Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
IZEMBEK: Annual Eider Roundup
Alaska Region, October 1, 2004
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Unlike most refuges in Alaska, September and October is the peak field season at Izembek Refuge as hundreds of thousands of birds stop during migration. Izembek supports virtually the entire Pacific Flyway population of brant (up to 150,000), a large proportion of Taverner's Canada geese (up to 50,000) and more than 20,000 threatened Steller's eiders, which breed in Russia and Alaska and winter along the Alaska Peninsula and Gulf of Alaska. The Refuge has banded Steller's eiders over the last 44 years, capturing flightless molting birds and gathering data to analyze survival rates of adult males and females. From late August until early October, all Refuge staff and volunteers participate in eider banding and try to capture 2,500 eiders by driving them into holding pens using motor boats. Wet, windy weather makes capture difficult so that in 5 weeks only 3-7 capture drives are completed.

Refuge staff captured over 2,100 eiders during six successful drives from September 9-24, 2004. For the first time, kayaks proved useful herding eiders over eelgrass beds. For the fourth year, staff of the Alaska Sea Life Center assisted in collecting blood and other samples from captured eiders to determine if disease has contributed to the eiders? decline. A University of Alaska scientist took samples from captured eiders to determine if migratory birds can transport the influenza virus from Asia to North America.

Since 2000, high school students from Barrow participate in Izembek's eider drive each fall as part of the ?Eider Journey? education-outreach program focused on conservation and management of the threatened species. Each June, students help Service biologists search for eider nests at Barrow in northern Alaska. Each fall, these students fly down to Cold Bay to band migrating birds. The project is funded by a Challenge Grant between the Service, North Slope Dept. of Wildlife Management, North Slope Borough School District, National Science Foundation, and U.S. Arctic Research Consortium.

Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov
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