Arctic Change NOAA
A near-realtime Arctic Change Indicator website

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Land - Waterfowl & Seabirds

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One indication of Arctic change is a northward shift in the range of different animals. For example, ring neck ducks were not observed in Old Crow Flats, located in northwestern Canada, until the 1980's. Shown below are ring neck duck populations over time. The population increases may indicate a northward shift of this species.

 
Ring-neck duck populations on Old Cros Flats
   
  Ring neck duck populations on Old Crow Flats. These data were obtained from the US Fish and Wildlife Service which conducts aerial surveys on the Old Crow Flats as part of a continent-wide waterfowl survey program. Reports with updated information are available from the US Fish and Wildlife Service's Population status reports.

Breeding productivity of the Black Guillemot colony on Cooper Island, Arctic coast of Alaska, has been exceedingly low in recent years. The earlier and increased retreat of the pack ice, and its associated Arctic Cod, during the nestling period has resulted in the death of the majority of guillemot chicks. Parent birds provisioning their young have had to turn to nearshore demersal fish, such as sculpin, which are not abundant near the island. While in past years, parent guillemots frequently fledged two young per nest, no guillemot pairs were able to raise more than one young in 2003 or 2004. As of 2004, the Cooper Island Guillemot colony was able to remain at approximately 150 pairs due to the immigration of recruits from other colonies.

Recent/Historical guillemot success spacer black guillemot breeding success 1974-2004

         

Number of available Guillemot nest sites and breeding pairs of black guillemots on Cooper Island, 1975-2012. Multiple pairs breeding in a ingle site allows the number of breeding pairs to exceed available nest sites. From Divoky, G.J., Lukacs, P.M., Druckenmiller, M.Ll, Effects of recent decreases in arctic sea ice on an ice-associated marine bird. Progress in Oceanography. For more information contact divoky@cooperisland.org or visit cooperisland.org.

  Black Guillemot Breeding success at Cooper Island, Alaska, 1975-2004. Provided by G. Divoky, 3 March 2005. This largely unsupported 30-year study may end after 2005 due to lack of funding. For more information contact divoky@cooperisland.org or visit cooperisland.org.   Black guillemots (top) and newly arrived horned puffin (below). Provided by G. Divoky, Cooper Island.
       

"In the Canadian Beaufort Sea, there is also a small colony of black guillemots which nest at Herschel Island offshore of the Yukon coast. This colony has been monitored since the mid-1980s, with Arctic cod also being the preferred prey of Herschel Island guillemots. The 2014 nesting season was the poorest since 2004, with adults provisioning chicks mainly with small sculpins (Myoxocephalus sp.), a bony fish that is difficult for the guillemot chicks to swallow (Cameron Eckert, Yukon Territorial Government, personal communication, 2014). In 2014, there were increases in the number of failed nests, and clutch sizes were smaller and there were fewer surviving chicks than in previous years of the study." From L.A. Harwood, T.G Smith, J.C. George, S.J. Sandstrom, W. Walkusz, and G.J. Divoky. Change in the Beaufort Sea ecosystem: diverging trends in body condition and/or production in five marine vertebrate species, Progress in Oceanography. For more information contact divoky@cooperisland.org or visit cooperisland.org.

The subarctic Horned Puffin, rare in northern Alaska before the late 20th century, has continued to increase at Cooper Island with four pairs breeding in 2004 and an additional eight to ten nonbreeders. Puffins compete with guillemots for nest cavities and will displace guillemot eggs and kill guillemot chicks. In 2004 one third of the 180 guillemot nestlings were killed by prospecting Horned Puffins. The combination of low prey densities and loss of chicks to prospecting puffins has resulted in exceedingly low breeding productivity in 2002-2004.