Alaska Birding and Wildlife Adventures Since 1986
OUR ALASKA DESTINATIONS
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) - Brooks Range - Pribilof Islands – Gambell & St Lawrence Island – Nome – Barrow – Aleutian Islands - – Seward – Kenai Fjords National Park - Chevak/Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta
Wilderness Birding Adventures offers Alaskan adventures from the remote wilderness of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the eastern Brooks Range to birding hotspots along Alaska’s northwest coast (Nome and Wales), in the middle of the Bering Sea (Gambell on St. Lawrence Island), to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta (Chevak Spectacled Eider Camp), on St. Paul Island in the Pribilofs and far out on the Aleutian Islands at Adak. We travel to the furthest north point in North America at Barrow, and to Shuyak Island in the Kodiak Archipelago, as well as to various locations around Southcentral Alaska. We do not offer trips to all locations each year.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)
The nearly 20 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge represents one of the last great expanses of remote, intact wilderness in America, home to diverse populations of wildlife including caribou, the denning habitat for the Beaufort Sea polar bears, musk ox, red and arctic fox, wolves, wolverine and close to 180 species of birds.. Birds migrate from far corners of the globe to nest in the Arctic Refuge, “The Arctic Refuge contains the greatest wildlife diversity of any protected area in the circumpolar north” according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service which manages the Refuge. The coastal plain, lying between the northern foothills of the Brooks Range and the Beaufort Sea, is the calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou herd. The herd migrates over 400 miles each way every year from its wintering grounds in Canada to the coastal plain to bear their young. The tundra, underlain by permafrost, hosts a multitude of wildflowers that burst into bloom in the brief but intense summer season of 24-hour daylight. A large portion of the Arctic Refuge’s coastal plain between the Brooks Range and the Beaufort Sea is currently at risk of being opened by Congress to oil industry development. View the Gray-headed Chickadee, Arctic Base Camp, Canning River and Kongakut Photo Albums.
Considered “the Galapagos of the North”, the Pribilof Islands archipelago is one of the largest seabird concentrations in the world. St. Paul Island is a paradise for birders and photographers. Over 220 species of birds have been identified in the Pribilofs, many from as far away as Europe, Asia and South America. It’s a place you can literally come within feet of cliff-nesting Red-legged Kittiwakes, Auklets and other Alcids. These islands, part of a sub-oceanic volcanic range, also host one of the world's largest gatherings of marine mammals each summer when one million northern fur seals return to breed and give birth. The Pribilofs are also inhabited by reindeer, arctic blue fox and other marine mammals. Home to the largest Aleut community in the world with a unique and fascinating cultural history, the Pribilof Islands are a “must see” on any Alaska birding holiday. View the Pribilofs Photo Album. Visit the Pribilofs trip page.
Gambell – St Lawrence Island
St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea is considered one of North America’s premier birding hotspots for viewing Eurasian accidentals and new North American birding records. It is over 70 miles in length and approximately 25 miles wide, lying only 38 miles from Siberia. Gambell, at the northwest corner of St. Lawrence Island, is located over 230 miles west of Nome near the International Dateline, just south of the Arctic Circle. Gambell is one of only two Siberian Y’upik Eskimo villages in Alaska and its residents survive by subsistence hunting from the sea. Gambell is famous (and infamous) for its gravel which, like marbles, can challenge your hiking. The surrounding terrestrial ecosystem is mostly coastal tundra wetlands with many small ponds and marshy areas that harbor different species of shorebirds. A few boneyards (excavated middens) near the village provide habitat where passerines drop in to rest and feed. The marine habitat hosts thousands of alcids, waterfowl and other seabirds. During late May and early June, the sun sets for only a couple of hours, giving you as long a birdwatching day as you like. View the Gambell Photo Album. Visit the Gambell trip page.
Famous as the ending point for the 1,049-mile Iditarod sled dog race and the Alaskan gold rush, Nome lies on the Seward Peninsula, jutting into the Bering Sea. Nome is considered to be one of the top birding locations in western Alaska where one can see rare Asian birds as well as a wide variety of nesting arctic species. Birders can explore the three roads leading out of Nome, each providing excellent birding opportunities in the rich coastal, tundra, riparian and alpine habitats. Safety Lagoon teems with waterfowl and shorebirds, and a hike up to the tundra ridges north of Nome brings you to one of the only known nesting places for the Bristle-thighed Curlew We usually see grizzly bear, moose, musk ox and the free-ranging reindeer herd as well as we explore the Seward Peninsula on this trip. Gold prospectors can still be seen mining the “golden beaches” of Nome which used to attract 30,000 gold seekers to this wilderness expanse in 1900. View the Nome Photo Album. Visit the Nome trip page.
The 1,300 mile long chain of volcanoes called the Aleutian Islands is a unique place which divides the North Pacific from the Bering Sea. Dutch Harbor sits amid the central Aleutian Islands. Located just a boat trip away from Dutch Harbor is one of the few places on the planet to find Whiskered Auklets. A little farther offshore, various species of albatross, shearwater and other pelagic birds are found. The lush vegetation in summer is a wildflower paradise. Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island is the home port of one of the richest fisheries in the world and is also an Aleut Native community. The Aleutians, and specifically Dutch Harbor/Unalaska, is the only place where World War II was fought on U.S. soil.
Kisaralik - Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge
One of the most un-visited areas of Alaska is the vast Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Due west of Anchorage in the bulge of land above Bristol Bay and the Alaska Peninsula, and south of the Seward Peninsula, the Y-K Delta is a massive network of wetlands wrinkled by a few hills and even fewer mountains. The Kilbuck Mountains stand out, literally, as a magnet for raptors and other birds and wildlife, an island of distinct geology and vegetation in a sea of tundra. Out of these mountains flows the Kisaralik River. Whitewater and great birding characterize the upper river, while slower waters and great fishing are the norm downstream. This journey is truly off the beaten path.
Shuyak Island sits like a jewel at the northern tip of the Kodiak Archipelago in the Gulf of Alaska. The rainforest island is covered by towering Sitka Spruce with a lovely, open understory of thick emerald mosses, ferns, and tiny flowers among which the thrushes, kinglets and Winter Wrens constantly move and call. The shoreline cuts deeply into the island in the form of many bays and coves, creating a fairly protected area for paddling. Venturing out to the outer shores of the island opens the vistas to the volcanic southern Alaska Range across Shelikof Strait, and to the nearshore islands which teem with Black-legged Kittiwakes, Red-faced Cormorants, Common Eiders, Horned & Tufted Puffins, Marbled Murrelets and a busy variety of other birds swirling through the air and waters. Curious harbor seals and sea lions swim around, sea otters with their pups feed in the kelp, and humpback whales feed nearby. Shuyak Island is part of the Alaska State Park system. Visit the Shuyak Photo Album.
This Inupiat village perched at the farthest north point of North America, on a finger of tundra jutting up into the Arctic Ocean, is the perfect place for this whaling community to intercept migrating bowhead whales. The remains of these whale hunts attract a large number of polar bears to Barrow. It is the nesting area of a variety of arctic bird species and intersects the migratory route of birds following the Arctic Ocean coast. Both Ivory and Ross's Gulls migrate along the coast and often stop to feed on whale carcasses. Visit the Barrow trip page.
Denali National Park
At 6 million acres, Denali National Park is larger than Massachusetts and contains entire ecosystems of pristine habitat. The park is home to Mt. McKinley (Denali), the highest peak in North America, and home to a grand array of wildlife including grizzly bears, caribou, Dall sheep, moose, golden eagles, and wolves. The landscape in Denali National Park is mainly alpine tundra and taiga forest, which offers excellent wildlife habitat and magnificent vistas.
Although famous for Mount McKinley, North America’s highest mountain, Denali National Park was originally designated because of its interesting wildlife. One of our nation’s most spectacular national parks, Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska is the nation’s premier wildlife viewing experience. Along with interesting birds of Alaska’s interior, grizzly bears, Dall sheep, caribou, moose and wolves can often be seen.
The port community of Seward sits at the head of Resurrection Bay on the eastern side of the Kenai Peninsula. Seward offers a glimpse at the birds regular to the coastal rain forest. This charming town is the doorway for access to the Kenai Fjords National Park. With its ice-free deepwater port, Seward was important in the supply chain to Alaska during World War II. The town was severely damaged by the tsunami that followed the 1964 earthquake.
(Our Kenai Peninsula trip spends time in Seward.)
Kenai Fjords National Park
The Kenai (pronounced "KEEN-eye") Mountains are gradually being submerged by the collision of two tectonic plates, creating mile-deep fjords surrounded by caverns of rock and ice where kayakers, fishermen, and nature enthusiasts are treated to a wildlife extravaganza of orca, humpback, gray, and fin whales. Smaller marine mammals such as sea otters, harbor seals, and sea lions also frolic in the glacial waters of the fjords. Many interesting and unusual birds are often seen here.
The best way to explore the coastal mountain fjords is by sea. Experienced skippers can safely navigate the waters of sunken glacier-carved valleys. Salt spray mixes with mountain mist in this icebound seascape, to a soundscape of thundering booms as giant slabs of glacier calve into the sea.
The land surrounding the Kenai Fjords is a frozen desert of glaciers and ice. An easy half-mile hike brings the curious visitor to the terminus of Exit Glacier. The latter half of this short trail traverses the rocky debris of glacial moraine and bedrock before reaching the tip of a three mile long glacier that descends 2,500 feet from the Harding Icefield. At 300 square miles, it is one of the four major ice caps in the United States.
(Our Kenai Peninsula trip spends time in Kenai Fjords National Park.)
Our Owls of the North trip as well as several custom tours explore the road system out of Anchorage to discover the many habitats and breeding birds in Southcentral Alaska. These tours have some of the longest bird lists of any of our trips, highlighting the wonderful variety of local breeding birds here in our mild Alaskan summer. The glaciated Chugach, Talkeetna, Kenai and Alaska mountain ranges, and the huge rivers that drain them, define the terrain.
Adak – The Outer Aleutians
Situated in the western Aleutian Islands, Adak is currently the westernmost plane-accessible location in Alaska where birders can freely travel. It’s actually the westernmost town in the United States and the southernmost town in Alaska. This former military base has been decommissioned and opened for tourism just in the past few years. Birders have been richly rewarded for making the trek out here, so close to Asia, during both the spring and fall migrations. Visit the Adak trip page.
Chevak – Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta
Western Alaska’s Y-K Delta is a hugely productive bird breeding area approximately the size of Oregon. Millions of waterfowl and shorebirds nest here each summer, including the Spectacled Eider – difficult to see everywhere else, but difficult to miss here. Visit the Chevak trip page.
Find out more about our Alaska trips:
Many of our trip pages have photo galleries. Scroll down the trip page to find the button linking you to our quick-loading photo album.
Grizzly Tracks, Alaska
Canning River, Alaska