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Birds

Tundra Swans in SnowThe refuge is a crossroads for both North America and Pacific migrations. The diversity of the Refuge’s landforms and habitats contributes to a diverse avifauna.

Bird List 

Habitats

Covering approximately 4.6 million acres (larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined), the Alaska Peninsula/Becharof National Wildlife Refuge includes an immense variety of habitats and is home to more than 200 species of birds. Established in 1980, the Refuge conserves fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity. 

This diversity of the Refuge’s landforms and habitats contributes to a diverse avifauna. Starting at the Gulf of Alaska, coastal waters support a variety of seabirds, other cliff dependent species, and wintering waterfowl. The land rises sharply to the Aleutian Mountains, where alpine species of landbirds, shorebirds, cliff nesting raptors, and the elusive Kittlitz’s Murrelet find homes. The mountains fall to shrub covered hills and large glacially formed lakes, surrounded by shrub and cottonwood forest in the south and spruce/birch forest in the north.  These provide habitat for another suite of waterbirds, landbirds, and raptors. The boreal species associated with spruce forests are found mostly north of the Becharof boundary.

The land gradually falls to the Bristol Tundra Swans Bay lowlands; which are covered in wetlands, meadows, and dwarf  shrub and crossed by meandering rivers. These provide nesting grounds for waterfowl, waterbirds, cranes, shorebirds, landbirds, and some raptors. An isolated population of Marbled Godwit nests in and near the Ugashik River drainage. Continuing northeast to the Bering Sea coast, huge tides build large tidal flats that are visited by migrating birds, especially waterfowl and shorebirds, in spring and fall. 

Another contributor to high species diversity is the fact that the Alaska Peninsula is a crossroads for both North America and Pacific migrations. While many species come here to breed, others move here for the winter. Covering approximately 4.6 million acres (larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined), the Alaska Peninsula/Becharof National Wildlife Refuge includes an immense variety of habitats and is home to more than 200 species of birds. Established in 1980, the Refuge conserves fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity.

Bird Viewing  

Wildlife viewers benefit from patience, skill, a good pair of binoculars or spotting scope, a notebook, and bird book. Make observations first, and then check the book or bird list. While songbirds are best detected in the morning in spring, other species may be viewed throughout the day. Shorebird abundance on the marine coast is often dictated by tide level. To assist the bird viewer, the likely region/habitat where species are most commonly found is noted. The Refuge covers a vast area with few modern conveniences such as roads, and birding on the Alaska Peninsula can be challenging because of the difficult access to areas outside the village road corridors and the limited window of timing of some species. Advanced planning is needed, especially for targeted species. To better plan your trip a general idea of abundance is given by season. 

Brown bears may be found anywhere in this area during spring, summer and fall. Read brochures on bear safety, get tips from the Visitor Centers, or talk to knowledgeable staff about how to stay safe. Travel in groups of more than two if possible, and let people know where you are headed.

Unusual Sightings 

Because this is such a huge area and has only been a refuge since 1980, information for some regions,   and especially for the winter months, is very spotty. Please report sightings of species not on the list (including a photo if possible) to the Refuge Manager.

Please report nests or recently fledged young for species not marked as breeders. Also report species observed outside of a marked season. Reports should include location, date, notes, and observer’s name. 

Page Photo Credits — Tundra Swans in Snow, Bob Dreeszen
Last Updated: Feb 14, 2014
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