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Flooded scrapes and drenched young
Alastair Franke — in Arctic Raptors and Climate Change Project    Share

Arctic breeding raptors generally don't immediately come to mind when we think about the effects of climate change on wildlife, and peregrines would not be among the first species considered when we contemplate the impacts of warmer and potentially longer Arctic summers.

Z|1 Female tundra peregine is one of 50-60 birds followed annually at Rankin Inlet (T.Kemper)

In reality, many people would probably suggest that warming might be an overall benefit for tundra peregrines…and that may be the case for some breeding areas across the incredibly vast area that we call the Arctic.


The circumpolar Arctic...it's a big place (source: http://maps.grida.no/go/graphic/the_arctic_region)

At our study area in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, Canada, reproductive success of peregrines has decreased over the last 30 years. The size of the breeding population has remained stable over the same period, so we know the decline isn’t because there are fewer breeders or fewer eggs.

No change in the number of breeding aged adults or the number of eggs that are laid

Nor is the decline due the effects of legacy contaminants such and DDT and dieldrin. In fact, plasma concentrations of both residues in breeding adults are well below those known to be associated with poor reproductive success.

Thin shelled eggs often collapsed around nestlings, no longer is this a problem (G. Court)

However, summers at Rankin Inlet are now about 1.5ºC warmer in recent years than they were in the early 1980’s, and it seems that the rainfall patterns have changed too. All too often each season our motion sensitive cameras capture flooded scrapes containing eggs that never hatch or rain drenched young that quickly die when directly exposed to rain.

A rain soaked female peregrine unable to incubate eggs in flooded scrape (temperature 7°C)

A rain soaked female stands over two nestlings that died 24 hours earlier during a rain storm

For Arctic nesting peregrines, time is short, and laying a second clutch makes little sense. For pairs that fail, the only option is next year.

Alastair

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