Arctic Shorebirds in North America

Arctic Shorebirds in North America: A Decade of Monitoring

Jonathan Bart
Victoria Johnston
Paul A. Smith
Jennie Rausch
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Arctic Shorebirds in North America
    Book Description:

    Each year shorebirds from North and South America migrate thousands of miles to spend the summer in the Arctic. There they feed in shoreline marshes and estuaries along some of the most productive and pristine coasts anywhere. With so much available food they are able to reproduce almost explosively; and as winter approaches, they retreat south along with their offspring, to return to the Arctic the following spring. This remarkable pattern of movement and activity has been the object of intensive study by an international team of ornithologists who have spent a decade counting, surveying, and observing these shorebirds. In this important synthetic work, they address multiple questions about these migratory bird populations. How many birds occupy Arctic ecosystems each summer? How long do visiting shorebirds linger before heading south? How fecund are these birds? Where exactly do they migrate and where exactly do they return? Are their populations growing or shrinking? The results of this study are crucial for better understanding how environmental policies will influence Arctic habitats as well as the far-ranging winter habitats used by migratory shorebirds.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95349-9
    Subjects: Zoology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. FOREWORD Contribution of Arctic PRISM to Monitoring Western Hemispheric Shorebirds
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Susan K. Skagen, Paul A. Smith, Brad A. Andres, Garry Donaldson and Stephen Brown

    Long-term monitoring of populations is of paramount importance to understanding responses of organisms to global environmental change and to evaluating whether conservation practices are yielding intended results through time (Wiens 2009). The population status of many shorebird species, the focus of this volume, remain poorly known. Long-distance migrant shorebirds have proven particularly difficult to monitor, in part because of their highly migratory nature and ranges that extend into highly inaccessible regions. As migrant shorebirds travel the length of the hemisphere, they congregate and disperse in ways that vary among species, locations, and years, presenting serious challenges to designing and implementing...

  5. Part I Introduction

    • CHAPTER ONE Goals and Objectives
      (pp. 3-8)
      Victoria Johnston and Jonathan Bart

      We report results from shorebird surveys in the North American arctic, defined here as Bird Conservation Regions 2 and 3 of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative ( The surveys estimate population size and trend and provide information on habitat relationships at the regional and arctic-wide scale (Table 1.1, Fig. 1.1). Of the 53 species of shorebirds that breed in the United States and Canada, 26 (47%) breed in the arctic in sufficient numbers that arctic surveys are an important part of monitoring programs for them (Donaldson et al. 2000, Brown et al. 2001; Table 1.1).

      Arctic-breeding shorebirds are...

    • CHAPTER TWO Methods
      (pp. 9-16)
      Jonathan Bart, Victoria Johnston, Paul A. Smith, Ann Manning, Jennie Rausch and Stephen Brown

      A major goal of Arctic PRISM is to estimate change in shorebird population size occurring during 20 years with power of 80% to detect a 50% decline occurring in no more than 20 years, using a significance level of 0.15 and a two-tailed test, and acknowledging effects of potential bias (Skagen et al. 2003, Bart et al. 2005). This chapter describes the methods being used to achieve the desired power. We discuss the delineation of plots and strata, selection of plots to be surveyed, how the surveys were conducted, and analysis of the resulting data. Methods for analyzing habitat data...

  6. Part II Regional Reports

    • CHAPTER THREE Shorebird Surveys in Western Alaska
      (pp. 19-36)
      Brian J. McCaffery, Jonathan Bart, Catherine Wightman and David J. Krueper

      Western Alaska supports one of the richest tundra shorebird faunas in the world. In western North America, shorebird species richness peaks in Alaska between 60° and 65° north latitude, roughly the zone from the mouth of the Kuskokwim River north to the Seward Peninsula (Pitelka 1979). Not only does the region host a diverse suite of breeding species and populations that are endemic to Beringia (Alaska Shorebird Group 2008), it also supports some of the highest local breeding densities of shorebirds in the world (Meltofte et al. 2007b).

      Most estimates of breeding shorebird densities in western Alaska have been derived...

    • CHAPTER FOUR North Slope of Alaska
      (pp. 37-96)
      Jonathan Bart, Stephen Brown, Brad A. Andres, Robert Platte and Ann Manning

      The North Slope of Alaska is a major nesting area for a wide variety of bird species, including shorebirds, waterfowl, gulls and terns, and landbirds (National Research Council 2003, Johnson et al. 2007). However, there has never been an analysis of the density of these species across the entire range of habitats in the region. Previous studies have provided either descriptions of the ranges of these species within the region or densities for some species in some parts of this larger area (Mallek et al. 2004, Larned et al. 2005, Brown et al. 2007, Johnson et al. 2007, STUDIES IN...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Yukon North Slope and Mackenzie Delta
      (pp. 97-112)
      Jennie Rausch and Victoria Johnston

      Region 12 of the Arctic PRISM program covers 20,756 km² and stretches from the Alaska–Yukon border through Yukon and into the Northwest Territories to the tip of the Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula (Fig. 5.1). It is the smallest Arctic PRISM region in Canada, but is located in an area of high shorebird diversity and density relative to other parts of th e Canadian arctic (Johnston and Pepper 2009: appendix 3, Northwest Territories/Nunavut Bird Checklist Survey 2009). It covers one of only two breeding areas in Canada for Whimbrel, Hudsonian Godwit, and Long-billed Dowitcher (Northwest Territories/ Nunavut Bird Checklist Survey 2009).


    • CHAPTER SIX Southampton and Coats Islands
      (pp. 113-126)
      Paul A. Smith, Victoria Johnston and Jennie Rausch

      Shorebird populations across North America appear to be in a state of widespread decline. In particular, 19 of 26 species that breed in the North American arctic show signs of decline (Morrison et al. 2006, Johnston and Bart, chapter 1, this volume). This situation clearly warrants attention, yet our ability to respond is hindered by a poor understanding of basic parameters such as population size, distribution, and habitat relationships. To fill these knowledge gaps, Canada has embarked on a collaborative effort with the United States to census shorebirds across the continent. The objectives of the Program for Regional and International...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Prince Charles, Air Force, and Baffin Islands
      (pp. 127-140)
      Victoria Johnston and Paul A. Smith

      The portion of Baffin Island that is included in PRISM Region 3 is an important area for breeding migratory birds (Soper 1940). It was established as the Dewey Soper Migratory Bird Sanctuary in 1957, and designated a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance in 1982. Prince Charles and Air Force Islands are recognized as a key habitat site for migratory birds in general, and previous surveys have suggested that shorebirds are particularly abundant (Morrison 1997, Latour et al. 2008, Johnston and Pepper 2009). Here, we present the results of surveys of Prince Charles and Air Force Islands in 1996–1997, and...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Small-scale and Reconnaissance Surveys
      (pp. 141-156)
      Jonathan Bart, Brad A. Andres, Kyle H. Elliott, Charles M. Francis, Victoria Johnston, R. I. G. Morrison, Elin P. Pierce and Jennie Rausch

      This chapter contains brief reports on surveys of breeding shorebirds at six locations in arctic Canada. Surveys on Kent Peninsula used the standard double sampling method, lasted for two years, and provided estimated densities and population sizes. Methods in the other surveys varied depending on shorebird density and on how large the study area was. In the Québec study area, the standard Arctic PRISM method for rapid surveys was used. In the Alert study area, hybrid methods were developed to deal with an extremely low density of shorebirds. In the other sites, investigators did not confine their surveys to predefined,...

  7. Part III Methodology

      (pp. 159-176)
      Kyle H. Elliott and Paul A. Smith

      When conducting ground surveys over large regions, such as for Arctic PRISM, long periods are spent in transit. Carrying out aerial surveys during these transit periods requires reduced flight speeds, and therefore may increase costs or reduce the time available for ground surveys. Yet these aerial surveys may add value by providing additional information on the distribution and abundance of shorebirds and other birds. The purpose of the current chapter is to examine the costs and benefits of conducting aerial surveys while traveling between Arctic PRISM plots in the Canadian arctic, using the six years of data collected to date....

    • CHAPTER TEN Survey Methods for Whimbrel
      (pp. 177-184)
      Lisa Pirie and Victoria Johnston

      Whimbrel (for scientific names, see Appendix C) is designated as a sensitive species in the Northwest Territories (GNWT 2006) and a species of high conservation priority nationally (Donaldson et al. 2000, Brown et al. 2001, U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan 2004). Because of its priority status and its ecological importance in the Mackenzie Delta north of the treeline (hereafter Mackenzie Delta), the species was also chosen by proponents of the Mackenzie Gas Project (MGP) as a Valued Ecosystem Component (any component of the environment that is considered important to those involved in an environmental assessment process) in the MGP environmental impact...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Tier 2 Surveys
      (pp. 185-194)
      Lisa Pirie, Victoria Johnston and Paul A. Smith

      In the three-tiered approach to Arctic PRISM, Tier 2 meets the objective of “regular monitoring of populations at permanent sites.” Tier 2 sites are non-randomly selected in areas of known importance to shorebirds and are regularly at relatively high intensity of use—that is, for the entire breeding season for several consecutive years. PRISM is developing a systems plan which will ensure that a representative sample of arctic shorebird breeding sites is contained within the Tier 2 network. These sites should meet most of the following criteria: (1) easy accessibility, (2) established long-term research programs and facilities, (3) high-quality shorebird...

      (pp. 195-200)
      Lindsay A. Armer, Craig S. Machtans and Brian T. Collins

      The Northwest Territories–Nunavut Bird Checklist Survey (NNBCS) program was established in 1995 by the Canadian Wildlife Service as an economical approach to monitoring the distribution, abundance, and breeding status of all bird species in the Northwest Territories (NWT) and Nunavut. At its inception, there existed only scattered baseline data on bird species in either territory. Since then, the NNBCS has amassed over 125,000 records on 12,600 checklists from 6,800 unique locations, including historical (pre-1995) data sets (Canadian Wildlife Service Prairie and Northern Region, unpubl. data; Fig. 12.1). The NNBCS follows typical protocols for a checklist data collection program (Droege...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN Design of Future Surveys
      (pp. 201-210)
      Jonathan Bart and Paul A. Smith

      In this chapter, results from the first decade of Arctic PRISM are used to address two related issues: how effort should be allocated to different parts of the sampling plan and, with the optimal allocation, how large a sample will be required to achieve the PRISM accuracy target described in Johnston and Bart (chapter 1, this volume). We assume the reader is familiar with Bart et al. (chapter 2, this volume, Methods).

      From Bart et al. (chapter 2, this volume), the squared CV of the estimated population size may be written

      ${[CV(\hat Y)]^2}{\rm{ = }}\sum\limits_{h = 1}^L {W_h^2} \left( {\frac{{V({{\hat \bar X}_h})}}{{\bar X_h^2}}{\rm{ + }}\frac{{V({{\hat R}_h})}}{{R_h^2}}} \right)$(1)

      Where Wh= Yh/Y is the fraction...

      (pp. 213-238)
      Jonathan Bart and Paul A. Smith

      Previous chapters explained the history and goals of the Arctic PRISM program (Johnston and Bart, chapter 1, this volume), described the general methods (Bart et al., chapter 2, this volume), and reported results from numerous regional surveys (chapters 3–8, this volume). This chapter presents combined estimates for all regions surveyed to date and compares the estimated densities and population sizes to previous estimates. We also identify major revisions of range maps, particularly those in the Birds of North America (BNA) species accounts, which our surveys indicate may be warranted.

      As noted in Johnston and Bart (chapter 1, this volume),...

    • CHAPTER FIFTEEN Priorities for Future PRISM Surveys
      (pp. 239-244)
      Jonathan Bart, Victoria Johnston, Jennie Rausch, Paul A. Smith and Brian J. McCaffery

      Previous chapters have described the Arctic PRISM approach in detail, but we wish to add a few comments about it in this chapter. First, it should be noted that the design permits managers to concentrate effort in areas of special interest. For example, an oil and gas pipeline has been proposed in the Mackenzie Delta, one of the most important breeding and migration sites for birds in arctic Canada. The proposal led to detailed surveys in this area during the past few years, especially at the proposed gas production facilities and on the pipeline corridor. During PRISM surveys, the Mackenzie...

  8. APPENDIX A Other Methods for Estimating Trends of Arctic Birds
    (pp. 245-252)
    Jonathan Bart, Stephen Brown, R. I. G. Morrison and Paul A. Smith
  9. APPENDIX B Regional Density Estimates
    (pp. 253-260)
    (pp. 265-278)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 279-300)
    (pp. 301-302)