Trends in Forage Fish Populations in Northern Hudson Bay since 1981, as Determined from the Diet of Nestling Thick-billed Murres <i>Uria lomvia</i>

  • Anthony J. Gaston
  • Kerry Woo
  • J. Mark Hipfner
Keywords: Hudson Bay, forage fish trends, Uria lomvia, nestling diet, Mallotus villosus, Boreogadus saida, Ammodytes spp., Zoarcidae


Trends in the composition of nestling thick-billed murre diets were analyzed for the period 1980-2002 on the basis of observations of food delivered to nestlings at two breeding colonies in northern Hudson Bay. The incidence of arctic cod, sculpins, and benthic Zoarcidae decreased and the incidence of capelin and sandlance increased over the period considered. Arctic cod fell from a mean of 43% of deliveries in the mid-1980s to 15% in the late 1990s; benthic species (zoarcids and sculpins) fell from 36% to 15%, while capelin increased from 15% to 50% over the same period. July ice cover in Hudson Bay approximately halved during 1981-99. We suggest that the observed changes in diet composition reflect changes in the relative abundance of the fish species involved and that the decline in arctic cod and increase in capelin and sandlance were associated with a general warming of Hudson Bay waters, the result of ongoing climate change in the region.