The sound of bird calls often fills the air in Kodiak. During sunny, summer months, song birds twitter and whistle. Winter brings exceptional eagle viewing to town and a constant chatter between the large, fierce-looking birds. Besides the 240 species of birds found on Kodiak Island, the other wonderful thing about birding here is the accessibility of prime viewing grounds. The immediate vicinity of Kodiak town offers many good birding opportunities.
Near Island, just across the channel from downtown, is an excellent place to begin your birding adventure and is a short, lovely walk. Follow the road to the left and you are in good spotting territory for Pine Grosbeaks, crossbills and other small passerines. As you reach the broad channel at the float plane airport, you may spot Red-necked Grebes, seaducks and alcids. If you take the right fork in the road, it will lead you to St. Herman’s Harbor where you will definitely be able to study gulls such as the Glaucous-winged, Herring and Mew gull in addition to the Black-legged Kittiwakes. The lucky birder will spot Rock Sandpipers, Black Turnstones, surfbirds, and Black Oystercatchers.
Returning to Kodiak via the bridge and driving out of town toward the airport, Gibson Cove is an especially good place for spotting Steller Eiders, Oldsquaws, and Harlequin ducks.
Many more interesting species require exploring the road system a little more thoroughly. The mouth of the Buskin River is prime territory for loons, grebes, cormorants and other waterfowl. Emperor geese and common eiders are often seen here as well. Along the river you should find the American dipper. Farther out the road are excellent locations to view King Eider, Common Goldeneye, or Barrow’s Goldeneye. The Boreal Owl is fairly common in Kodiak in March and April, but be prepared for some late nights and freezing weather to spot one. Willow and Rock Ptarmigan are residents in the open country of Kodiak. Seabirds such as the Tufted Puffin and Rhinoceros Auklet nest offshore.
For the USGS Bird checklist for the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge and the Kodiak Island Archipelago visit: http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/birds/chekbird/r7/kodiak.htm
Who Can Take You Bird Watching?
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Christmas Bird Count
Kodiak Island has a tradition of a Christmas Bird Count that dates back to the 1960s. Nationally, the first bird count was held on Christmas Day in 1900 in 27 locations across the mostly eastern United States. Since that time the count has grown in popularity and occurs in over 1,800 locations nationwide. The goal of the Christmas Bird Count is to count all birds of all species within a circle with a diameter of 15 miles.
The first bird count in Kodiak was in 1962 and ended with the finding of 3,642 birds of 43 species. Over the years, Kodiak’s Christmas Bird Counts have accounted for quite a few of the all-time highest species counts for North America. The Kodiak count holds the record for Spectacled Eider, Black Oystercatcher, Slaty-backed Gull, Parakeet Auklet, Crested Auklet, Horned Puffin and Brambling. In its 39th year, the 2011 Christmas Bird Count in Kodiak resulted in 78 species with a total day count of 11,071 birds. For more information about birding in Kodiak or to join the annual Christmas Bird Count visit: groups.yahoo.com/group/KodiakBirding/