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Arctic Plains & Mountains - More Information

Background information on DU's Arctic Plains & Mountains - Alaska conservation priority area
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Importance to waterfowl

Intensive fieldwork at Storkersen Point, near Prudhoe Bay, revealed 18 species of waterfowl, including seven species that nested (Bergman et al. 1977). In a broader study of the National Petroleum Reserve Area (NPR-A), 19 species of swans, geese, and ducks were identified, including 11 breeding species (Derksen et al. 1981) which included tundra swan, black brant, white-fronted goose, lesser snow goose, northern pintail, green-winged teal, greater scaup, king eider, spectacled eider, long-tailed duck, and white-winged scoter. Avifaunal records of the Beaufort Sea area for both Alaska and Canada reveal some 37 swan, goose, and duck species (Johnson and Herter 1989). King (1990) estimated over 1 million waterfowl on the Arctic Coastal Plain, including over 400,000 dabbling ducks, over 60,000 scaup, over 540,000 sea ducks, over 160,000 geese, and over 10,000 tundra swans. The dominant species included long-tailed ducks (>495,000), northern pintails (>390,000), and white-fronted geese (>145,000). The highest density of breeding pairs in 1989-91 (Conant and Dau 1991) included northern pintails at 10.4 pairs/mi2, canvasback (6.9), American wigeon (4.9), and long-tailed duck (3.8).

The Arctic Coastal Plain is also a critically important area for migration and molting. Periodic drought displacement of northern pintail to this region is dramatic, where density of birds may reach over 45/km2, and as much as 15% of the continental population may be found in the Arctic Coastal Plain (Derksen and Eldridge 1980). Although pintails are abundant on the coastal plain, especially associated with shallow Arctophila wetlands, sex ratios are heavily skewed toward males, and most are probably nonbreeders. The king eider migration alone has been estimated at over one million birds passing Point Barrow (King and Lensink 1971). This area has a significant, but declining population of spectacled and Steller’s eiders, both federally threatened species. This region, combined with western Alaska, the Alaska Peninsula, Kodiak Island, and the Aleutians, represents the most important area for sea ducks in the world. Molting geese regularly use the approximately 100 lakes around Teshekpuk Lake. In 1990 there were 23,395 brant, 12,233 Canada geese, 6,619 white-fronted geese, and 154 lesser snow geese, not including young (King 1990).

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