U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Burnham, K.K., D.R. Sinnett, J.A. Johnson, J.L. Burnham, J.A. Baroch, and B.W. Konkel. 2014. New species records and changes in abundance of waterfowl in northwest Greenland. Polar Biology 37(9):1289-1300. doi: 10.1007/s00300-014-1520-z.


Breeding populations of Nearctic and Palearctic waterfowl have undergone significant changes in abundance and distribution over the past 50 years. The Avanersuaq District in northwest Greenland is home to an assemblage of waterfowl from both geographic areas; however, minimal historic or current information is available on species abundance. In 2008 and 2009, we conducted field surveys in Greenland from 76.00_ to 77.35_N for breeding and non-breeding waterfowl and have collected anecdotal field notes of avian observations over a 20-year period (1993–2012). During these periods, we documented the first observation of a Ross’s goose (Chen rossii) and the first confirmed breeding by lesser snow geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) in Greenland. Northern pintails (Anas acuta) were observed for the first time in northwest Greenland, and a previously unknown breeding location for brent geese (Branta bernicla hrota) was also identified. Local populations of greater snow (C. c.) and Canada geese (B. canadensis) have increased in size. The Booth Sound and Drown Bay wetland areas and many islands throughout the Avanersuaq District were identified as critical habitat for both breeding and non-breeding waterfowl. Further increases in waterfowl abundance, including more frequent rare and new visitors, are likely in the study area as breeding populations further south continue to increase and an ameliorating climate allows for a longer breeding season. These results will prove useful as a baseline for comparisons with future surveys.