Polar Biology

, Volume 36, Issue 8, pp 1097–1105 | Cite as

Do Arctic-nesting birds respond to earlier snowmelt? A multi-species study in north Yukon, Canada

  • Meagan M. Grabowski
  • Frank I. Doyle
  • Donald G. Reid
  • Dave Mossop
  • Darielle Talarico
Original Paper


Climate change has altered the timing of many ecological processes, especially in the Arctic. The initiation of nesting is a key signal of phenological changes in Arctic-nesting birds, and is possibly connected to the circumpolar trend of earlier snowmelt. We collected data on lay dates of 7 bird species, representing shorebirds, passerines, a bird of prey, and seabirds, nesting on Herschel Island, Yukon, Canada, in the years 1984–1986 and 2007–2009. Snowmelt was significantly earlier in the 2007–2009 period. Shorebirds and passerines showed trends to earlier lay dates in conjunction with earlier snowmelt; the other species did not. The strength of response in lay date was correlated with the general categories of foods known to be used by study species. However, six species showed a longer time interval between snowmelt and egg-laying in early compared to late springs, suggesting the need for further monitoring of how robust their responses to snowmelt are in the future.


Arctic Phenology Avian Snowmelt Herschel Island 



This research was part of an International Polar Year project ArcticWOLVES ( We thank the Rutgers University Global Snow Lab and Chris Derksen, Environment Canada, for providing the NOAA snow cover data set, and for assistance in its interpretation. Alice Kenney, Charles Krebs, Maria Leung, Alistair Blachford, Michael Nelligan, Scott Gilbert, Daniel Fehr, Tamara Hansen and Polly Madsen assisted in the field. Isla Myers-Smith provided statistical advice. We thank the Qikiqtaruk-Herschel Island Territorial Park rangers, especially Lee John Meyook and Richard Gordon, for logistical support. Aurora Research Institute and Polar Continental Shelf Program (Natural Resources Canada) provided additional logistic support. The Yukon Research Centre, Yukon College, provided office and logistic support during data analysis. Three anonymous reviewers provided valuable comments on an earlier draft. This work was funded through the International Polar Year programs of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Canadian federal government (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada), and also by Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, and a Northern Research Endowment Grant from the Northern Research Institute, Yukon College. We thank the Inuvialuit people for the opportunity to conduct research on their traditional lands.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meagan M. Grabowski
    • 1
  • Frank I. Doyle
    • 2
  • Donald G. Reid
    • 1
  • Dave Mossop
    • 3
  • Darielle Talarico
    • 4
  1. 1.Wildlife Conservation Society CanadaWhitehorseCanada
  2. 2.Wildlife Dynamics ConsultingSmithersCanada
  3. 3.Yukon College Research CentreWhitehorseCanada
  4. 4.Tipping Point StrategiesWhitehorseCanada

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