Marine Biology

, Volume 158, Issue 9, pp 1929–1941 | Cite as

Movements and wintering areas of breeding age Thick-billed Murre Uria lomvia from two colonies in Nunavut, Canada

  • Anthony J. Gaston
  • Paul A. Smith
  • Laura McFarlane Tranquilla
  • William A. Montevecchi
  • David A. Fifield
  • H. Grant Gilchrist
  • April Hedd
  • Mark L. Mallory
  • Gregory J. Robertson
  • Richard A. Phillips
Original Paper


The non-breeding movements of marine birds were poorly known until recently, but this information is essential to understanding the risk to different geographical populations from events on the wintering grounds. We tracked the migration routes and wintering areas of Thick-billed Murre Uria lomvia from two breeding colonies in eastern Canada: Coats Island in northern Hudson Bay and The Minarets, Baffin Island, during the period August 2007–May 2008 using geolocation loggers. Birds from The Minarets moved south rapidly post-breeding and wintered principally off Newfoundland and southern Labrador, or between Newfoundland and southern Greenland, remaining south of 55°N until at least the spring equinox. Those from Coats Island remained in Hudson Bay until at least mid-November, after which they moved rapidly through Hudson Strait to winter in southern Davis Strait and the northern Labrador Sea, mostly north of 55°N. Many individuals stayed throughout the winter in areas of heavy ice cover. Adults from the two colonies appear to be completely segregated in winter and those from Coats Island probably did not enter the area of the winter hunt in Newfoundland. Unexpectedly, some birds from The Minarets wintered in waters beyond the continental slope and outside the distribution of pack ice, demonstrating that particular individuals can be wholly pelagic throughout the winter. Coats Island birds returned through Hudson Strait as soon as open water areas became available in spring. Their sojourn in Hudson Bay coincided very closely with the occurrence of areas with <90% ice cover. In spite of the relatively large error in positions obtained from geolocation loggers, our results demonstrated the value of these devices by uncovering a number of previously unknown aspects of Thick-billed Murre non-breeding ecology in the Northwest Atlantic. Comparison of the non-breeding ecology based on SST experienced in winter show that the winter niche is broader than hitherto assumed, demonstrating that separate populations may experience different selection in the face of climate change.


Open Water Marine Bird Vernal Equinox Continental Shelf Water Autumnal Equinox 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Field work associated with this project was supported by the Government of Canada International Polar Year Project, Environment Canada, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Environmental Studies Research Fund and the Polar Continental Shelf Program of Natural Resources Canada. Rick Armstrong of Nunavut Research Institute and Christine Eberl of Environment Canada provided communications and logistics support. We thank Jason Akearok, Chantelle Burke, Garry Donaldson, Kyle Elliott, Josiah Nakoolak, Jennifer Provencher, Steve Smith, Julia Szucs, Ilya Storm and Kerry Woo for assistance with field work and the Qikiqtarjuaq HTO for assistance with logistics at The Minarets.

Supplementary material

227_2011_1704_MOESM1_ESM.doc (49 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 49 kb)


  1. Ancel A, Kooyman GL, Ponganis PJ, Gendner J-P, Lignon J, Metre X, Huin N, Thorson PH, Robisson P, Le Maho Y (1992) Foraging behaviour of emperor penguins as a resource detector in winter and summer. Nature 360:336–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bakken V, Mehlum F (2005) Wintering areas and recovery rates of Brunnich’s Guillemots Uria lomvia ringed in the Svalbard archipelago. Arctic 58:268–275Google Scholar
  3. Brown RGB (1986) Revised atlas of eastern Canadian seabirds, 1–shipboard surveys.–Canadian Wildlife Service, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  4. Chardine JW, Robertson GJ, Gilchrist HG (2008) Harvest of seabirds in Canada.–In: Merkel F, Barry T (eds) Seabird harvest in the Arctic. CAFF Technical Report No. 16 CAFF International Secretariat, Akureyri, pp 20–29Google Scholar
  5. Croll DA, Gaston AJ, Burger AE, Kennoff D (1992) Foraging strategy and physiological adaptation for diving in Thick-billed Murres. Ecology 73:344–356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Daunt F, Afanasyev V, Silk JRD, Wanless S (2006) Extrinsic and intrinsic determinants of winter foraging and breeding phenology in a temperate seabird. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 59:381–388CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Donaldson GM, Gaston AJ, Chardine JW, Kampp K, Nettleship DN, Elliott RD (1997) Winter distributions of Thick-billed Murres from the eastern Canadian Arctic and western Greenland in relation to age and time of year. Can Wildl Serv Occas Pap No 96Google Scholar
  8. Elliot RD (1991) The management of the Newfoundland turr hunt. In: Gaston AJ, Elliot RD (eds) Studies of high latitude seabirds. 2. Conservation biology of the Thick-billed Murre in the Northwest Atlantic. Can Wildl Serv Occas Pap, Vol 69, pp 29–35Google Scholar
  9. Elliott KH, Davoren GK, Gaston AJ (2007) The influence of buoyancy and drag on the dive behaviour of an Arctic seabird, the Thick-billed Murre. Can J Zool 85:352–361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Falk K, Durinck J (1992) Thick-billed Murre hunting in West Greenland, 1988–89. Arctic 45:167–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fort J, Porter WP, Grémillet D (2009) Thermodynamic modelling predicts energetic bottleneck for seabirds wintering in the northwest Atlantic. J Exp Biol 212:2483–2490CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fort J, Porter WP, Gremillet D (2011) Energetic modelling: a comparison of the different approaches used in seabirds. Comp Biochem Physiol A-Mol Integr Physiol 158:358–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fridolfsson AK, Ellegren H (1999) A simple and universal method for molecular sexing of non-ratite birds. J Avian Biol 30:116–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gaston AJ (1980) Populations, movements and wintering areas of Thick-billed Murres Uria lomvia in eastern Canada. Ottawa, Canadian Wildlife Service. Can Wildl Serv Prog Notes No 110:1–10Google Scholar
  15. Gaston AJ (1982) The migration of juvenile Thick-billed Murres through Hudson Strait in 1980. Can Field-Nat 96:30–34Google Scholar
  16. Gaston AJ (2004) Seabirds: a natural history. Yale University Press, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  17. Gaston AJ, Hipfner JM (1998) The effect of ice conditions in northern Hudson Bay on breeding by Thick-billed Murres (Uria lomvia). Can J Zool 76:480–449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gaston AJ, Hipfner JM (2000) Thick-billed Murre (Uria lomvia). In: Poole A, Gill F (eds) The Birds of North America No. 497. The Birds of North America, Inc., PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  19. Gaston AJ, Robertson GJ (2010) Trends in harvest of Brunnich’s Guillemot in Newfoundland: effects of regulatory changes and winter sea-ice conditions. Wildl Biol 16:47–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gaston AJ, Smith SA (1987) Seabirds in the Cape Dyer-Reid Bay area of Cumberland Peninsula, Baffin Island, Northwest Territories. Can Field-Nat 101:49–55Google Scholar
  21. Gaston AJ, DeForest LN, Donaldson G, Noble DG (1994) Population parameters of Thick-billed Murres at Coats Island, Northwest Territories, Canada. Condor 96:935–948CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gaston AJ, Brewer D, Diamond AW, Woodsworth EJ, Collins BT (2008) Canadian Atlas of bird banding, Vol 2: Seabirds, 1921–1995. Environment Canada, Ottawa, p 186Google Scholar
  23. Gonzalez-Solis J, Croxall JP, Oro D, Ruiz X (2007) Trans-equatorial migration and mixing in the wintering areas of a pelagic seabird. Front Ecol Env 5:297–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Guilford T, Meade J, Willis J, Phillips RA, Boyle D, Roberts S, Collett M, Freeman R, Perrins CM (2009) Migration and stopover in a small pelagic seabird, the Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus: insights from machine learning. Proc Roy Soc Lond B 276:1215–1223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Harris MP (1987) A low-input method of monitoring Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla breeding success. Biol Cons 41:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Harris MP, Daunt F, Newell M, Phillips RA, Wanless S (2010) Wintering areas of adult Atlantic puffins Fratercula arctica from a North Sea colony as revealed by geolocation technology. Mar Biol 157:827–836CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hatch SA, Meyers PM, Mulcahy DM, Douglas DC (2000) Performance of implantable satellite transmitters in diving seabirds. Waterbirds 23:84–94Google Scholar
  28. Hill R (1994) Theory of geolocation by light levels. In: LeBouef BJ, Laws RM (eds) Elephant seals: population ecology, behaviour, and physiology. University of California Press, Berkeley, pp 227–236Google Scholar
  29. Mallory ML, Gilchrist HG, Braune BM, Gaston AJ (2006) Marine birds as indicators of Arctic marine ecosystem health: linking the Northern Ecosystem Initiative to long-term studies. Enviro Monit Assess 113:31–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Meyers PM, Hatch SA, Mulcahy DM (1998) Effect of implanted satellite transmitters on the nesting behaviour of murres. Condor 100:172–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Montevecchi WA, Chaffey H, Burke CM (2007) Hunting for security: changes in the exploitation of marine birds in Newfoundland and Labrador. In: Parrish C, Solberg S, Turner N (eds) Resetting the kitchen table: food security in Canadian coastal communities. Nova Science Publishers, New York, pp 99–116Google Scholar
  32. Nettleship DN, Smith P (1975) Ecological sites in Northern Canada. Can Comm Intern Biospher Prog Cons Terrest—Panel 9, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  33. Paredes R, Jones IL, Boness DJ (2005) Reduced parental care, compensatory behaviour and reproductive costs of thick-billed murres equipped with data loggers. Anim Behav 69:197–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Parry ML, Canziani OF, Palutikof JP, van der Linden PJ, Hanson CE (2007) Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New YorkGoogle Scholar
  35. Phillips RA, Silk JRD, Croxall JP, Afanasyev V, Briggs DR (2004) Accuracy of geolocation estimates for flying seabirds. Mar Ecol Progr Ser 266:265–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Phillips RA, Silk JRD, Croxall JP, Afanasyev V (2006) Year-round distribution of White-chinned Petrels from South Georgia: relationships with oceanography and fisheries. Biol Cons 129:336–347CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Phillips RA, Catry P, Silk JRD, Bearhop S, McGill R, Afanasyev V, Strange IJ (2007) Movements, winter distribution and activity patterns of Falkland and Brown Skuas: insights from loggers and isotopes. Mar Ecol Progr Ser 345:281–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Prinsenberg SJ (1986) On the physical oceanography of Foxe Basin. In: Martini IP (ed) Canadian inland seas. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 217–236Google Scholar
  39. Ropert-Coudert Y, Wilson RP (2005) Trends and perspectives in animal-attached remote sensing. Front Ecol Environ 3:437–444CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rothery P, Wanless S, Harris MP (1988) Analysis of counts from monitoring guillemots in Britain and Ireland. J Anim Ecol 57:1–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Stutchbury BJM, Tarof SA, Done T, Gow E, Kramer PM, Tautin J, Fox JW, Afanasyev V (2009) Tracking long-distance songbird migration by using geolocators. Science 323:896CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Taylor AH (1995) North-south shifts of the Gulf Stream Ocean-atmosphere interactions in the North Atlantic. Int J Climatol 16:559–583CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Taylor AH, Stephens JA (1998) The North Atlantic Oscillation and the latitude of the Gulf Stream. Tellus 50A:134–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Weimerskirch H, Bonadonna F, Bailleul F, Mabille G, Dell’Omo G, Lipp H-P (2002) GPS tracking of foraging albatrosses. Science 295:1259–1260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wernham C, Toms M, Marchant J, Clark JA, Siriwardena GM, Baillie S (eds) (2002) The migration Atlas: movements of the birds of Britain and Ireland. Christopher Helm, LondonGoogle Scholar
  46. Wiese FK, Robertson GJ, Gaston AJ (2004) Impacts of chronic marine oil pollution and the murre hunt in Newfoundland on Thick-billed Murre Uria lomvia populations in the eastern Canadian Arctic. Biol Cons 116:205–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Her Majesty the Queen in Rights of Canada 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony J. Gaston
    • 1
  • Paul A. Smith
    • 1
  • Laura McFarlane Tranquilla
    • 2
  • William A. Montevecchi
    • 2
  • David A. Fifield
    • 3
  • H. Grant Gilchrist
    • 1
  • April Hedd
    • 2
  • Mark L. Mallory
    • 4
  • Gregory J. Robertson
    • 3
  • Richard A. Phillips
    • 5
  1. 1.Wildlife Research Division, Environment CanadaCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Cognitive and Behavioural Ecology Programme, Departments of Psychology and BiologyMemorial University of NewfoundlandSt. John’sCanada
  3. 3.Wildlife Research DivisionEnvironment CanadaMount PearlCanada
  4. 4.Canadian Wildlife ServiceIqaluitCanada
  5. 5.British Antarctic SurveyNatural Environment Research CouncilCambridgeUK

Personalised recommendations