Breeding Biology of Atlantic Population Canada Geese in Nunavik, Northern Québec
The Atlantic population of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis interior) experienced a sharp decline in numbers in the late 1980s. Management agencies in Canada and the United States responded by implementing several measures, notably closing sport hunting seasons for a number of years in most Atlantic Flyway states and provinces and funding a research project to study the nesting ecology and the factors affecting productivity of this goose population. In this paper we present the nesting phenology and breeding biology of Atlantic population Canada Geese on their tundra nesting grounds in Nunavik, Québec, specifically on a primary study area (32.8 km2) along Hudson Bay (1997–2003) and on several secondary sites (most smaller than 1 km2) distributed along the coastal lowlands of Hudson Bay and Ungava Bay (1996–2005). In the late 1990s the population rebounded, with strong increases in the population of breeding pairs and the density of nests between 1996 and 2001, followed by stabilization of both variables from 2001 to 2005. As a result, there was a near doubling in productivity index (the number of goslings produced per km2) on the primary study area, from 17.9 in 1997 to 32.0 in 2003. Geese start laying eggs soon after snow disappears from their nesting grounds. On the primary study area, for all years pooled, mean clutch initiation date, clutch size, hatching date, and Mayfield nesting success were 27 May, 4.54 eggs, 26 June, and 67.3%, respectively. Among secondary sites along both Hudson Bay and Ungava Bay, we found a correlation between the annual average daily temperature for 4–24 May (the period leading up to egg-laying) and the annual mean clutch initiation date: higher temperatures were correlated with earlier initiation. Similarly, an earlier annual mean clutch initiation date was correlated with large mean clutch size.