High-flying in Alaska
Alaska’s stunning wildlife isn’t limited to the land and sea - its skies are home to many species of impressive birds, too. Expert and novice birders alike love visiting Alaska for the variety of avian life that graces its borders. The nesting-safe tundra and food-rich forests, rivers and mountains make Alaska a welcome haven for hundreds of different species.
Species you’ll find in Alaska
Alaska is home to more than 240 native species of birds and with migratory visitors, the number of species actually recorded in Alaska surpasses 440. Some of the more popular species birders hope to find in Alaska include:
- Bald eagles
- Trumpeter swans
- Golden eagles
- Sandhill cranes
Alaska’s varying landscape, forests, mountains and coasts attract different species to different areas. If there’s a specific bird you hope to see during your Alaska tour, try to find which area it frequents and visit there. The various areas of the state are so different that you may need to go to the bird instead of waiting for it to come to you.
Where to bird
If you’re just looking to see as many species as possible, visit the Alaska Bird Observatory in Fairbanks. They’ll help you find the best location to spot the birds you’re most interested in and can provide information on the different migratory patterns of each species.
Even in Alaska’s busier cities, you’ll still find plenty of great birding opportunities, as the close-by marshes and farm fields provide excellent nesting and feeding grounds.
The state boasts many birding festivals that you may want to add to your Alaska tour. Most of the festivals take place in the late spring and late summer. Some of the more popular festivals include:
- Garnet Festival - April
- Copper River Shorebird Festival - May
- Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival - May
- Alaska Birders Summer Rendezvous - all summer
- Sandhill Crane Festival - August
- Alaska Bald Eagle Festival - November
One of the most impressive birding events takes place near Haines. From late October through November, thousands of bald eagles descend on the banks of the Chilkat River. They come to feed on the late run of salmon that is accessible in this ice-free stretch of river. At this phenomenon, you’ll see the largest gathering of bald eagles in the world.
Alaska offers some of the finest birding in the world. Even if you’re a novice birder, spending part of a day watching for different species is a fun addition to your Alaska tour.