Ross's gulls are among the rarest and least known species of seabirds. Much of what we know about these mysterious birds today is thanks to the efforts of the High Arctic Gull Research Group over the last six years. Ross's gulls are listed as Threatened in Canada, and our work has focused on establishing the range and extent of Canadian breeding populations in order to develop effective protection and conservation measures for this species.
Don't let the gentle disposition and fluffy softness of the common eider fool you...these birds are tougher than a coffin nail. They breed across the barren rocky tundra of the Arctic, and then winter in the freezing waters of the northern oceans. A steadily growing colony on Nasaruvaalik Island has prompted a detailed study of the factors affecting population dynamics of this species at the northernmost extent of its range.
Arctic terns are the focus of a long-term monitoring project on Nasaruvaalik Island since 2007. These amazing birds migrate up to 90,000 km annually between their breeding grounds in the north and their wintering areas near Antarctica. Working with terns requires an iron will and protective headgear, as entire colonies band together to mob predators and scientists alike, dive-bombing their target with deadly accuracy (and the bird version of glee).
Classy yet obnoxious, beautiful yet scrappy, Sabine's gulls are the life of the party wherever they show up. They breed across a circumpolar range,but have only been studied in a few places before. The nesting population on Nasaruvaalik Island is one of the only marked populations in the world, and the migration routes of Pacific wintering birds was determined by tracking individuals from this isolated colony.
Hands down one of the most beautiful birds in the world, long-tailed ducks winter by the tens of thousands on the Great Lakes (notably Lake Ontario), as well both ocean coasts of Canada. They breed across the Arctic, but few make it a far north as northern Nunavut. A small population breeds on Nasaruvaalik Island, and has been the focus of a pilot tracking study to learn more about the migration routes of this species.
Black-legged kittiwakes nest in huge colonies throughout the circumpolar Arctic. Useful as indicators of the marine ecosystem at large, they are one of the most well-studied species in the north. They are one of the most annoying yet lovable birds out there, and while behavioural observations of some species are akin to watching paint dry, an afternoon spent next to a nesting ledge of kittiwakes is more like watching a high-octane Mexican soap opera
A true High Arctic icon, ivory gulls make their home in some of the most inhospitable regions of the world. Unique among gulls, they feed near the very top of the food chain, often scavenging polar bear kills to survive through the winter. Recent precipitous declines in Canadian populations have prompted this species to be listed as Endangered, but the causes responsible for these trends remain uncertain.
Parasitic jaegers are, scientifically speaking, totally awesome. They float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Spending most of their lives far out at sea where they harass other birds and pretty much do whatever they want, these charismatic predators switch habitats and nest in both High and Low Arctic tundra, where they also do pretty much whatever they want. Working with a (very) small population on Nasaruvaalik Island, we have only just begun to learn more about how and where these remarkable birds disperse to their pelagic wintering areas.