Eyes on Eiders Header

At the Alaska SeaLife Center, Dr. Hollmen's team provides all the necessary care for the Steller's eiders in their virtual habitat. The eider team monitors the birds’ behaviors and health on a daily basis and makes sure the birds have the proper space and food. The enclosures for the birds aren’t exactly like the habitats they typically live in, so it is up to the husbandry team to figure out what the Steller’s eiders need to succeed.

Dr. Tuula Hollmen and her crew work hard to create a habitat that suits the eiders. Remember, Steller’s eiders are migratory birds, so the habitat at the Alaska SeaLife Center has to change season to season, especially during breeding season!

VIDEO: Creating a Virtual Habitat

Tasha DiMarzio explains how the Steller's eider enclosures at the Alaska SeaLife Center can be altered to create a virtual tundra habitat. (2:19)

Video Transcript

By altering the virtual habitat, the husbandry staff can try to match the eiders’ needs for the breeding season. Each year, the husbandry team continues to offer the eiders a variety of space and nesting configurations in the habitat, in an attempt to promote successful breeding. If something doesn’t work, they try something different the next year!

After years of trial and error, favorable conditions have been created, allowing some of the eiders to feel comfortable enough to nest! As a result, the team is faced with hundreds of eggs. Some of the Steller’s eider hens incubate their own eggs, but many eggs end up in the care of the husbandry staff when hens don't prepare an appropriate nest. See how scientists can try to play the role of a hen incubating her eggs.


Nathan Bawtinhimer describes the process involved when humans incubate eider eggs. (1:32)

Video Transcript

While scientists are learning about the Steller's eiders at the Alaska SeaLife Center, they also need to learn more about the natural habitat of these birds. If researchers are hoping to increase the nesting population of Steller's eiders in Alaska, there has to be suitable nesting habitat available in the wild. To determine what is available for these birds in the wild, the scientists head out into the field...





  COURTSHIP (n)- the behavior of male birds and other animals aimed at attracting a mate.
  HABITAT (n)- the natural home or environment of an animal, plant, or other organism.
  HUSBANDRY (n)- the care, cultivation, and breeding of crops or animals.
  INCUBATE (v)- to keep an egg or organism at an appropriate temperature for it to develop.
  MIMIC (v)- to imitate something.
  MONITOR (v)- to keep surveillance over something.