There is a great diversity of visitors to Sitka National Historical Park: men, women, children, local residents, international tourists, and beyond. Even more diverse than the human visitors are the vast numbers of bird species that pass through the park! A variety of habitats support both migratory and resident populations of birds.
Alpine, rainforest, riverine, and coastal ecosystems in the Sitka region all contribute to the abundance of birds found in the park. Intertidal and shoreline areas support a variety of migratory waterfowl and shore birds during spring and fall. Seabirds such as common murres, scoters, harlequin ducks, scaup, buffleheads, and long-tailed ducks commonly use the park waters, particularly in winter. Puffins nest in Sitka Sound's nearby islands and are characterstic of this region.
flickr Alan Vernon
Many passerine, or song, birds use the park for breeding, wintering, or a migratory stopover on their long journey. Passerines make up more than half of all bird species. Some species found in the park include pine siskins, savanna sparrows, robins, Townsend's warblers, ruby-crowned and golden-crowned kinglets, kingfishers, dippers, and winter wrens. There are several kinds of thrushes, including varied, hermit, and Swainson’s thrushes found in Sitka NHP as well. Peregrine falcons live and breed in Southeast Alaska and were once listed on the threatened and endangered list for Fish & Wildlife Service. These transient birds are still a species of concern due to their rarity.
Sitka National Historical Park hosts several species of resident birds. Resident birds include common mergansers, mallards, sandpipers, and great blue herons. Gulls, crows, and ravens also thrive in the park and utilize the abundance of resources from the river estuary and tidal flats. Perhaps the most charismatic and majestic bird in the park is the bald eagle. They are common along the tree line and can often be spotted soaring above the water or searching on the tide flats for food. Eagles are especially noticable during the spring herring spawn and fall salmon runs, when they feed on fish carcasses in the river and contribute to a cycle of replenishing the forest’s nutrients with fish remains. Nesting inside the park is not unusual, and the visitors can enjoy the eagles’ presence while walking amongst totem poles on the trail.
Did You Know?
The transfer of Alaska from Russia took place in Sitka. On October 18, 1867, the Russian flag was lowered on Castle Hill, home of Alaska's Russian governors, the American flag was raised, and a brief exchange of statements completed the transfer of Alaska to the United States.