Birds of a Feather Recover, Breed or Die Off Together

In Alaska, threatened Steller's eider ducks have been bred in captivity for the first time. A female duck laid 12 eggs at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward; only one of those eggs hatched, but that alone is considered a success.

Steller's eiders are listed as "threatened" in the U.S. under the Endangered Species Act, and scientists estimate that only a few hundred to a few thousand birds remain in one tiny breeding area. (Their population remains healthier across the Pacific in Russia, where a few hundred thousand are believed to exist.)

One of the major threats to Steller's eiders remains "ingestion of lead shot left over from hunting," according to the Associated Press -- a similar problem to that facing the California Condor. We previously wrote about legislation which could protect the condor by banning the use lead bullets in its primary habitats.

Will the legislation pass? It all depends, apparently, on how much pull the NRA has in the matter. California's Fish and Game Commissioner was forced to resign by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last week, and he says he believes the NRA was behind it. "This is not about me. It's about the condor. It's about the NRA hijacking the system," he told the Los Angeles Times. (The NRA has denied the charge.)

Meanwhile, in other bird news, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a recovery plan for the Western snowy plover, a threatened species native to the state of Washington. The plan could take 40 years and cost $150 million dollars, according to The Olympian.

Another bird species is not doing so well. The eggs of the Chinese crested tern are prized delicacies, and that demand could drive the species into extinction in as little as five years, according to BirdLife International. The conservation group is calling on the Chinese government to ban the collection and sale of tern eggs and do more to protect their few remaining habitats.

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