In this study, researchers from Carleton University (CU) and scientists at Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) followed the effects of avian cholera over an eight-year period on a population of northern common eider ducks returning to breed in Nunavut. This large sea duck species breeds in the Arctic and nests on northern islands or coasts with rocky shorelines.
Between 2005 and 2012, avian cholera was responsible for annual mortality of varying degrees in the sea ducks. Death rates initially climbed as high as 36 per cent among breeding females, and collectively, deaths from avian cholera caused a 50 per cent decline in the eider breeding population. In a single breeding season alone, up to 3,000 nesting hens of an estimated population of 8,000 birds died due to avian cholera.
Dr. Jacintha Van Dijk, a former postdoctoral fellow at CU, led the study’s analysis, building on previous research by former PhD students Drs. Sam Iverson of CU and Naomi Jane Harms of USask.