Surveying Arctic Shorebirds in North Alaska

Surveying Arctic Shorebirds in North Alaska

Teshekpuk Lake Special Area is located on the North Slope of Alaska, and is described by the team of Manomet biologists who are surveying the area to assess nesting shorebird populations as a special place where shorebirds nest in unusually high density. They add that if anyone (the government) wanted to designate an area of the North Slope as a wildlife refuge to benefit shorebirds, the Teshekpuk Lake area be a prime contender. The multitude of marshes, small ponds, and large lakes make this region extremely attractive to shorebirds, waterfowl, and other wildlife.

The Arctic shorebird surveys are being conducted to get a highly precise measure of shorebird populations over time. The best shorebird biologists in the Western Hemisphere worked together for almost a decade to develop and perfect the surveys, which are rapid surveys conducted at many randomly selected sites in the area. On the tundra, shorebirds establish territories they defend by singing and displaying, including performing flight displays, which permits field personnel to identify each species and measure their numbers more precisely.

This year Manomet is continuing a parallel study to see if small audio recording devices can help to identify birds that are present and count numbers of each species on site. This was accomplished by deploying more than 120 recording devices across the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area, and they have been recording shorebirds songs and calls all summer. Team members will retrieve the recorders in August for analysis. These shorebird surveys will provide the best data available about Arctic-nesting shorebird population trends, and there is much more work to do.

Manomet and partnering organizations across the Western Hemisphere are working to conserve shorebird populations and their habitats from the Arctic all the way to their wintering ranges in Central and South America. The Arctic field research being conducted by Manomet and associates is building a science-based foundation to measure and monitor shorebird populations that will be used to inform site managers of priorities and effectiveness of conservation actions, and more.

Major project funders provided the key support to make this research possible, which include the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management, plus matching contributions came from many private donors who see the value of conservation science.

To learn more about Arctic shorebird surveys being conducted in the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area, Alaska, refer to the Manomet website article at

Teshekpuk Lake Special Area is located in the northeast portion of the vast National Petroleum Reserve, one of the largest areas of public land in the United States. For more information about the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area, you can refer to an article provided by the Alaska Wilderness League at Teshekpuk Lake Special Area | Alaska Wilderness League


Photo 1 – Black-bellied Plovers are one of the many species of nesting shorebirds being surveyed on the North Slope of Alaska at the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area (photo by Paul Konrad).

Photo 2 – The rich tundra and wetland landscape that surrounds Teshekpuk Lake provides essential habitat for a variety of shorebirds and waterfowl (photo by Stephan Brown).