We monitored the movement, distribution and site affinities of radio-marked Tule Greater White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons elgasi) during spring and summer in Alaska, 1994-1997 and 2004. Our assessment of summer movements was comprehensive, as locations were obtained during prenesting, nesting, and molt for over 90% of geese with active radios captured during winter or the previous summer in Alaska. Geese arrived to coastal and interior marshes in the Cook Inlet Basin (CIB) from mid April to early May, after which they moved to nesting areas in the upper CIB. Nesting birds used coastal staging areas in close proximity to eventual nest site location. Molting sites included a sub-glacial lake system in the upper CIB, although up to 50% of geese underwent a molt migration to wetlands across the Alaska Range, 400-600 km west of the CIB. Geese that molted at distant sites returned to the CIB before autumn migration. Length of stay in the CIB varied among years from 108-119 days, and averaged 116 days. Summer home-range sizes, exclusive of molting areas, averaged >273,000 ha, and were substantially larger than reported for other northern-nesting waterfowl. No radio-marked geese were found nesting in the vicinity of Redoubt Bay on the west side of Cook Inlet, and few nested near the Susitna Flats, the only other previously known nesting areas. The absence of nesting geese from Redoubt Bay corroborates aerial survey data showing a precipitous decline in the use of the west side of Cook Inlet between the early 1980s and early 1990s. The change in distribution of geese is likely related to a major eruption of Redoubt Volcano in 1989 that significantly altered landscapes used by nesting, brood rearing, and molting geese in the vicinity of Redoubt Bay. High inter-site movements of Greater White-fronted Geese throughout summer in south central Alaska likely increases exposure to predation, but also promotes social interactions and facilitates pioneering of distant, and diverse habitats in a vast, patchy, and often unpredictable landscape.
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Vol. 29 • No. 1