Using geolocators, researchers have mapped the migration routes of long-tailed skuas from three breeding locations in Svalbard, Greenland and Sweden. The results show that long-tailed skuas normally stick to the same routes in different years, but they may also vary migration routes and wintering areas. This ability may prove important for the skuas facing climate changes.

Northern long-tailed skuas migrate between the breeding site in the north and wintering grounds off the coast of southern Africa, with stopovers in the North Atlantic. Ability to vary the migration route can be important for the species’ ability to adjust to changes in the environmental conditions. The present study examined whether the migration tracks were consistent or varied over time. Using light-based geolocation, researchers found that long-tailed skuas follow more or less the same routes year after year, but some individuals also move to different wintering grounds over the course of the winter. Such a switch of wintering grounds may be due to changes in food availability or weather conditions, and can therefore help long-tailed skuas to adjust to a decrease in quality of wintering grounds.

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Contact person: Børge Moe, NINA

Long tailed skuas nest on Svalbard, among other places, and migrate as far south as the coast of southwestern Africa.
Photo: Børge Moe