Chapter Selection 2.2.3.7.3 - Thick billed Murres (Uria lomvia) Next Chapter Previous Chapter

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2.2.3.7 Birds

Arctic seabirds are dependent on marine resources from the Arctic for all or most of their energy requirements while they are in the region.  Most seabirds are migratory arriving as spring blooms and breakup begins. Arctic birds that forage in the open pelagic are mostly alcids, gulls, skuas, and terns (Huettmann et al. 2011).  Other taxa tied to marine food webs are sea ducks, most notably eider ducks.

2.2.3.7.1 Black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla)

Black-legged kittiwakes are one of the most numerous seabirds with a circumpolar distribution.  Arriving in southern portions of the Arctic in February and moving northerly through April.  Kittiwakes feed in ice floes as well as in open water, skimming the water surface or feeding from the surface.  Based on stomach contents analysis from kittiwakes in Lancaster Sound, the summer diet is dominated by Arctic cod (93% to 98%; Bradstreet 1976).  Dahl et al. (2003) indicate that kittiwakes in the vicinity of Svalbard feed primarily on capelin, Arctic cod, and hyperiid amphipods.  A similar diet was observed in Barents Sea.  Isotope analysis in the High Canadian Arctic indicated that amphipods may play an important role to fish over the course of the year (Hobson 1993).

2.2.3.7.2 Black Guillemots (Cepphus grille)

Black guillemots are a common bird in open water and amongst the ice floes.  Black guillemots are generalists.  Stomach contents analysis in Lancaster Sound showed that amphipods, copepods, and Arctic cod were all important components in guillemot diets.  Amphipods and copepods appeared to be a more dominant component of the diet when the guillemots fed along the ice edge in later spring to early summer (Bradstreet 1980), with fish being an important component of the diet throughout the year (Hobson 1993).

2.2.3.7.3 Thick billed Murres (Uria lomvia)

Thick-billed murres or Brunnichs guillemots are members of the auk family (Alcids).  Thick-billed murres over-winter in boreal regions where there are open waters.  In summer, U. lomvia congregate and breed in the Chukchi Sea, the Siberian coast, eastern Canadian Arctic, Greenland and northern Norway.  Murres are agile diving birds that consume both fish and crustaceans, with Arctic cod comprising the majority of the diet in both coastal and offshore ice edges (Bradstreet 1980; Hobson 1993).  Summer diet was more variable feeding on pelagic amphipods when cod are unavailable.  Murre chicks’ diet is dominated by Arctic cod and sculpin.

2.2.3.7.4 Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)

Northern fulmars are long-lived (32 years) migratory birds, moving northwards to the Arctic between May and July.  Fulmars are pelagic birds, preferring shelf habitats, particularly shelf breaks or over the continental slope, though they are seldom further than 100 km from shore (Dewey 2009).  As with many other sea birds, the fulmar diet is dominated by Arctic cod, copepods and pelagic amphipods.  Fulmars also prey on the squid, Gonatus fabricii.  Seasonal analysis showed that amphipods and copepods were dominant in the diet of adult and nesting fulmars.  Arctic cod are the primary diet once chicks have hatched and during rearing.  After that time, amphipods (Hyperia sp., Gammarus sp, Themsto sp.) and copepods once again dominated the diet.

2.2.3.7.5 Common Eider (Somateria mollissima)

The Common eider is a large diving duck common in the Arctic, particularly in the High Canadian and Atlantic sectors.  Common eiders feed primarily on benthic prey including mollusks (Buccinum glacialisHiatella arctica), barnacles (Balanus balanus), decapods (e.gHyas araneus), and amphipods (Gamarellus homari; Dahl et al. 2003).  Eiders are an upper level consumer in kelp forest (Fredriksen 2003) and estuarine lagoons (Dunton et al. 2012).  Isotope analysis confirms that eiders feed at the lower trophic levels (Hobson 1993).  Unlike other Arctic species, lipids analysis and stomach contents analysis show that copepods are not an important prey item for eiders.

2.2.3.7.6 Little Auk/Dovekie (Alle alle)

Dovekies are a small marine diving bird that is circumpolar in distribution (Day et al. 1988).  This small auk overwinters in boreal waters, such as the North Sea and Norwegian Sea.  In early spring they migrate northwards to feed on the sympagic copepods and amphipods (Dahl et al. 2003).  The Little auk feeds on the herbivorous sea-ice amphipod, Apherusa glacialis (Kramer 2010).  Dovekies also rely heavily on Calanus copepods, relying on the lipid rich C. glacialis and C. hyperborealis to successfully raise their chicks (Falk-Petersen 2007).   Breeding colonies can be quite large with 30 million birds observed in northwestern Greenland. 

2.2.3.7.7 Glaucous gull (Larus glaucescens)

Glaucous gulls are pan-Arctic and are a primary avian predator in the Arctic that feed on a wide variety of fish, mollusks, crustaceans, eggs, chicks, and adult seabirds, as well as carrion.  They will often prey on young and adult birds, as well as the catch from other birds.  Arctic fox are important predators of gulls and skua, as well as other nesting birds, preying on eggs and chicks.

2.2.3.7.8 Arctic jaeger (Stercorarius parasiticus)

Arctic jaegers are a top avian predator during the summer months, migrating annually to overwinter in the Antarctic.  Jaeger primarily on fish, though they will also feed on insects and berries.  While they can catch their own food, they will often steal fish from other birds.  They will also prey on the nests of waterfowl, eating the eggs and young, as well as small mammals (e.g. lemmings).