Research in Svalbard

Svalbard is an archipelago located in the high Arctic and dominated mainly by harsh climatic conditions. However, many birds annually breed on the seashore. One of them is the Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea. This beautiful bird belongs to the genus Sterna (closely relative to gulls). It has black cap, red bill and legs, and deeply forked tail. Arctic Terns are known for their very interesting life strategy. They breed on the Northern hemisphere in the Arctic. When the northern winter comes they migrate to the Southern hemisphere where theirs wintering areas are located around the Antarctica. This amazing fly between polar regions is the longest migration path in bird´s kingdom and counts around 80 000 km.

Not only the migration but also the ability to breed in the harsh climatic conditions of the northern tundra is interesting. The inhospitable weather – average summer temperature at 4-6 degrees Celsius and extreme weather oscillations such as strong winds and storms (rain or snow) – influence nesting of birds negatively. Moreover, the Arctic Tern is a colonially nesting bird with strong reaction against predators connected with physical attacks. Terns can just rely on the crypsis of eggs and chicks or leave the nest and attack the intruder to protect themselves, their eggs and hatchlings. Thus, it is crucial for breeding Arctic Terns to evaluate the cost of incubation and correctly react on environment (weather, possibility of predation, chilling eggs etc.).

Our research team focuses mainly on the life strategies of Arctic Terns. Topics relate to incubation behaviour, nesting success, antipredation behaviour and migration abilities. Newly, we are focusing also on prevalence of parasites and we are planning to widen our interest also on other arctic birds.

Cooperation with:

  • Centre for Polar Ecology, Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice
  • Laboratory of Ornithology, Faculty of Science, Palacky University in Olomouc, Czech Republic
  • Department of Bird Migration, Swiss Ornithological Institute, Switzerland
  • Department of Marine Biology, Microbiology & Biochemistry, Cochin University of Science and Technology, Kerala, India

People involved in this research: