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Maftei M.,High Arctic Gull Research Group | Davis S.E.,High Arctic Gull Research Group | Uher-Koch B.D.,U.S. Geological Survey | Gesmundo C.,High Arctic Gull Research Group | Mallory M.L.,Acadia University
Polar Biology | Year: 2014

The Ross’s gull (Rhodostethia rosea) is a poorly known seabird of the circumpolar Arctic. The only place in the world where Ross’s gulls are known to congregate is in the near-shore waters around Point Barrow, Alaska, where they undertake an annual passage in late fall. Ross’s gulls seen at Point Barrow are presumed to originate from nesting colonies in Siberia, but neither their origin nor their destination has been confirmed. Current estimates of the global population of Ross’s gulls are based largely on expert opinion, and the only reliable population estimate is derived from extrapolations from previous counts conducted at Point Barrow, but these data are now over 25 years old. In order to update and clarify the status of this species in Alaska, our study quantified the timing, number, and flight direction of Ross’s gulls passing Point Barrow in 2011. We recorded up to two-thirds of the estimated global population of Ross’s gulls (≥27,000 individuals) over 39 days with numbers peaking on 16 October when we observed over 7,000 birds during a 3-h period. © 2014, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

Pratte I.,Acadia University | Pratte I.,High Arctic Gull Research Group | Davis S.E.,High Arctic Gull Research Group | Maftei M.,High Arctic Gull Research Group | And 2 more authors.
Polar Biology | Year: 2016

Minimizing the risk of nest predation has led some bird species to exploit the nest defense behavior of other species. At Nasaruvaalik Island, Nunavut, Canada, some common eiders (Somateria mollissima borealis) nest within the boundaries of Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea) colonies, while others nest elsewhere on the island, away from the terns. We tested the effects of location (within vs. outside the tern colonies), density of common eider nests, and annual variation on the nesting parameters of common eiders. Our results suggest that nesting in association with Arctic terns does not confer an obvious benefit to eiders. Such associative nesting of eiders and terns may be the result of overlapping habitat preferences between the two species, or a general scarcity of suitable nesting habitat for ground-nesting species in the high Arctic. However, eiders nesting in higher densities with other eiders had greater nest success and lower total clutch predation, indicating a positive correlation between nest density and success. © 2016 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg

Maftei M.,High Arctic Gull Research Group | Maftei M.,Memorial University of Newfoundland | Davis S.E.,High Arctic Gull Research Group | Davis S.E.,Memorial University of Newfoundland | Mallory M.L.,Acadia University
Polar Research | Year: 2015

The Queens Channel region of Nunavut is an ecologically distinct area within the Canadian High Arctic consisting of an extensive archipelago of small, lowlying gravel islands throughout which form several localized but highly productive polynyas. We used aerial survey and colony-monitoring data to assess regional- and colony-level fluctuations in the number of birds in this region between 2002 and 2013. Regional and colony-specific monitoring suggested that common eider (Somateria mollissima) numbers are increasing, while numbers of Arctic terns (Sterna paradisaea) may be in decline. Based on these data, we suggest that even infrequent comprehensive surveys are more useful than annual monitoring at specific sites in generating an accurate assessment of ground-nesting seabird populations at the regional level, and that dramatic fluctuations at individual colonies probably belie the overall stability of regional populations. © 2015 M. Maftei et al.

Maftei M.,High Arctic Gull Research Group | Russ R.,Heritage Expeditions
Marine Ornithology | Year: 2014

The Crested Auklet Aethia cristatella is a highly pelagic alcid for which non-breeding movements and distribution remain poorly understood. On 18 August 2013, in the vicinity of Cape Kekurnyi at the eastern end of the Chukotski Peninsula (66°9.2′N, 169°43.6′W), we observed an uninterrupted passage of an estimated 10 560 000 Crested Auklets over a period of four hours. At the peak of the movement, birds were passing at a rate exceeding 1 000 individuals per second. While the northward movement of Crested Auklets into the Chukchi Sea is well known, our observations indicate that birds from multiple breeding colonies congregate during the post-breeding season and travel in huge numbers to locally productive foraging areas. It also seems likely either that the global population of Crested Auklets has been previously underestimated, or that recent population increases have gone undetected.

Maftei M.,High Arctic Gull Research Group | Davis S.E.,High Arctic Gull Research Group | Davis S.E.,Memorial University of Newfoundland | Mallory M.L.,High Arctic Gull Research Group | Mallory M.L.,Acadia University
Ibis | Year: 2015

Ross's Gull Rhodostethia rosea is one of the world's least known seabirds; < 1% of the estimated global population can be accounted for at known breeding sites, and its wintering range has never been determined. Anecdotal reports over the last two centuries have prompted extensive speculation as to possible wintering areas used by this species in the north Pacific/Bering Sea region, but none has ever been confirmed. Using satellite and geolocator telemetry, we show that some Ross's Gulls from a colony in the Canadian Arctic winter in a restricted area of the northern Labrador Sea. Our discovery of a wintering area in the northwest Atlantic indicates that Ross's Gulls breeding in the Nearctic may be part of a disjunct population, or that birds breeding in the Palaearctic may winter off the east coast of North America. © 2015 British Ornithologists' Union.

PubMed | High Arctic Gull Research Group
Type: Journal Article | Journal: PloS one | Year: 2016

The worlds Arctic latitudes are some of the most recently colonized by birds, and an understanding of the migratory connectivity of circumpolar species offers insights into the mechanisms of range expansion and speciation. Migratory divides exist for many birds, however for many taxa it is unclear where such boundaries lie, and to what extent these affect the connectivity of species breeding across their ranges. Sabines gulls (Xema sabini) have a patchy, circumpolar breeding distribution and overwinter in two ecologically similar areas in different ocean basins: the Humboldt Current off the coast of Peru in the Pacific, and the Benguela Current off the coasts of South Africa and Namibia in the Atlantic. We used geolocators to track Sabines gulls breeding at a colony in the Canadian High Arctic to determine their migratory pathways and wintering sites. Our study provides evidence that birds from this breeding site disperse to both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans during the non-breeding season, which suggests that a migratory divide for this species exists in the Nearctic. Remarkably, members of one mated pair wintered in opposite oceans. Our results ultimately suggest that colonization of favorable breeding habitat may be one of the strongest drivers of range expansion in the High Arctic.

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