WCS North America

Demography and Migration of Arctic Alaskan Shorebirds

As perhaps the greatest wildlife spectacle in all of North America - Arctic Alaska features large swaths of pristine habitat and dramatic wildlands. Millions of birds – primarily shorebirds and waterfowl – migrate to breed in the immense wetlands of the coastal plain during the spring and summer months.


  • Better understand the migratory movements and population trends of bird species, particularly those of conservation concern, so that we can recommend the most effective actions for sustaining healthy populations.


Shorebird Demography Study

At our Prudhoe Bay and Ikpikpuk sites we are engaged in a project to assess adult survivorship of key shorebird species including the Semipalmated Sandpiper and Dunlin, as part of a North American Arctic-wide project to better understand population trends of shorebirds species of conservation concern. Field work for this study was initiated in 2010.

Geolocator Study

We are using geolocators to determine the migratory pathways of the Dunlin, a Species of High Concern by the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan and a Bird of Conservation Concern within USFWS. Knowing migratory routes and hence habitat requirements will allow us to assess potential threats faced by birds away from Alaska. The field work phase of this study was initiated in 2010.

WCS researchers on the Ikpikpuk River Delta on Alaska's North Slope recovered geolocators from three Semipalmated Sandpipers and one American Golden Plover during the 2014 field season. The geolocators were placed on 29 Semipalmated Sandpipers and 5 American Golden Plovers in 2013. Location data from the geolocators will be downloaded and used to identify migratory routes and staging areas for these species as part of the Arctic Shorebird Demographic Network. Additionally, we recovered 12 geolocators on dunlin at the Chaun, Chuktoka camp, from 30 that were deployed in 2013. Nothing is known about the non-breeding movements of dunlin breeding in this area and we are very excited to have recovered these geolocators. These data are currently being analyzed.

Path of a semipalmated sandpiper, tagged with a geolocator at the Ikpikpuk River Delta.

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WCS Arctic Beringia
P.O. Box 751110 Fairbanks, AK 99775
(907) 750-9991

Key Staff

Rebecca Bentzen
Arctic Beringia Avian Research Coordinator

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