Differences in food abundance cause inter-annual variation in the breeding phenology of High Arctic waders

Previous work has shown that High Arctic waders in Greenland are “income breeders”, i.e. the resources used for egg formation are based almost entirely on biomass obtained on the breeding grounds. Thus, their breeding phenology is expected to be highly sensitive to inter-annual variation in food abundance during the pre-laying period. Early spring snowcover may also inXuence timing of egg-laying either directly or mediated through food resources. Here, we report on the inter-annual variation in clutch initiation of three wader species breeding in High Arctic Greenland, Sanderling (Calidris alba), Dunlin (Calidris alpina) and Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres), in relation to spring snow-cover and spring arthropod abundance over ten breeding seasons at Zackenberg Research Station 1995–2005. Food abundance had the strongest eVect on timing of clutch initiation, while the proportion of snow-free land had a weaker but still signiWcant eVect, i.e. more food and more snow-free land both result in earlier egg-laying. We hypothesize that food is most important when there is suYcient snowfree land to nest on, while snow-cover is of increasing importance in years with late snowmelt.