Ninety Percent of Arctic Tern Chicks Starve Skip to content

Ninety Percent of Arctic Tern Chicks Starve

According to the studies of biologist and doctoral student Freydís Vigfúsdóttir, 90 percent of the Arctic tern chicks in the large colonies on Snaefellsnes peninsula in west Iceland that depend solely on sand eels eventually die from hunger in their nests.


An Arctic tern. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

Vigfúsdóttir wants Icelanders to stop collecting eggs from Arctic tern nests and hunting puffins and guillemot, Morgunbladid reports.

“Greenland is the only place in the world that has comparable Arctic tern nesting as Iceland and studies there have shown that egg collecting in the nesting grounds has significantly contributed towards the stock collapse that has taken place there,” she stated. “We Icelanders should think about that when we’re chewing on Arctic tern eggs.”

Between 20 to 30 percent of the world population of Arctic terns nest in Iceland and around 70 percent of all razorbill auks and Vigfúsdóttir said Icelanders haven’t done their duties in monitoring these species.

Arctic tern nesting has failed for many years in a row. Vigfúsdóttir said failed nesting has been confirmed since 2008 but there are indications that the situation has existed since 2005. If this development continues, some seabird species could vanish from large areas.

In all of the 12 Arctic tern nesting grounds studied by Vigfúsdóttir the terns rely on sand eels to feed their young.

“We noticed towards the end, before they all died, that the terns were trying to feed their chicks with butterflies but there isn’t much to gain there in terms of energy for breeding chicks,” she said.

Click here to read more about the situation of seabirds in Iceland and here to read another story related to Arctic terns.

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