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New predator

5 June 2016

Today we found a new predator of common eider nests. It is a reindeer! On the island Storholmen, there has been reindeer in most summers. We have observed them arriving while swimming in summer, but normally they are arriving over the ice and locked after snow melt. This season there is one reindeer. And for the first time, we observed it eating eider eggs.
It was 30 meters away, when we saw him chasing a common eider female off the nest. It than ploughed with his front foot through the nest. One egg rolled far out of the nest as can be seen near the hindlegs of the reindeer. Two other eggs where right at the nest rim. Next it ate the two eggs.


The full sized picture with a detail to the left.
I knew reindeer can do this. Rocky Rockwell observed a herd of reindeer moving through a colony of snow geese. And they did exactly the same. Eating the eggs, but leaving the embryo out. On this picture right after the event, you can see two embryos of about 10 days old.
Later that day, we observed it once more from further distance. The effect is clear. There are this year very few eider nests on Storholmen. The geese are able to chase the reindeer away from their nests. We saw a male running after a reindeer, which speeded away. Later we saw a direct conflict with a goose jumping up into the reindeer face and the reindeer jumping to hindleggs in a reaction. So the number of goose nests is normal and high.

Reindeer pictures from Danny Hitchcock, nest picture from Maarten loonen




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