fox Bay may be one of the few locations where this species molts in marine waters.

Blood samples will be analyzed in the laboratory this winter. The refuge received funding from the Alaska region Avian Health and Disease Program. Refuge biologists partnered with the USFWS Fairbanks Field Office Contaminants Program to help collect and analyze the samples.

Kodiak Refuge biologists have been banding sea ducks on a near annual basis since 1996. Ducks are captured during the molting season from late July to early September. During the molt ducks loose all their flight feathers at once and can’t fly for about three weeks while their new feathers grow in. Sea ducks on Kodiak tend to molt in small groups in the same area and refuge staff are able to herd the flightless ducks into a net trap set up on the shoreline using kayaks and small motor boats. This summer the refuge was able to band 50 harlequin ducks and 49 Barrow’s goldeneye, recapturing four harlequin ducks and seven Barrow’s goldeneye banded in previous years. The banding program has focused on harlequin ducks and over 1,300 have been banded since 1996. From recapturing banded birds the refuge gets information on survival rates. Band returns from hunters also provide information on local movements by ducks, harvest patterns, and hunter demographics. Hunters from over 20 states outside Alaska have taken harlequins banded by the Refuge; evidence the region is very popular for hunting this species.


Contact Info: Robin Corcoran, 907-487-0229, robin_corcoran@fws.gov



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