Alaska is the largest state in the U.S. and is known for its dramatic landscapes, diverse wildlife and unique cultural heritage. Alaska is home to a great variety of birds, with more than 450 species recorded within its borders. Alaska's habitats are rich and diverse, ranging from coastal areas and wetlands to tundra, boreal forests and mountains. Birding enthusiasts in Alaska have the opportunity to observe a variety of migratory birds as well as unique species adapted to the state's rugged environment.

American Robin

Adult American Robins are a medium-sized songbird with a distinctive appearance. They have a brick-red chest, grayish-brown back, and white markings on the throat and belly. Their underparts are lighter in color than their backs. Juvenile robins have spotted feathers and no bright red chest. American Robins inhabit a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, parks, gardens, and suburban areas. They often forage on lawns for insects, earthworms, and berries.

American robins are found throughout North America, from Alaska and Canada to Mexico and Central America. They are migratory birds, with northern populations migrating south for the winter and returning to breed in the spring. American Robins usually nest in trees, bushes, or man-made structures such as buildings and light fixtures. They construct cup-shaped nests out of grass, twigs, and mud and line the nest with finer materials such as grass and feathers. Females usually lay three to five blue-green eggs with an incubation period of about two weeks.

American Robin

Rufous Hummingbird

The rufous hummingbird is small, measuring about 7 to 9 centimeters (3 to 3.5 inches) in length. Adult males have bright orange-red feathers on the throat, breast, and sides of the body, while females and juveniles have a greenish-brown upperparts with orange or reddish-brown highlights on the sides of the body and tail. Rufous hummingbirds feed primarily on nectar, which provides them with the energy they need for their high metabolic rate. They also eat small insects and spiders for protein, especially during the breeding season when they need extra nutrition to lay eggs and feed their young.

Of the North American hummingbird species, rufous hummingbirds have the longest migratory route. They breed in western North America, from southeastern Alaska to western Canada, all the way to the western United States and as far south as northern California. In winter, they migrate to Mexico and Central America. Rufous hummingbirds inhabit a variety of habitats during the breeding season, including alpine meadows, forests, coastal scrub, and gardens. They usually perch in nectar-rich areas to forage and have suitable nesting sites.

Rufous Hummingbird

Steller’s Jay

The Steller's jay is a medium-sized songbird with striking blue plumage that contrasts with the black head, feathers and upperparts. They have distinctive white markings on their face and black stripes on their wings and tail. Their eyes are black and their bill is stout and black. Steller's jays are highly intelligent and opportunistic birds. They are omnivorous birds, feeding on a variety of foods including insects, seeds, nuts, berries and small vertebrates.Steller's jays are very talented mimics and have a wide variety of calls. Their calls include piercing squawks, whistles and a variety of other sounds. They can also mimic the calls of other birds and even some mammals.

Steller's jays primarily inhabit coniferous and mixed forests in western North America, from Alaska and western Canada through the Rocky Mountains to Mexico. Jays prefer dense coniferous forests, especially mixed pine, fir, and spruce forests. They can also be found in oak woodlands, thickets, suburban parks and gardens. Steller's jays usually nest in conifers, building cup-shaped structures out of twigs, moss, and bark. The female usually lays four to five eggs, which are incubated for about 16 to 18 days.

Steller’s Jay

Alder Flycatcher

Alder Flycatchers have a rather plain appearance, with an olive-green upperparts and light-colored underparts. They have a white eye ring and a slightly hooked bill. Compared to their counterparts, such as the Willow Flycatcher, they have longer primary protuberances, i.e., the wings are longer than the tips of the folded secondary feathers.

As the name suggests, alder flycatchers feed primarily on flying insects, which they catch from their roosts with jets. They usually perch low in the vegetation, make short flights to capture insects, and then return to the same perch. Alder flycatchers build cup-shaped nests of grasses, mosses, and other plant material, usually located on low shrubs or small trees within their preferred habitat. Females lay a clutch of three to four eggs, which are incubated for about two weeks.

Alder Flycatcher

Long-tailed Jaeger

Long-tailed Jaegers are medium-sized birds with long, pointed wings and slender, forked tails, which give them a distinctive appearance. Their plumage is dark brown with lighter underparts and a white belly. During the breeding season, they have a black cap on their head.Long-tailed Jaegers breed in arctic and subarctic regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. They nest in tundra habitats and on rocky cliffs near the coast.

During the breeding season, Long-tailed Jaegers inhabit open tundra and barren land near Arctic coasts. They often feed near freshwater lakes and ponds. During the non-breeding season, they migrate south to the pelagic waters of the open ocean.Long-tailed Jaegers are skilled aerial predators, known for their agile flight and aerial maneuvers. They feed primarily on small birds, mammals, insects, and fish, and hunt by chasing and harassing other birds in flight, a behavior known as poaching.

Long-tailed Jaeger

White-wing Crossbill

The White-winged Crossbill is a medium-sized finch with a stout, conical bill with a crossed tip that allows them to easily extract seeds from conifer cones. Their body feathers are brownish gray with streaks that contrast with the striking white wing bars and white undertail coverts. White-winged crossbills are found in the boreal forests of North America, Europe and Asia. They inhabit coniferous forests, especially spruce, pine, and fir forests, where they forage for the seeds of fruit-bearing trees. White-winged Crossbill Pheasants are highly specialized foragers that use their crossed bills to pry open the scales of coniferous cones and carry out the seeds. They often travel in flocks through the forest canopy in search of food. They also patronize bird feeders, especially those offering sunflower seeds and other large seeds.

White-wing Crossbill

Tufted Puffin

The tufted puffin is a medium-sized seabird with black plumage, a white face, and a striking orange bill. During the breeding season, they grow long clusters of straw-colored feathers extending back from their eyes, giving them a distinctive "tufted" appearance. Tufted puffins are strong fliers and good swimmers, using their wings to propel themselves underwater in search of fish and other prey. They feed primarily on small fish such as herring, sand spears, and hairy sculpin, as well as crustaceans and squid.

The tufted puffin breeds along the Pacific coast of North America, from California to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska and northward to the Bering and Chukchi Seas. During the breeding season, tufted puffins inhabit rocky cliffs and offshore islands where they nest in nests dug into the soil or among rocks. They often nest in flocks, along with other seabirds such as puffins and small puffins.

Tufted Puffin

American Pipit

The American Pipit has an elongated, brown-striped body with an aqua-green chest and belly. It has a thin bill, pale pink legs, a relatively long tail, and white outer feathers that are clearly visible in flight. During the breeding season, its plumage may be slightly pink or rust colored.The American Pipit inhabits open, grassy habitats such as tundra, alpine meadows, prairies, and agricultural fields. They are often found in areas with short vegetation and bare ground where they forage for insects and seeds.

The American Pipit is a highly terrestrial bird, often walking or running on the ground in search of food. They have a distinctive " pipit" call, hence their name. During the breeding season, males may perform aerial displays, singing and fluttering in flight to attract a mate.American Pipit feed primarily on insects and other small invertebrates during the breeding season, including beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and spiders. They also eat seeds and grains, especially during the winter months when insects are scarce.

American Pipit

Great Gray Owl

The Great Gray Owl is one of the largest owl species in the world, with a wingspan that can exceed 5 feet (1.5 m) and a height of up to 2 feet (60 cm). It has a rounded head with a disk on its face that helps transmit sound to the ears, large yellow eyes, and white feathers mottled with gray, making it excellent camouflage in forested habitats. Great gray owls usually breed in late winter and early spring. They do not build their own nests, but rely on abandoned nests or natural tree cavities of other large birds such as hawks or crows. Females lay a clutch of two to five eggs, which are incubated for about 28 to 36 days.

Great gray owls inhabit dense coniferous forests, especially those dominated by spruce, fir, and pine. They prefer areas interspersed with clearings and woodlands where they can prey on small mammals such as voles, mice and rabbits. Great gray owls are primarily diurnal hunters, but are active during the day, especially during the breeding season when they have hungry chicks to feed. They hunt by perching at an elevated vantage point, scanning the ground below for prey, and then swooping down to capture it with their powerful talons.

Great Gray Owl

In short, Alaska's diverse landscapes and rich habitats provide a haven for a huge variety of birds, each uniquely adapted to its environment. From the majestic Great Gray Owl to the tiny Red Hummingbird, Alaska offers birders the opportunity to observe a wide variety of birds in their natural habitats.
May 16, 2024 — Stella Huang

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