Birds of Denali - Spring
The early days of spring are filled with the songs of common redpolls and black-capped chickadees preparing to raise the first broods of the season. In March, golden eagles arrive and begin nest building and courtship activities. Within a few weeks, bouncing flocks of snow bunting appear on the landscape. Late in April, trumpeter swans begin their northward journey to Denali while the surprisingly loud voice of the ruby-crowned kinglet, the harsh call of the Hammond's flycatcher, and the extraterrestrial song of the varied thrush mark the arrival of the smaller passerines.
Spring means the beginning of many climbing expeditions up Denali and its surrounding peaks. It also marks the beginning of migratory expeditions for many avian species. Like mountain climbers, the birds that return to Denali each season spend much of the late winter preparing for their adventurous, often dangerous, extended journey. And, similar to alpinists, these birds need adequate supplies of food and shelter to ensure a safe journey home.
Spring is a wonderful time in interior Alaska. It is also very different than spring in many other places. The coming of the vernal equinox brings longer days, but not necessarily warmer temperatures. April, May, and early June temperatures in Denali are often well below zero, and snowstorms are not uncommon. In fact, for the past few years, more snow has fallen in the springtime than in the winter.
Some species of birds, such as the northern hawk owl, are nomadic rather than migrant. Movement of individuals corresponds to food abundance and climatic conditions rather than annual migratory patterns. The northern hawk owl is very elusive and is often found by sound rather than sight. They are most likely to be heard and/or seen in Denali during late winter and early spring as they travel about looking for nesting areas, mates, and prey.
Last updated: April 14, 2015