Sedentary and migratory birds
Considering the challenging circumstances, a relatively high number of species breed in the Arctic region. Some 250 species have been found breeding above the tree line. In Lapland, 340 bird species have been encountered, 180 of them breed regularly and 60 overwinter here. Most of the bird species breeding in the north are migratory birds.
The sedentary or resident species have adapted to the Arctic conditions:
- Willow Grouse and Rock Ptarmigan change their plumages to white ones for the winter.
- In the autumn, Siberian Jay, Willow Tit and Siberian Tit store food for the winter.
- Galliformes and even some small birds protect themselves from freezing temperatures by burrowing in the snow.
- Some species, such as Siberian Tit, can lower their body temperature to reduce energy consumption.
The number of birds in the north varies by habitat, and the numbers of species and individual birds can vary a lot between years. Approximately 40% of Lapland's bird species breed in forests. Species living by different water bodies account for more than 30%, mire and marshland species for about 11% and fell species for about 13%. The rest of the species occur mainly in man-made habitats.
From forests to the roaring sea
Most of the forest birds are species living in coniferous forests, such as Bramblings, Eurasian Siskins and Tree Pipits. Bird species favouring old forests are encountered in the north relatively often. The old forest species include Western Capercaillie, Siberian Tit and Siberian Jay.
Generally, the number of species decreases towards the north. However, the number of mire bird species, especially waders, increases as we move further north. Especially the Southern Lapland aapa mires and northern palsa bogs are valuable bird areas. They provide breeding areas for example for Red-throated Divers, Jack Snipes, geese, Bar-tailed Godwits and Peregrine falcons. The diversity of the northern mires and the abundant insects during breeding provide good conditions for breeding and nesting. On the fell heathlands there are Eurasian Dotterels, Eurasian Golden Plovers, Meadow Pipits and Red-throated Pipits, among others. Only a few species of birds, such as the Rock Ptarmigan and Snow Bunting live on the highest bare fell tops.
Arctic seas provide food sources and breeding grounds for seabirds. Of these, many species, such as the puffins, breed in bird mountains in large colonies.
Climate change affects birds
Populations of northern bird species have been in decline and their breeding ranges have been reduced. Southern bird species, in turn, have been observed to have become more common in the north.
One of the factors contributing to the decline of the northern bird species is climate change. Research on the effects of climate change on birds has so far focused particularly on phenology, which has shown changes in bird migration and breeding periods, for example.
Text: Jukka Jokimäki & Marja-Liisa Kaisanlahti-Jokimäki
Photo: Tomi Muukkonen
For more information:
- Luontoportti.fi - Information and pictures of bird species common in Finland. You can also search birds using their characteristics.
- Tiira.fi - Bird Information Service, where you can browse bird observations and keep your own observation log.
- Lly.fi - Lapland Ornithological Society is a local association of bird watchers.
- Laji.fi – On the Finnish Biodiversity Info Facility website you can learn about species and their occurrence and record your own observations.