Western Yellow-billed Loons

The enabling legislation of the parks specifies protection for bird habitats and populations for all 5 Arctic Network of Alaska Parklands (ARCN). Under ANILCA [Section 201(8)], BELA must protect habitat for internationally significant populations of migratory birds and CAKR must provide specific protections for bird habitat and populations. In addition, several international treaties, federal laws and initiatives provide protections for migratory birds and require action by NPS (Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Endangered Species Act, North American Bird Conservation Initiative).

The Yellow-billed Loon (Gavia adamsii) is a species of concern with a global population estimated at 16,650-21,000 (Fair 2002, Earnst 2004). The breeding range is restricted to large lakes (>7 hectares) (North and Ryan 1989) in the Arctic Coastal Plain of Alaska north of the Brooks Range, in western Alaska on the Seward Peninsula including Bering Land Bridge National Preserve (BELA), and in Cape Krusenstern National Monument (CAKR). Yellow-billed Loons are poorly documented in these parklands and population estimates in these areas represent a small percentage of the total population. In 2005, results from aerial surveys conducted in and around BELA and CAKR generated population estimates for Yellow-billed loons and nests of 418 (90% confidence range = 314-521) and 85 (90% confidence range = 56-115), respectively (Mallek et al. 2005). The portions of the northern and central Seward Peninsula strata including BELA accounted for 76% (319) of the total Yellow-billed Loon population estimate and 76% (65) of the total nest estimate. In CAKR, the Yellow-billed Loon population and nest estimates accounted for 5% (22) and 4% (4) of the total, respectively. Due to its small population size and restricted distribution, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently evaluating a petition to list this species as Threatened or Endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Contaminants studies of many loon species have been ongoing in Alaska. As a piscivorous species, Yellow-billed Loons are top predators in lake ecosystems. They are harvested for human subsistence and are of concern because they may bioaccumulate contaminant loads (i.e., mercury, PCPs) (Schmutz pers. comm. 2008). In addition, they may be indicators of water quality and may provide insight into the movement of marine-derived nutrients and shifts in riparian or coastal communities in ARCN.

Data and Resources

Additional Info

Field Value
ISO Topics biota
Primary Contact Melanie Flamme (Melanie_Flamme@nps.gov)
Primary Organization National Park Service
Funding Organizations National Park Service
Other Organizations US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey
Organization Types Federal
Geo-keywords Alaska
Start Date 2012-01-01
Created February 23, 2016, 01:40 (AKST)
Last Updated October 1, 2021, 10:07 (AKDT)