Post-breeding movements of northeast Atlantic ivory gull Pagophila eburnea populations


  • Olivier Gilg,

  • Hallvard Strøm,

  • Adrian Aebischer,

  • Maria V. Gavrilo,

  • Andrei E. Volkov,

  • Cecilie Miljeteig,

  • Brigitte Sabard

O. Gilg (, Dept of Biol. and Environm. Sci., Div. of Pop. Biol., PO Box 65, FI–00014 Univ. of Helsinki, Finland. Present address for OG: Univ. de Bourgogne, Lab Biogéosciences, UMR CNRS 5561, Equipe Ecol. Evol., 6 Boulevard Gabriel, FR–21000 Dijon, France. – H. Strøm and C. Miljeteig, Norwegian Polar Inst., Polar Environm. Centre, NO–9296 Tromsø, Norway. – Present address of CM: Norwegian Univ. of Sci. and Techn., NO–7491 Trondheim, Norway. – A. Aebischer, Musée d'Histoire Naturelle de Fribourg, Chemin du Musée 6, CH–1700 Fribourg, Switzerland. – M. V. Gavrilo, Arctic and Antarctic Research Inst. (AARI), 38 Bering Street, RU–199397 Saint-Petersburg, Russia. – A. E. Volkov, Fund for Sustainable Development, PO Box 85, RU–117312 Moscow, Russia. – B. Sabard, Groupe de Recherche en Ecologie Arctique (GREA), 16 rue de Vernot, FR–21440 Francheville, France.


The post-breeding movements of three northeast Atlantic populations (north Greenland, Svalbard and Franz Josef Land) of the ivory gull Pagophila eburnea, a threatened high-Arctic sea-ice specialist, were studied between July and December 2007 using 31 satellite transmitters. After leaving their breeding grounds, all birds first dispersed eastward in August–September, to an area extending from the Fram Strait to the northwestern Laptev Sea (off Severnaya Zemlya). Most returned along the same flyway in October–November, hence describing a loop migration before moving south, off east Greenland. Wintering grounds were reached in December, in southeast Greenland and along the Labrador Sea ice-edge, where Canadian birds also overwinter. One to two birds from each population however continued eastwards towards a third wintering area in the Bering Strait region, hence demonstrating a bi-directional migration pattern for the populations and elucidating the origin of the birds found in the north Pacific during winter time. Overall, all birds breeding in the northeast Atlantic region used the same flyways, had similar rates of travel, and showed a peak in migratory activity in November. Though the total length of the main flyway, to the Labrador Sea, is only and at most 7500 km on a straight line, the mean total distance travelled by Greenland birds between July and December was 50 000 km when estimated from hourly rates of travel. Our study presents the first comprehensive and complete picture for the post-breeding movements of the different ivory gull populations breeding in the northeast Atlantic.