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Wildlife - Fauna (Birds, mammals)

Most animal species in Spitsbergen are birds, mostly seabirds. Alltogether, about 30 bird species are registered as regular breeders in Spitsbergen (Greenland: 60, for comparison), in addition comes a larger numbers of more or less regular or rare vagrants. The most numerous bird is the Little auk (alle alle), also the Brunich’s Guillemot is breeding in huge colonies. There are different gulls: common is for instance the Kittywake (Rissa tridactyla) as well as three Skuas (Arctic skua and the rarer Pomarine skua and Long-tailed skua). The Northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) is a common sight as well as the Common eider (Somateria molissima), as opposed to the rare King eider. Three geese species are breeding regularly (Barnacle goose, Pink-footed goose and Brent goose). There is a number of smaller waders and shorebirds such as the Grey phalarope, Purple sandpiper etc. Red throated divers are breeding near small tundra lakes. One of the rarest birds is the Ross’ gull, which I have seen only once in 10 years. Especially early in the season, you will often be attacked by the aggressive Arctic tern (keep your distance from the colonies in flat tundra terrain and never try to hit the birds!).


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The mammali fauna has few species only. The only real land mammal is the Svalbard reindeer, which you can find on most islands of the archipelago. The Arctic fox is often following the polar bear in the drift ice, especially in the winter. The marine mammal fauna has more species, including also the highly migrative polar bear, of which there are several 1000 in the Svalbard-Franz-Josef-Land area. The Walrus, another character animal of the high Arctic, was almost extinct in Spitsbergen in the 1950s, but is slowly recovering. There is a number of other seal species, in near-coastal waters first of all Bearded seal and Ringed seal. Several mammal species such as Muskoxen and  Snowy hare have been introduced in the early 20th century, but went extinct again. 


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last modification: 2019-01-31 · copyright: Rolf Stange