Birds and Insects
More than 400 species of birds can be found within Alaska, from tiny rufous hummingbirds to the nation’s national emblem, the bald eagle. Because of Alaska’s proximity to Siberia, many unusual species are sometimes seen, making islands in the Aleutians and within the Bering Sea of great interest to serious birders.
One of the rarest is the bristle-thighed curlew, with a population of just 5,000 worldwide—and its only breeding grounds are in Alaska. Eight of the curlews were banded in the Yukon Delta Wildlife Refuge in 1988, and one was subsequently seen on Caysan Island in the South Pacific, over 2,000 miles away. Many Asian species, such as the greenshank and the Siberian ruby-throat, only foray into the Americas as far as western Alaska.
Nome, the Pribilofs, and the Aleutians are popular destinations for birders looking to add to their life list. Excellent places to see nesting colonies of seabirds such as puffins and kittiwakes include Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Kachemak Bay near Homer, Kenai Fjords National Park near Seward, Fort Abercrombie State Park on Kodiak Island, Prince William Sound, the Pribilof Islands, and St. Lawrence Island.
Located on the edge of Fairbanks, Creamer’s Field is a good place to view sandhill cranes, ducks, and geese during the spring and fall migrations. Also at Creamer’s Field is the Alaska Bird Observatory, which conducts songbird research and offers educational programs and birding reports for the area. Their website (www.alaskabird.org) has a “Birding Links” page with a multitude of websites for regional birding organizations.
For additional information, contact the Alaska State office of the Audubon Society (907/276-7034, www.audubon.org/chapter/ak) or call the regional birding hotlines for the Anchorage area (907/338-2473), Interior Alaska (907/451-9213), and the Homer area (907/235-7337, www.birdinghomeralaska.org).
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition