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! The 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 success of birds 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.
Many passerine birds use the park for breeding, wintering, or a migratory stopover on their long journey. Passerines are a group that make up more than half of all bird species, and are sometimes known as perching or song birds. Some examples 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. Puffins nest in Sitka Sound’s nearby islands and are common in this region. Peregrine falcons live and breed in Southeast Alaska and were once listed on the threatened and endangered list by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. These transient birds are still a species of concern due to their rarity.
Sitka National Historical Park hosts several resident bird species, and just as the Native Southeast Alaskans utilized the natural world for survival, so do these birds for foraging and protection. Resident birds include common mergansers, mallards, sandpipers, and great blue herons. Gulls, crows, and ravens also use the resources from the river estuary and tidal flats to thrive in the park. 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 present 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?
Alaska’s Governor John Brady asked leaders from several southeast Alaska villages to donate totem poles for public exhibitions outside of Alaska, and eventually, for display at Sitka’s popular public park. More than a dozen Tlingit and Haida poles were placed along the park’s trail in 1906. More...