Arctic Tern Chicks Survive, Ptarmigan Gone Skip to content

Arctic Tern Chicks Survive, Ptarmigan Gone

“Times have been difficult for the Arctic tern in the past years. It only managed to raise a few tens of chicks last year but this year the situation was much better,” reported Haraldur Sigurðsson, farmer at Núpskatla on Melrakkaslétta, Northeast Iceland.


A ptarmigan in winter colors. Photo by Hallgrímur Egilsson.

“There was great plunder of nests last year, especially among lesser black-backed gulls. I keep the fox at bay so it isn’t as much of a problem,” he told Morgunblaðið.

“The Arctic tern returned in masses this spring in spite of how unsuccessful the nesting has been in the past years. The nesting went well this year and almost every chick I spotted survived. It obviously has plenty to eat,” Haraldur continued.

However, he is concerned about the ptarmigan. “It is very common to see ten to 15 ptarmigans nesting in this area. I follow them closely—especially because of the fox—and spotted one or two birds but that was it. There has been a collapse in the area.”

“I believe ptarmigans have decreased in proportion with the increase in foxes. It seems pretty clear to me,” Haraldur concluded.

The Icelandic Institute of Natural History’s count of ptarmigans in the spring of 2012 indicates a decline in all parts of the country, as reported on

The period of decline has lasted two years in the West Fjords, North Iceland and the East Fjords and three years in South, Southwest and West Iceland.

Overall, the average decrease of ptarmigans is 25 percent between 2011 and 2012. The evaluation of the bird stock’s hunting condition will be made this month following studies of nesting, decline rate in 2011-2012 and hunting statistics from 2011.

Judging by earlier experience the decrease is expected to continue with the ptarmigan stock reaching a low in 2015-2018 with the next peak forecast for 2020-2022, the Icelandic Institute of Natural History concludes.

Ptarmigan is a favored Christmas dish in Iceland.

Click here to read more about the condition of Arctic terns and other bird species in Iceland.


Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Get news from Iceland, photos, and in-depth stories delivered to your inbox every week!

* indicates required

Subscribe to Iceland Review

In-depth stories and high-quality photography showcasing life in Iceland!

Share article


Recommended Posts