Svalbard rock ptarmigan - migrations and wintering grounds

Male Svalbard rock ptarmiganSvalbard rock ptarmigan male.Image: Nicolas Lecomte

In order to get new knowledge about the winter ecology of the Svalbard Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta hyperborea), we fitted 8 Svalbard Rock Ptarmigans (5 females and 3 males) with NorthStar satellite transmitters in May 2009. The birds were captured with a supertalon netgun. The transmitters will track the birds for almost one year, transmitting signals every fifth day for five hours. Then we will be able to follow the ptarmigans in their breeding grounds through the summer, during autumn and early winter and further through the polar night to their wintering grounds. Late autumn and winter is the period where we have no knowledge of their location.

Our tracking map is dynamically updated with the data we receive from the tagged birds.

Follow the migration of the Svalbard rock ptarmigan and discover their unknown wintering grounds

Svalbard rock ptarmigan with satellite tagSvalbard rock ptarmigan with satellite tag.Image: Eva Fuglei

Rock ptarmigans (Lagopus muta ssp) are the most northern, resident herbivorous birds in the world. Living year round in extreme high-Arctic areas these medium sized terrestrial birds must cope with extreme seasonal variations in ambient environmental conditions. One sub species, the Svalbard rock ptarmigan (Lagopus muta hyperborea), is endemic in two High-Arctic archipelagos, Svalbard (74-81°N, 10-33ºE) and Franz Josef Land (80-82ºN, 45-65ºE). No knowledge exists about their wintering areas and possible migration routes during the Arctic winter (October through March). Claims have been made that this species could perform long-range migration, a behaviour that can allow them to track seasonal shift in suitable feeding areas. Current research on the species performed by the Norwegian Polar Institute allows the monitoring of population dynamic based on counts in the breeding season, but not migration.




Norwegian Polar Institute  University of Tromsø  NO_SM-logo  The Governor of Svalbard  Nansenfondet  Sparebanken Nord-Norge