File(s) under permanent embargo

Arctic terns from circumpolar breeding colonies share common migratory routes

journal contribution
posted on 2022-11-16, 23:01 authored by Joanna B Wong, Simeon Lisovski, Ray T Alisauskas, Willow English, Marie-Andree Giroux, Autumn-Lynn Harrison, Dana Kellett, Nicolas Lecomte, Mark Maftei, Avery Nagy-MacArthur, Robert A Ronconi, Paul A Smith, Mark L Mallory, Marie Auger-Methe
The Arctic tern is an iconic seabird, famous for its annual migrations between the Arctic and the Antarctic. Its wide geographical range has impeded knowledge of potential population bottlenecks during its annual bi-hemispheric movements. Although Arctic terns breed in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic coasts of North America, few tracking studies have been conducted on North American Arctic terns, and none in Canada, which represents a significant proportion of their circumpolar breeding range. Using light-level geolocators, we tracked 53 Arctic terns from 5 breeding colonies across a wide latitudinal and longitudinal range within North America. We compared the routes taken by birds in our study and migration timing to those previously tracked from Greenland, Iceland, The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Maine (USA), and S. Alaska (USA). Most Arctic terns tracked globally used one of 3 southbound migration routes: (1) Atlantic West Africa; (2) Atlantic Brazil; and (3) Pacific coastal, and one of 2 northbound migration routes: (1) Mid-ocean Atlantic and (2) Mid-ocean Pacific. Some other trans-equatorial seabirds also used these migration routes, suggesting that Arctic tern routes may be important for other species. The migration timing for southbound and northbound migrations was generally different between tracked tern colonies worldwide but generally fell within a 1-2 mo window. Our research suggests that conservation management of Arctic terns during their migration should dynamically adapt with the times of the year that terns use parts of their route. Future identification of common multi-species seabird flyways could aid the international negotiations required to conserve pelagic seabirds such as Arctic terns.



Marine Ecology: Progress Series






Oldendorf, Germany







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal