Migratory Bird Management
Alaska Region


Alaska is home to more than 470 species of birds (pdf) which occur in a variety of different locations throughout the state. Most of these are migratory birds for which the Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible under international treaties and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Some of the birds stay in Alaska year 'round. Most migrate to Canada, Central America, South America, Asia, or the lower 48 United States. In fact, birds from Alaska pass through virtually every other state in the Union (even Hawaii) on the way to their wintering grounds. Maintaining migratory birds and their habitats in Alaska is clearly a matter of national and international significance.

The Service's Division of Migratory Bird Management in Alaska contributes to the conservation of both game and nongame migratory birds throughout the state. We also study a few Alaskan birds after they leave the state (e.g. brant in Mexico, eiders in Siberia). The division includes a small Regional Office staff in Anchorage and five field stations: two in Anchorage (nongame and waterfowl), two in Juneau (nongame and waterfowl), and one in Fairbanks (waterfowl). Keeping track of and conserving migratory bird populations in Alaska requires a variety of activities. Part of the job is to collect information on numbers of birds and importance of different habitats. To do this, we design and conduct many different kinds of studies: aerial surveys for waterfowl; boat surveys for marine birds; point counts on roads, trails and rivers for land birds; and so on. Another important part of our job is to work with other Service offices, state and federal agencies, Alaska Native groups and private organizations to make sure that our efforts to help birds all fit together.

Migratory Bird Management helps other resource managers use the best information available to make decisions on land uses. We maintain computerized data bases on distribution and abundance of seabirds statewide and waterfowl in many major production areas. We work with states in the various migratory bird flyways (especially the Pacific Flyway) to set annual hunting regulations. We work with Natives and others interested in migratory bird management to develop policies and programs to better understand harvest and to maintain populations of birds hunted for subsistence. We study the effects of pollution (like the Exxon Valdez oil spill) on birds and monitor recovery. We locate and protect bald eagle nest trees. We issue permits for scientific collecting and other educational uses of birds. We band/mark all kinds of birds to determine migration routes, important feeding areas, and survival over the seasons and years. We do all these things and more, but still feel like we're just scratching the surface.

Migratory Bird Management programs include:

  • Monitoring population distribution and abundance of waterfowl, landbirds, seabirds, shorebirds, and raptors.
  • Identifying important breeding, brood-rearing, staging, and wintering habitats.
  • Banding and marking birds to determine migration patterns, mortality, longevity and habitat use.
  • Determining effects of catastrophic events such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
  • Obtaining information on subsistence harvest of migratory birds by Alaska Natives.
  • Maintaining databases on all of the above and providing these, as well as other technical assistance, to other agencies, land managers and private organizations.
  • Educating the public about migratory bird issues. (For an example, see our Bird Feeding Fact Sheet (pdf).)

Although we've come a long way since our program really came into its own in the 1980's, we are still in the pioneering stage compared to much of the rest of the country. To find out more about our office's program browse this website or give us a call 907-786 3443 maybe you can help!


Last Updated: March 26, 2010


Red Throated Loon. USFWS. Click to Enlarge
Red Throated Loon.
Photo Credit: USFWS.
Horned Puffins. USFWS. Click to Enlarge
Horned Puffins.
Photo Credit: USFWS.
Emperor Goose with Chicks. USFWS. Click to Enlarge
Emperor Goose with Chicks.
Photo Credit: USFWS.
Bald Eagle. USFWS. Click to Enlarge
Bald Eagle.
Photo Credit: USFWS.
Rock Sandpiper Hatchling. USFWS. Click to Enlarge
Rock Sandpiper Hatchling.
Photo Credit: USFWS.