Effects of an Arctic Fox Visit to a Low Arctic Seabird Colony

  • Chantelle M. Burke
  • April Hedd
  • William A. Montevecchi
  • Paul M. Regular
Keywords: arctic fox, Alopex lagopus, climate change, Low Arctic, sea ice trends, murres, seabirds

Abstract

A visit by an arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) to Funk Island, Newfoundland, during 2009 had a negative impact on the breeding performance of five of the nine breeding seabird species. Species that nest in burrows (Atlantic puffin Fratercula arctica) or on the ground (northern fulmar Fulmarus glacialis, great black-backed Larus marinus and herring gulls Larus argentatus) did not fledge any offspring in 2009, and common murres (Uria aalge) at this colony, the largest for this species in North America, experienced an estimated 4.9% (~19 712.4 breeding pairs) reduction in the number of nesting birds. Later-than-normal persistence of Arctic sea ice on the Newfoundland-Labrador Shelf in 2009 likely provided the fox access to the colony up until late April, which coincided with the seabirds’ return. The persistent predation threat near the onset of breeding likely resulted in large-scale abandonment of breeding attempts by vulnerable seabirds.

Published
2011-09-07