The importance of pre-breeding areas for the arctic Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis

Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis) Science Article 9


Before the final move to their breeding sites, many arctic-nesting geese visit staging areas close by, so called pre-breeding areas. The present study investigated the timing of migration by Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis in relation to the dynamics in body stores during this period. The study area was located on the south-facing slopes of Ingeborgfjellet, Varsolbukta, on the west coast of Spitsbergen, Svalbard (77 deg 45’N, 14 deg 24’E). During spring 2003 and 2004, staging geese were counted and body fat stores were estimated by scoring abdominal profiles on a daily basis. In total, almost one fifth of the Svalbard Barnacle Goose visited the area. Mean goose arrival was on 26 May in both years and peak numbers were recorded in the last week of May. Geese arrived at a time when fat deposition rates in their staging area in mid-Norway dropped rapidly and geese staging in Varsolbukta could achieve higher deposition rates. This supports the green wave hypothesis. An advantage of early arrival in the Arctic is the better predictability of the snow conditions at the breeding sites. Accordingly, geese departed earlier from Varsolbukta in the year with advanced snow melt.

Hubner C.E., ARDEA 94 (3): 701-713

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