Common Eider (Somateria mollissima dresseri) breeding success and gull-eider interactions were studied at Stratton Island, Maine in 2004 and 2005. Eiders suffered little nest predation, and most egg losses to gulls were either facilitated by researcher intrusions or confined to newly initiated, unattended nests. Despite high nest success (>80%) in both study years, predation watches indicated that few, if any, ducklings survived to fledging as a result of extreme harassment and predation by Great Black-backed Gulls (Larus marinus). Gull attacks were opportunistic, involved one to 36 gulls, and often resulted in complete crèche destruction. Herring Gulls (L. argentatus) also took occasional young and eggs. Although Stratton Island is managed as a tern restoration site, and gull control measures to enhance tern productivity include nest destruction and shooting of tern predators, gulls continued to congregate around crèching areas and to prey on ducklings. We suggest that additional gull control measures, particularly at a nearby gull colony, may enhance duckling survival. We also recommend monitoring of other eider colonies in the region to better assess duckling survival and recruitment rates.
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Vol. 31 • No. 3