Winter seabird distribution and abundance off south-western Greenland, 1999

  • Flemming Ravn Merkel
  • Anders Mosbech
  • David Boertmann
  • Louise Grøndahl


South-western Greenland constitutes an internationally important wintering area for many seabird species. Several species of management concern have a predominantly near-coastal distribution, though available information about seabird numbers is mostly confined to offshore waters. Here we report on extensive aerial surveys conducted in March 1999, covering the coastal waters (up to 15-20 km from the mainland coast) and fjords of south-west Greenland. The most widespread and numerous species were estimated as 463 000 common eiders (Somateria mollissima), 153000 king eiders (S. spectabilis), 125000 thick-billed murres (Uria lomvia), 94 000 long-tailed ducks (Clangula hyemails), and 12 000 black guillemots (Cepphus grylle). A total of 19 bird species were recorded. The estimates for common eider and long-tailed duck approximately represent the entire winter population in south-western Greenland while estimates for the other species represent only an unknown proportion since their distribution continues further offshore. Waters around Nuuk and within the Julianehåbsbugten (Julianehåb Bay) area were identified as areas of high seabird density. A large proportion of the common eider population was aggregated in the fjord systems (22%), calling attention to the importance of fjords for this species. In contrast, pelagic seabird species appear to be absent from the fjords. The large winter population of common eider reveals the importance of south-western Greenland as a key wintering area for the eastern Canadian breeding population. The western Greenland breeding population is the only other contributor, probably amounting to no more than 15 000 pairs.


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How to Cite
Ravn Merkel, F., Mosbech, A., Boertmann, D., & Grøndahl, L. (2002). Winter seabird distribution and abundance off south-western Greenland, 1999. Polar Research, 21(1), 17-36.
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