Long-tailed duck and velvet scoter named as new endangered species
Autumn hunting of long-tailed duck is still permitted in the Gulf of Finland
The long-tailed duck or oldsquaw (Clangula hyemalis), which in Finland is considered a game bird and is hunted in the autumn, has now been classified worldwide as a vulnerable species.
Another sea duck, the velvet scoter (Melanitta fusca), is now listed as endangered.
Previously both species of bird were placed on the list marked "least concern", indicating that the populations were not under any great threat.
The new classification, published on Thursday by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is based on the fact that the populations of the long-tailed duck and the velvet scoter, which both spend the winter in the Baltic Sea, have collapsed to less than half their former levels in a period of just over ten years.
According to Teemu Lehtiniemi, the head of conservation and science at BirdLife Finland, more than 10,000 long-tailed duck individuals are still killed through hunting in this country each autumn.
The species, which nests in the Arctic regions of Russia and winters in the Baltic Sea, is a numerous and popular game bird in the Gulf of Finland during its migration period. Around 1,500 long-tailed duck pairs also nest in Finnish Lapland.
Birdlife International have already suggested earlier that hunting of the long-tailed duck be banned worldwide, because it is considered to be under threat.
The spring hunting of the long-tailed duck was banned for the first time this year in the Archipelago Sea and the Åland Islands.
A year earlier, 2,000 individuals were still allowed to be hunted in the southwestern Archipelago Sea.
Hunting in the spring is easier than in the autumn, as at this time of year the birds are closer to the shore and are found all over the place, whereas in the autumn they congregate in large flocks further out to sea.
According to Lehtiniemi, the reason behind the recent population collapse is the poor production of chicks. The reason for this may lie in climate change.
”The exact cause behind the decline in numbers is not known, but climate change is known to have caused for example voles to disappear from the Arctic regions.”
“The fewer voles there are to be had, the more the predators eat young seabirds instead, which leads to failed nestings”, Lehtiniemi explains.
Previously, only four bird species found in Finland - all of them relatively rare sightings hereabouts - have been classified worldwide as vulnerable or endangered.
These four are the Steller's eider (Polysticta stelleri), the lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus), the greater spotted eagle (Aquila clanga), and the yellow-breasted bunting (Emberiza aureola).
Long-tailed duck (Wikipedia)
Velvet scoter (Wikipedia)