Spring Staging Areas of the Greenland White-fronted Goose (<i>Anser albifrons flavirostris</i>) in West Greenland

  • Christian M. Glahder
Keywords: Greenland white-fronted goose, spring staging areas, West Greenland, NOAA satellite images, snow coverage, NDVI, management


The Greenland white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons flavirostris) migrates about 3000 km from wintering grounds in Ireland and Britain to breeding grounds in West Greenland (64°-72° N). The migration route includes long flights over the ocean and over the Greenland ice cap. To obtain optimal reproduction output, it is important for the geese to build up their condition at specific spring staging areas before they disperse to the breeding grounds. Two such staging areas had been described earlier. The purpose of this study was to find the most important spring staging areas in order to protect the geese from disturbance by mineral exploration, tourism, etc. The number of breeding birds concentrated on the spring staging areas is only about 6000 of a total population of 30 000. This population is small compared to other world goose populations. Fifty areas were selected from geodetic maps (1:250000) and matched with snow coverage and a vegetation index (NDVI) from NOAA satellite images (in 1985 and 1988) that covered the early spring period. A total of 35 potential spring staging areas between 63° and 70° N were then examined on the ground (during May and June in 1994 and 1996) and surveyed from the air (during 9-12 May in 1995 and 1997). Between 1000 and 1500 geese were observed in 28 areas. However, eight areas supported 75% of the geese, and four areas supported more than 50%. Among these four were the two areas discovered earlier. The majority of the geese (94.5%) were observed in the Kangerlussuaq region (66° 29' N to 68° 21' N). It is recommended that eight spring staging areas in this region be designated as protected areas during the period 1-20 May.