Calling all birders!
Every year, thousands of birds make the journey north to raise their young and take advantage of the copious plant and animal life our state has to offer. This is commonly referred to as the “Spring Migration”. The AWCC sits on the Turnagain Arm, making it a haven for our feathered friends and a perfect spot to view migratory birds at AWCC.
While visiting the sanctuary, it is common to see a variety of bald eagles, trumpeter swans, merlins, ducks, plovers, rufous hummingbirds, ravens, owls, magpies, Steller’s Jays, chickadees, nut hatches, red polls, woodpeckers, snow buntings, sandhill cranes and mew gulls.
Whether you’re new to birding or are already part of the community, there are a number of tools to help you enjoy this hobby. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers two tools for bird identification and community science for bird nerds. Merlin is an app that aids in bird species identification and is great for using while bird viewing at AWCC. eBird is a website and app that collects community observations from around the world. You can submit your sightings with eBird for others to see and use in bird studies. The site’s various data fields give insight into birds that frequent a location on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis. The data accessible on eBird includes notes, photos, videos, and even sound clips. This makes eBird an excellent resource for amateurs and professionals alike.
Fun facts about Eagles:
There are an estimated 30,000 bald eagles in Alaska. Bald eagles are protected by both the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act which prohibits the possession of eagles or their parts unless authorized by permit. Bald eagles are a species that is susceptible to the effects of clear-cut logging as large, old-growth trees are necessary for nesting in Southeast Alaska. Human disturbance to salmon spawning streams can also have detrimental effects on bald eagles. Recognizing this, The Alaska State Legislature established the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, which protects 48,000 acres along the Chilkat River in southeast Alaska where upwards of 3,000 bald eagles congregate every winter to feast on salmon.
Credited largely to their amazing eyesight, Bald Eagles are phenomenally well-adapted predators in the state of Alaska. It is a well-known fact that Bald Eagles can see something as small as a several pound salmon, mid-stream, from over a mile away, mid-flight.
Now, let’s talk about owls!
Like bald eagles, great horned owls have a strong sense of sight. The eyes of great horned owls are conical, not spherical, in shape and are held in place by round bones surrounding the narrow end of their conical shaped eye. Owls cannot move their eyes around in their socket like a human can, instead they can turn their head about ¾ of the way around in the other direction to see their surroundings. This is accomplished with 14 neck vertebrae; most mammals have only 7 vertebrae in the neck and large blood passageways. Their eyes are also huge! Proportionally, if humans’ eyes were as large as the great horned owls’ they would be the same size as a grapefruit or softball.