Although most species of sea ducks are poorly studied, much is known about the population dynamics of the American race of Somateria mollissma dresseri (Common Eider). Although Common Eiders typically have high adult survival and low recruitment rates, their populations in Maine have declined since the early 1990s. Wildlife managers hypothesized this decline was due to reduced adult survival; therefore, they decreased daily bag limits in Maine in 1999 and 2009 to increase local populations. The goals of this project were to assess (a) whether survival rates of adult females captured while nesting varied between historical estimates (1943–1993) and recent estimates (2000–2012), (b) whether survival rates increased from 2000–2009 after the initial harvest restrictions were implemented in 1999, and (c) determine if estimates of survival rates of adult males and females captured while molting differed from estimates of adult females captured while nesting. We used mark–recapture models to estimate survival rates of Common Eiders we banded in Maine (nesting females [n = 2340] from 2000 to 2012; molting males [ n = 4366] and molting females [n = 4952] from 2000 to 2009). We found no difference in survival of nesting females based on historical (mean ± SE = 0.9003 ± 0.0841) and recent estimates (0.90 ± 0.015). Although we observed annual fluctuations in survival, survival rates did not increase following the implementation of harvest restrictions. Mean annual survival rates were similarly high for molting females (0.894 ± 0.0205) and nesting females, but lower for molting males (0.855 ± 0.0128). Lower survival rates of adult males may reflect the preference by US hunters to selectively harvest adult males. Overall mean recovery rates of banded birds were low (females: 0.037 ± 0.00043, males: 0.0226 ± 0.0006). We hypothesize that current harvest rates may be influencing decreased survival of adult males to some extent.
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Vol. 26 • No. 3