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Sea Duck, Tree Duck

Plunging populations in 10 of our 15 sea duck species have raised an alarm among waterfowl biologists. They need to know more about the ecology, population dynamics, and threats to the health of this least understood group of ducks. Species, such as king eiders, oldsquaws, and harlequin ducks, are so specialized for life in salt water that their natural history differs markedly from that of most waterfowl. Reversing their decline will require unique conservation approaches.

Wildlife agencies across North America have recognized four main threats to sea ducks: lack of knowledge about their ecology, contaminants, unsustainable hunting, and habitat loss and degradation. They have also identified the need for concerted research, monitoring, and management action to conserve populations. Partner agencies within the North American Waterfowl Management Plan recently launched a Sea Duck Joint Venture to save these waterfowl.

You can participate by doing projects to conserve breeding areas, migratory stopovers, and wintering sites. Such threats as logging, fuel-wood harvesting, and land developments have left many cavity-nesting sea ducks (namely, mergansers, goldeneyes, and buffleheads) out in the cold. These birds breed in tree hollows dug by woodpeckers near inland swamps, ponds, lakes, and creeks — habitats that are rapidly disappearing.

Do your part to solve the sea duck crisis by conserving these sites and by placing nest boxes along wooded shorelines.