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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 671:191-206 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13779

Arctic terns from circumpolar breeding colonies share common migratory routes

Joanna B. Wong1,*, Simeon Lisovski2, Ray T. Alisauskas3,4, Willow English5, Marie-Andrée Giroux6, Autumn-Lynn Harrison7, Dana Kellett3, Nicolas Lecomte8, Mark Maftei9, Avery Nagy-MacArthur10, Robert A. Ronconi11, Paul A. Smith12, Mark L. Mallory13, Marie Auger-Méthé1,14

1Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada
2Polar Terrestrial Environmental Systems, Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
3Science and Technology Branch, Prairie and Northern Wildlife Research Centre, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Saskatoon, SK S7N 0X4, Canada
4Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5E2, Canada
5Department of Biology, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada
6K.-C.-Irving Research Chair in Environmental Sciences and Sustainable Development, Département de Chimie et de Biochimie, Université de Moncton, Moncton, NB E1A 3E9, Canada
7Migratory Bird Center, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, National Zoological Park, Washington, DC 20008, USA
8Canada Research Chair in Polar and Boreal Ecology and Center for Northern Studies, Department of Biology, Université de Moncton, Moncton, NB E1A 3E9, Canada
9High Arctic Gull Research Group, Bamfield, BC V0R 3A0, Canada
10Department of Biology, Acadia University, Wolfville, NS B4P 2R6, Canada
11Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Dartmouth, NS B2Y 2N6, Canada
12Wildlife Research Division, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Ottawa, ON K1A 0H3, Canada
13Canada Research Chair in Coastal Ecosystem Resilience and Connectivity, and Department of Biology, Acadia University, Wolfville, NS B4P 2R6, Canada
14Canada Research Chair in Statistical Ecology, and Department of Statistics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: 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.


KEY WORDS: Arctic tern · Migration · Timing · Geolocators · North America


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Cite this article as: Wong JB, Lisovski S, Alisauskas RT, English W and others (2021) Arctic terns from circumpolar breeding colonies share common migratory routes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 671:191-206. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13779

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