Nielsen, Ó. K. & Pétursson, G. 1995: Population fluctuations of gyrfalcon and rock ptarmigan: analysis of export figures from Iceland. - Wildl. Biol. 1: 65-71.
We analysed harvest data for gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus and rock ptarmigan Lagopus mutus from Iceland with respect to regularity in fluctuations of numbers. The gyrfalcon data concerned live trapped birds exported to Denmark between 1731 and 1793, and totalled 4,848 falcons, including 4,318 grey, 156 half-white and 374 white colour morphs. According to contemporary sources grey birds were part of the local breeding population (islandus-type birds) but the other morphs represented mainly visitors from Greenland. This is also the current situation but some of the lightest Icelandic breeders could be classified as half-white. The rock ptarmigan harvest data concerned birds exported to Europe in the period 1864-1919, in total ca 3.3 million birds. The data series for white and half-white gyrfalcons were significantly correlated (r = 0.501, p < 0.001). The data series for grey and white morphs (r = -0.099, P = 0.445) and grey and the half-white morphs (r = -0.1183, P = 0.360), showed no correlation. Time series analysis showed that the white (candicans-type) morph fluctuated irregularly. The half-white morph behaved similarly but also showed some affinity with the grey morph, and could have represented a mixture of local breeders and Greenlandic winter visitors. Grey morph gyrfalcons and rock ptarmigan showed regular fluctuations in numbers with a 10-year periodicity. The reliance of Icelandic gyrfalcons on rock ptarmigan during the early part of the breeding season and in all phases of the ptarmigan cycle is well established and may offer a case for causal connections between the two cyclic populations.
Key words: regular population fluctuations, gyrfalcon, rock ptarmigan, predator prey relationship, Iceland
Ólafur K. Nielsen, Icelandic Museum of Natural History, P.O.Box 5320, IS-125 Reykjavik, Iceland
Gunnlaugur Pétursson, VST Consulting Engineers Ltd., Ármúli 4, IS-108 Reykjavik, Iceland
Received 5 December 1994, accepted 9 March 1995
Associate Editor: Johan Elmberg