The islands and coastal lands of the Alaska Maritime Refuge are bird magnets:
- For seabirds whose only other home is the ocean.
- For birds migrating
along Asian routes and needing to rest and eat.
- For birds that evolved
on these remote islands and breed nowhere else (called endemic species).
50 million seabirds nest along Alaskas coast. Some 40 million of those nest
on Alaska Maritime Refuge lands more than found anywhere else in North
Only Nest Here
Some of the birds that nest on
the refuge including whiskered, crested and least auklets, red-legged kittiwakes,
Aleutian terns and red-faced cormorants live and breed nowhere else but
in this core Bering Sea-North Pacific Ocean zone.
Heart of Seabird Range
birds, including fork-tailed storm-petrels and horned and tufted puffins, breed
in other areas of the North Pacific in relatively low numbers, but the overwhelming
majority breed in Alaska and on the refuge.
birds even come here in "winter." Millions of shearwaters nest and raise
their young down under in the southern hemisphere, but come to Alaska
in their winter (our summer) to feast on our abundant ocean resources.
PREDATORS CAUSE HAVOC
In past centuries, humans tipped the balance against
seabirds (and other birds that nest on the ground on islands) by introducing predators
accidentally or intentionally (rats and foxes for example) to some
of the islands. Learn more about the alien/introduced
mammals and what the refuge has been doing to restore
the natural biodiversity and to prevent any more devastation.
MIGRATING FROM ASIA
In Alaska, only a short distance separates North
America from Asia. The refuge islands and coastal areas are some of the closest
landfalls for birds in migration or blown off-course in the gale-force winds that
often rip through the Bering Sea area.
Hot Spot for Bird Sightings
converge from all compass points. More than 90 Asian bird species have been spotted
in the refuges Aleutian Islands, especially those from Adak to Attu. Several
have been reported nowhere else in North America: yellow bittern, Chinese egret,
lesser white-fronted goose, great spotted woodpecker, narcissus flycatcher, Siberian
blue robin, lanceolated warbler, and Eurasian siskin.
Asian species are spotted almost annually including the whooper swan, bean goose,
an Asian form of the green-winged teal, common pochard, tufted duck, smew, common
greenshank, wood sandpiper, long-toed stint, eye-browed thrush, rubythroat, brambling,
and rustic bunting.
ENDEMIC TO THE ISLANDS
to the seabirds mentioned above whose area of nesting is only on the refuge or
nearby, several other island birds are unique.
The Aleutian cackling goose is internationally famous. Its one of the few species to be removed successfully from the Endangered Species List (2001). The tiny, mallard-size goose
fell victim to hungry foxes dropped off on almost all of its nesting islands by early fur farmers from the late 1700s
to the early 1900s in the Aleutian Islands.
Next Come-back Bird
Each of six subspecies of rock ptarmigan still nest only on one or a few islands
in the Aleutians. They too were hard hit by alien foxes because they nest on the
ground within easy reach and without defenses against land predators. A few Evermanns
rock ptarmigan survived on huge, rugged Attu Island. The refuge is now moving
some of these ptarmigan to nearby islands where the alien foxes have been
removed in hopes of restoring the islands natural biodiversity
IMPORTANT BIRD AREAS
Thirty refuge sites have been identified as Important
Bird Areas (IBA) of the Bering Sea Ecoregion under an international bird conservation
program spearheaded by Audubon Alaska with Russian and Asian partners. Learn more
Birds Lists for the Alaska Maritime
What a Seabird Needs (traits common
to many seabirds)
Bird Bios (facts about the refuges
Short-tailed Albatross Fact
Sheet (2-page pdf)
Last updated:September 8, 2008