Arctic and alpine ptarmigan

We are examining habitat selection and the impacts of climate variation on rock, white-tailed and willow ptarmigan in the Ruby Range Mountains of the southern Yukon Territory. The work is conducted at an alpine field camp “Pika Camp” run by Dr. David Hik at the University of Alberta.

Pika Camp Valley -thumbnail Pika Camp late June -thumbnail Pika camp early May -thumbnail

Some of the specific questions include:

1) How do rock, white-tailed and willow ptarmigan segregate during the nest and brood-rearing periods?

2) What factors influence nest success of rock and white-tailed ptarmigan? In particular we are studying if nest survival differs among the two species in relation to their nesting habitat or their response to weather.

3) Do rock and white-tailed ptarmigan exhibit similar life history strategies? When two or more species co-occur in the same environment, it provides an opportunity to examine how species differ in their response to environmental conditions such as predation, climate or food abundance.

4) How will climate change impact population growth rates of rock and white-tailed ptarmigan? Warmer and more variable weather may present new challenges for each species and differences in life history strategies may affect their susceptibility. We’re currently constructing population models with field data from the study site and will combine these with climate models to make predictions for each species.

To study ptarmigan we band and radiocollar individuals at the start of the breeding season – this allows us to locate nests using radiotelemetry.  With nest data we can examine habitat selection for each species and identify what factors influence reproductive success

banding ROPT_fem incub Sabine_telem

We thank the following organizations who have provided valuable funding for this research: Upland Bird Society, Calgary Bird Banding Society, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Northern Scientific Training Program

Photo Gallery

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