The Annual Migration Cycle of Emperor Geese in Western Alaska
Keywords: Alaska Peninsula, Aleutian Islands, Chen canagica, emperor geese, migration, satellite telemetry, Yukon- Kuskokwim Delta
AbstractMost emperor geese (Chen canagica) nest in a narrow coastal region of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta (YKD) in western Alaska, but their winter distribution extends more than 3000 km from Kodiak Island, Alaska, to the Commander Islands, Russia. We marked 53 adult female emperor geese with satellite transmitters on the YKD in 1999, 2002, and 2003 to examine whether chronology of migration or use of seasonal habitats differed among birds that wintered in different regions. Females that migrated relatively short distances (650–1010 km) between the YKD and winter sites on the south side of the Alaska Peninsula bypassed autumn staging areas on the Bering Sea coast of the Alaska Peninsula or used them for shorter periods (mean = 57 days) than birds that made longer migrations (1600–2640 km) to the western Aleutian Islands (mean = 97 days). Alaska Peninsula migrants spent more days at winter sites (mean = 172 days, 95% CI: 129–214 days) than western Aleutian Island migrants (mean = 91 days, 95% CI: 83–99 days). Birds that migrated 930–1610 km to the eastern Aleutian Islands spent intermediate intervals at fall staging (mean = 77 days) and wintering areas (mean = 108 days, 95% CI: 95–119 days). Return dates to the YKD did not differ among birds that wintered in different regions. Coastal staging areas on the Alaska Peninsula may be especially important in autumn to prepare Aleutian migrants physiologically for long-distance migration to winter sites, and in spring to enable emperor geese that migrate different distances to reach comparable levels of condition before nesting.