Two of our Maine Bird Families

Eider Ducks

Common Eider Ducks (Somateria mollissima)

I know there are lots of bird families underway in the dense mixed conifer/hardwood forest that nestles against our Maine home, but two are very visible.  The Eider Ducklings are seen swimming with their mothers and aunties  in several groups inside our reef.  When we arrived for the week I counted nearly thirty ducklings but that number has been reduced by about ten.  Their main predators here are the great Black-backed Gulls.  Although I haven’t seen it this year, it is a horrifying experience to watch one of these large gulls alight in front of the hapless mother and gobble down a few of her ducklings, almost before I know what’s happening.  One of their defenses is to travel together with the younger un-mated females (known as aunties) in a behavior known as cooperative breeding.   When threats are near the adults will close ranks around the ducklings and try to fend off attacks.  Eiders are our largest Northern Hemisphere ducks, but the ducklings are tiny and extremely vulnerable.

Dark-eyed Junco, feeding her newly hatched chicks.

Dark-eyed Junco, (Junco hyemalis) feeding her newly hatched chicks.

Yes, I realize the window is very dirty!  I hope you can make out the Dark-eyed Junco and the nest.  She built her nest on the base of an old Phoebe nest which had been used for several years.  The nest rests atop the siren for our security system and I certainly hope there is no breach of security while this little family is in residence.  It’s under the eave of the dormer and seems an excellent choice for a nesting spot as it’s out of the sun and wind and hidden from predators by the flare in the siren.  None the less, she takes great care when she approaches the nest, waiting, caterpillar in beak, checking back and forth for several minutes before quickly flying in to feed her chicks.  Here’s hoping for the Junco’s nesting success and for at least a few of our little Eider Ducklings to survive.

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