Alaska Fish & Wildlife News
April 2017

Alaska Birding Festivals and Wildlife Events 2017

By Riley Woodford
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The Stikine River Birding Festival in Wrangell is an opportunity to observe millions of shorebirds, and the area also attracts thousands of bald eagles, creating the largest springtime concentration in North America. Photo by Ken Marsh.

Bears, whales, hawks, and millions of migratory birds will be watched, talked about and celebrated at more than a dozen events in Alaska in 2017.

From the big Gunsight Mountain Hawk Watch weekend April 15th outside Anchorage, to Sitka Whalefest in November, Alaska has a lot of events for bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts in 2017. During the Gunsight Mountain Hawk Watch event in 2016, more than 3,000 raptors were documented, including more than 1,100 golden eagles and 1,000 Harlan’s hawks.

In the fall, more than 3,000 eagles gather along a four-mile stretch of the Chilkat River north of Haines to feed on a late run of salmon. This wildlife spectacle is the largest gathering of eagles in the world. The Alaska Bald Eagle Festival in November in Haines celebrates the gathering.

Read on to learn about all 14 events.

Alaska Hummingbird Festival – Ketchikan

Date: April 7 – 29, 2017

The Alaska Hummingbird Festival celebrates the return of the Rufous hummingbirds to the Tongass National Forest. The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center serves as the hub for a series of events, including a juried art show, to promote awareness of the spring migratory birds of Southeast Alaska.

The Alaska Hummingbird Festival juried art show opening reception is April 7, 2017, starting at 5 p.m. at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center. Artwork will be on display through June 3, 2017.

Events continue through April 29. Scheduled activities include Saturday morning guided bird walks, the Friday Night Insights lecture series, and Saturday afternoon activities for youth and their families. All programs and activities are free to the public.

For more information, contact Leslie Swada at 907-228-6290 or

Gunsight Mountain Hawk Watch

Date: March 7 – May 15, 2017 The big hawk watch weekend is April 15 and 16, at Mile 118.

Sponsoring Organizations: Anchorage Audubon and MatSu Birders

Where: Mile 118 on the Glenn Highway.

Saturday will feature hawk identification tips from Bob Dittrick at 10:00 a.m. Sunday Mat-Su Birders will have a potluck that lasts most of the day.

Celebrate the return of spring migrating raptors. Golden eagle, red-tailed hawk, rough-legged hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, northern goshawk, American kestrel, peregrine falcon and merlin may be seen along the ridgeline at Mile 119. Anchorage Audubon invites volunteers to help document migrating raptors. In 2016, more than 3,000 raptors were documented, including more than 1,100 golden eagles and 1,000 Harlan’s hawks.For more information, visit the Anchorage Audubon — Field Trips and Events Calendar page. 2017 info is here:

The Stikine River Birding Festival — Wrangell

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Pacific golden plover. Photo by Jim Dau

Date: April 27-30, 2017

Sponsoring Organizations: US Forest Service and City and Borough of Wrangell

2017 guest speakers include Alaska naturalist, biologist, photographer and author Bob Armstrong, who will discuss shooting video and photos of birds and nature; Biologist Dan Ruthrauff, a shorebirds specialist who will focus on the interesting adaptations of rock sandpipers; and birder and naturalist Gwen Baluss, who will talk about bird banding.

The festival is the perfect opportunity for adventurous birdwatchers to observe millions of shorebirds, which migrate to the delta each spring. The area also attracts thousands of bald eagles, creating the largest springtime concentration in North America. Events are scheduled for all ages and interests.For more information, contact 800-367-9745 or visit the Stikine River Birding Festival website.

Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival — Cordova

Date: May 4-7

Phone: 907-424-7260

Sponsoring Organization: Cordova Chamber of Commerce

Renowned field guide author David Sibley will be the festival’s 2017 keynote speaker. His address will be “The Psychology of Bird Identification.” Other guests include bird researcher Lisa Kennedy and environmental consultant and hummingbird specialist Kate McLaughlin.

In early May, the tidal flats of the Copper River Delta shimmer with the activity of hundreds of thousands of shorebirds. As many as 5 million shorebirds rest and feed here during spring migration. The Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival provides the ideal opportunity for bird watchers to be part of this epic migration. Many activities, workshops and community events are offered throughout the festival, attracting visitors from around the globe. For more information, visit the Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival website.

Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival — Homer

Date: May 4 – May 7, 2017

Sponsoring Organizations: Homer Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Alaska's largest wildlife viewing festival celebrates the spring migration of more than 130 species of birds to the rich feeding grounds of Kachemak Bay. Wildlife ecologist, author and teacher J. Drew Lanham will be the 2017 Keynote speaker . Other guests include authors Schantz Scholar and Paul Bannick. For more information on speakers, and the wide range of workshops, presentations and events, visit the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival website.

Upper Tanana Migratory Bird Festival — Tok

Date: 8 am to 3 pm, May 20, 2017

Sponsoring Organization: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Western Sandpiper. Photo by Jim Dau

This festival has become a welcome tradition in Tok. Sponsored by the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, the day-long festival includes mist-netting (8-10 am); birding tours, kids' activities, free hot dogs, contests, and a migratory bird-themed obstacle course. There will be live bird presentations with a bald eagle, a grey owl and a snowy owl available for viewing, and a program on those birds at noon. More information to be posted on the Tetlin NWR Facebook page.

Kenai Peninsula Birding Festival — Kenai

Date: May 18-21, 2017

Sponsoring Organizations: USFWS, Kenai Watershed Forum, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Kenai Convention and Visitors Bureau, Keen Eye Birders.

This event for all levels of birders is designed to showcase and celebrate Kenai Peninsula birds. Events include guided float trips, guided walks . workshops and youth art contests. For more information, call (907) 262-9814, or visit the Kenai Birding Festival website.

Yakutat Tern Festival — Yakutat

Date: June 1-4, 2017

Phone: (907) 784-3359

Sponsoring Organizations: Yakutat Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Forest Service

The 2017 keynote speaker is seabird researcher Julia K. Parrish. Other guests include Mary Willson, Gwen Baluss, Nate Catterson, Teresa Swanson, Susan Oehlers, Kris Widdows, Jim Capra, Mike Goldstein and Lee Benson. Violinist Linda Rosenthal and actor Bill Blush will also perform. Events include workshops, bird calling, art and crafts, a seabird program, field trips for adults and kids, and a 10k race.

The mission of the Yakutat Tern Festival is to highlight the extraordinary natural and cultural resources of Yakutat by hosting a festival celebrating Aleutian and Arctic terns. One of the largest and southernmost known breeding colonies of Aleutian terns exists in Yakutat – an area that is currently at the forefront of Aleutian tern research. Arctic tern, an aggressive high-profile species in the world of birds, nest in the same areas as Aleutians and are easily seen in key birding locations around Yakutat. Participants of the festival will enjoy birding activities, natural history field trips, art exhibits, educational events for kids and adults, Alaska Native cultural presentations and speakers with professional stature representing a wealth of information about the Yakutat area. Yakutat Tern Festival Website

Potter Marsh Discovery Day — Anchorage

Date: 11 am – 4 pm Saturday, June 3, 2017. Rehabilitated bird release at 3:30 pm

Free and open to the public

Where: Potter Marsh boardwalk, Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge - 2880 East 154th Avenue, Anchorage, AK; located at Mile 117 along the Seward Highway approximately 10 miles south of downtown Anchorage (approximately 1/2 mile south of the Rabbit Creek Road exit and across from the Rabbit Creek Rifle Range).

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A humpback whale swimming through a school of herring near the village of Tatitlek in NE Prince William Sound in spring 2014. These photos were taken during an aerial survey to assess the miles of herring spawn along beaches in Prince William Sound. The Sitka Whalefest in November celebrates Alaska's humpback whales. Rich Brenner photo.

Help celebrate Anchorage's most popular wildlife viewing area at this free annual event. This family-friendly nature festival brings you birding stations along the boardwalk, captive birds from Bird TLC, education animals from the Alaska Zoo, archery and spin casting practice, hands-on nature activities for kids, release of a rehabilitated wild bird, and more. A food vendor will be on site; parking available nearby; restrooms and entire facility is accessible to those in wheelchairs.

For more information, visit the Potter Marsh Discovery Day page.

Alaska Bearfest — Wrangell

Date: July 26-30, 2017

Guests include photographer Robert E. Johnson who will lead photo workshops. Symposium presenters include bear researchers, wildlife managers, bear biologist and researcher Lance Craighead, biologist and wildlife manager Bobbi Jo Skibo, Dee Galla – the outdoor recreation planner for the Anan bear viewing area, and Wrangell area biologist Joe Delabrue (USFS).

Events include a wide variety of presentations (symposium events); bear safety workshops, bear spray demonstrations, photography workshops, kid’s events and activities, movies, a plant walk, live music with The Accomplices, a community market with local vendors, a music workshop with The Accomplices, Native storytelling, and races ranging from a five K to a full marathon. Celebrate the bears of Alaska with fun family and sports activities, workshops, a research symposium, a photo contest and more. Anan bear viewing area tours will be provided by local operators during the week.

For more information, visit the Wrangell BearFest page. LINK BROKEN use this:

Gone with the Wing – Anchorage

Date: Aug. 12, 2017

Presentations with captive birds including owls, hawks, and songbirds; and family activities to learn about Alaska birdlife. For more information, contact the Bird Treatment and Learning Center at (907) 562-4852 or visit the Bird Treatment and Learning Center website for more information.

Tanana Valley Sandhill Crane Festival — Fairbanks

Date: August 25-27, 2017

Phone: 907-452-5162

Sponsoring Organization: Arctic Audubon Society and Friends of Creamer's Field

There will be several “pre-event” activities celebrating the 50th anniversary of the community fundraising effort that helped save the refuge, including an outdoor folk concert on the refuge on August 22nd, 7- 8:30pm, and a history talk “From Cows to Cranes-How the People of Fairbanks Saved the Fields” at the Fairbanks REI store, 6pm, on August 23rd.

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A sandhill crane. Jim Dau photo. The Tanana Valley Sandhill Crane Festival is held in August each year in Fairbanks.

The guest speaker at this summer’s Sandhill Crane Festival will be Gary Krapu, who is a research wildlife biologist, emeritus, for the USGS. Gary has done extensive studies on Sandhill Crane Migration.

Each August as thousands of Sandhill Cranes begin their southward passage from Alaska and Siberia the Tanana Valley rings with gathering calls. One of the best places to catch this spectacle is at Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge in the heart of Fairbanks, Alaska where daily Sandhill Crane tallies regularly top 1,000. The best time to enjoy fall staging is late August and early September.

The festival includes talks, bird watching, nature walks, workshops and many other related activities with ample opportunities for observing Cranes and other fall migrants.

For information visit the Friends of Creamer’s Field website at:

Sitka WhaleFest

Date: Nov. 3-5, 2017

Phone: 907-747-8878, ext. 2

Sponsoring Organization: Sitka Whale Fest

Sitka residents and visiting attendees gather to hear an international lineup of world-renowned biologists and researchers share their current research and exciting experiences over our three day symposium. Participate in discussions with these researchers and attendees about marine mammal research and exploration. Whale watching tours, art and music round out the event. View the Sitka WhaleFest website.

Alaska Bald Eagle Festival — Haines

Date: Nov. 6-11, 2017

Phone: (907) 766-3094

Sponsoring Organization: American Bald Eagle Foundation

Speakers include Shannon Donahue, director of the Great Bear Foundation with a presentation on polar bear viewing at Cape Churchill, and how bear viewing there is managed; Tlingit wood carver and dancer Wayne Price, and biologist and author John Hudson (“Dragonflies of Alaska”) presenting on dragonfly life history, behavior and ecology.

Events include regular round-trip bus transportation between the American Bald Eagle Foundation Natural History Museum and the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve; education and outreach activities, arts and crafts, traditional Tlingit dance performances, a partially carved 16-foot dugout canoe display, a square dance with live music, and guided bird walks.

Over 3,000 eagles gather along a four-mile stretch of the Chilkat River north of Haines, Alaska each fall to feed on a late run of salmon. This wildlife spectacle is the largest gathering of eagles in the world. The peak of the gathering usually occurs in mid-November. The festival is crammed with a full schedule of events catering to birdwatchers, photographers, and nature lovers.

View the Bald Eagle festival website.

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