Most birds travel great distances each summer to take advantage of the explosion of life (plant and insect) and large expanses of nesting habitat for raising young. Migratory birds connect the park to ecosystems throughout the world. Since the late 20th century, scientists have documented declining populations of many migratory birds - some species that breed in the park are species of conservation concern due to declines in their populations or significant threats to their habitat. Migratory routes for these birds are shown on the map above.
Many birds that migrate to the park breed in the mountains - a dominant feature that covers more than 50% of the park. These montane birds include song birds (passerines, e.g. robins), near-passerines (e.g. woodpeckers), birds of prey (raptors, e.g. golden-eagle), and heavy-bodied, ground-feeding birds (galliformes, e.g. ptarmigan). Several species have a large part of their breeding range within the park. The northern wheatear, American pipit, gray-crowned rosy finch, and Smith's longspur, breed exclusively in montane habitats. Only a few birds live in the park all year such as ravens, chickadees, American dippers, and ptarmigan.
Bird's high body temperature, rapid metabolism, and high ecological position in most food webs make them good indicators of ecosystem health. Also changes in their ecology and demography have been demonstrated to be useful as indicators. Montane - obligate species rely on sparsely vegetated habitats and are particularly vulnerable to change. Factors related to climate change like increased temperatures may adversely impact some bird species while positively affecting others. For example, shifts in the timing of insect hatches reduces food availability for nesting birds trying to feed their young. Similarly, the northward range expansion of shrubs may increase nesting habitat for some species. Breeding birds in the arctic are also vulnerable to increasing populations of nesting predators such as fox, ravens, and glaucous gulls.
Montane species are monitored in the park because they comprise a significant portion of the park's bird species and many of them are unique, and traditionally been understudied. Birds are a "Vital Sign" for the Arctic Network Inventory and Monitoring Program (ARCN).
Information gathered from research and monitoring will be used to:
Gates of the Arctic Information Pages
Arctic Birds of Concern (PDF, 3MB)Additional NPS Resources
Gray-headed Chidkadee Sightings! - If you have a camera, are interested in birds and helping with bird research in AK then check this out.