Polar Biology

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 305–311 | Cite as

Inter-breeding movements of little auks Alle alle reveal a key post-breeding staging area in the Greenland Sea

  • Anders MosbechEmail author
  • Kasper L. Johansen
  • Nikolaj I. Bech
  • Peter Lyngs
  • Ann M. A. Harding
  • Carsten Egevang
  • Richard A. Phillips
  • Jerome Fort
Short Note


Seabirds are important components in marine ecosystems. However, knowledge of their ecology and spatial distribution during the non-breeding season is poor. More investigations during this critical period are required urgently, as marine environments are expected to be profoundly affected by climate change and human activities, with both direct and indirect consequences for marine top predators. Here, we studied the distribution of little auks (Alle alle), one of the most abundant seabird species worldwide. We found that after the breeding season, birds from East Greenland quickly travelled north-east to stay for several weeks within a restricted area in the Greenland Sea. Activity patterns indicated that flying behaviour was much reduced during this period, suggesting that this is the primary moulting region for little auks. Birds then performed a southerly migration to overwinter off Newfoundland. These preliminary results provide important information for the conservation of this species and emphasise the need for further studies at a larger spatial scale.


Alle alle Stopover site Moult Geolocator Migration Inter-breeding distribution 



We thank David Grémillet, Ewan Weston, Rachael Orben, Luis de Sousa and Régis Cavignaux for their hard work in the field. We are grateful to James W. Fox and Janet R. D. Silk (British Antarctic Survey) for valuable advice in data download and processing and Martin Munck and NANUTravel for their logistical support. This study was funded by Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum, Greenland Government, as part of the KANUMAS Programme and by the French Polar Institute Paul Emile Victor (Grant 388 to David Grémillet) and the National Science Foundation (grant 0612504 to A.H. and Nina Karnovsky). Fieldwork was conducted under permits of the ethics committee of the French Polar Institute (MP/03/12/04/10) and with the permission from the Greenland Home Rule Government (nº66.01.13). This study represents a contribution to the British Antarctic Survey Ecosystems Programme.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anders Mosbech
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kasper L. Johansen
    • 1
  • Nikolaj I. Bech
    • 1
  • Peter Lyngs
    • 1
  • Ann M. A. Harding
    • 2
  • Carsten Egevang
    • 3
  • Richard A. Phillips
    • 4
  • Jerome Fort
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of BioscienceAarhus UniversityRoskildeDenmark
  2. 2.Environmental Science DepartmentAlaska Pacific UniversityAnchorageUSA
  3. 3.Department of Mammals and BirdsGreenland Institute of Natural ResourcesNuukGreenland
  4. 4.British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research CouncilCambridgeUK
  5. 5.Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et EvolutiveMontpellier cedex 5France

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