Puffin on the shore. Dake Schmidt photo
Kodiak is a birder's paradise. Thanks to a mild climate and plentiful food supply, bird watching opportunities are excellent year-round. More than 240 species of birds have been identified in the Kodiak Island Archipelago. Kodiak generally enjoys the highest winter bird count in Alaska with some 80 species identified last year.
Summer brings nesting birds from land and sea. Bank swallows arrive from South America and puffins fly in from deep North Pacific waters. While Kodiak is not a major migratory bird path, some migrants can be seen in small numbers.
Common birds include: fox sparrows, golden-crowned sparrows, Wilson's warblers, golden-crowned kinglets, winter wrens, pine siskins, water pipits, and rock and willow ptarmigan. Eagles are seen in abundance throughout the area. More than 600 nesting pairs have been recorded in the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. Large numbers of eagles congregate along the Kodiak waterfront in the fall and winter to scavenge food from off-loading fishing boats.
Sea birds and ducks are seemingly everywhere including Steller's and king eider, oldsquaw, harlequin ducks, horned and tufted puffins and black-legged kittiwakes. Emperor geese and tundra swans are also seasonal visitors.
Kodiak’s Audubon Society has published a Hiking and Birding Guide that point you to the best areas for birding. The guide is available for purchase at the Visitor Information Center. Visitors may also enjoy going on guided hikes sponsored by the Audubon Society throughout summer months on the island.
What to bring:
- Waterproof boots
- Binoculars or scope (recommended for bays and lakes)
- Rain gear
- Field guide and bird list
Endangered and Threatened Species
Steller Eider (threatened)
The Alaska-breeding population of the Steller eider was listed as threatened beginning in March of 2000. Scientists estimate that only a few hundred to a few thousand birds now occupy the North Slope breeding grounds; the population decrease is due to unknown causes.