Polar News

Arctic Birds Connect the World: Biologging Tech Shows Surprising Data

Biologging Tech Tracking of Nearctic Seabirds Surprise Scientists with Diverse Migratory Paths from Shared Breeding Site

em1 canadajaegers inuktitut english page 2As the Arctic and the oceans warm due to climate change, understanding how a rapidly changing environment may affect birds making annual journeys between the Arctic and the high seas is vital to international conservation efforts.

However, for some Arctic species, there are still many unknowns about their migration routes. Using telemetry to solve some mysteries of three related seabird species -- the pomarine jaeger, parasitic jaeger and long-tailed jaeger -- scientists discovered they took different paths across four oceans from a shared central Canadian high Arctic nesting location.

As predators and kleptoparasites that steal prey caught by other animals, jaegers are critical components of marine and terrestrial food webs. These new tracking data add to growing evidence linking marine biodiversity in the Arctic region and the high seas to inform large scale marine biological diversity management in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

em 2canadajaegers inuktitut english page 3Autumn-Lynn Harrison, lead author and research ecologist for the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Migratory Bird Center, said “These three related seabird species left their shared summer island home in the Canadian Arctic to take wildly different migration routes across four of the world’s oceans. Anyone that’s ever taken a different route than the rest of their family can relate to this amazing migration story. In this golden age of animal tracking, birds still have the ability to surprise us.”

Local coastal communities from the Arctic to the tropics are also connected through the expansive migrations of these three seabird species. To tell this story, the authors partnered with artist Laurel Mundy to create a comic version of the research, showing how these Arctic seabirds connect the world. The comic will be shared online in five languages (Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, English, French and Spanish) and print copies will be distributed to schools in the Canadian Arctic.

Journal Reference:

Autumn‐Lynn Harrison, Paul F. Woodard, Mark L. Mallory, Jennie Rausch. Sympatrically breeding congeneric seabirds (Stercorarius spp.) from Arctic Canada migrate to four oceansEcology and Evolution, 2021; DOI: 10.1002/ece3.8451

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