Because of its size, northerly position and pristine habitats, Alaska provides breeding habitat for more shorebirds than any other state in the U.S. Of the 71 species of shorebirds that occur in Alaska; 37 of these regularly breed here while 9 others breed irregularly, or annually but in small numbers. Alaska is unique in that it hosts most of the world’s population of three shorebird species, entire population of five subspecies and large portions of North American populations of six other species or subspecies. In total, Alaska hosts between 7 and 12 million shorebirds, or as much as 50% of all the shorebirds that occur in North America.
Habitat & Migration
Alaska has more than 50 shorebird migration staging or stopover sites that qualify as Western Hemisphere or East Asian-Australasian Shorebird Reserve Network sites. At 10 of these sites concentrations exceed 1 million birds, with sites like the Copper River Delta hosting between five and eight million shorebirds each spring. The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta likely supports an equal number shorebirds but they occur mostly during summer and autumn. Indeed the world’s largest aggregations of shorebirds are thought to occur on the Copper River Delta.
This vast network of migration sites host the arrival and exodus of shorebirds to and from Alaska during each spring and fall. Only 6 of the 43 taxa that regularly occur in Alaska winter there. But of these 43 regularly occurring taxa, some portion of the populations of 38 winter outside the U.S. while entire populations of 18 others migrate to Central and South America or East Asia-Australasia and South Pacific countries (Oceania). Alaska's shorebirds are not only a national resource; but they also provide international links to over 40 countries distributed on five continents.