Lake Clark's skies are filled with birds. Each spring the forests echo with uncountable songs. Their wing-beats flash in hypnotizing patterns along the seashore as they gather in large flocks during fall and spring migration. The tundra resounds with the calls of species nesting among the swarms of delicious mosquitoes. The winter's quiet is broken by the squawk of a year-round resident. In total 187 species of raptors, waterfowl, seabirds, shorebirds, and songbirds have been documented in the park and preserve.
Waterfowl, Shorebirds and Seabirds
Waterfowl nest and molt in wetlands throughout the area. Large migratory flocks of ducks, swans, and geese rest and feed in the park and preserve before flying from Nikabuna Lakes to Lake Clark through low mountain passes in the Chulitna River drainage. Sea ducks, primarily white-winged and surf scoters, are the most abundant waterfowl on the coast, numbering over 18,000 in mid-August.
The coast also provides important breeding habitat for mallards, American wigeon, Barrow's golden-eye, and red-throated loons. Migrating dabbling ducks number 3,000-4,000 in spring and fall. Diving ducks, primarily greater and lesser scaup, stage along the coast in spring. They reach peak abundance (16,400 birds) in mid-May. Other ducks include green-winged teal, northern pintail, harlequin, common golden-eye, black scoter, common eider, bufflehead, and long-tailed duck.
Raptors are carnivorous birds. Raptors include birds ranging from bald and golden eagles, northern goshawks, owls, and merlins, but the three common characteristics all raptors share are a hooked beak, eight sharp talons, and keen eyesight.
Although not all songbirds are talented singers, the array of songbirds, or perching birds from the order Passeriformes, is truly incredible! From the harsh and numerous vocalizations of the raven to a thrush’s lilting whistles, the songbird group is broad and diverse. Regarding bird species, half the world’s birds are in the songbird group! Take a look at Passeriformes in the NPSpecies tool at the bottom of this page to see the range of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve's songbirds.
Songbirds, and birds in general, have a rich and important local connection to the Dena'ina people. In "Bird Traditions of the Lime Village Area Dena'ina," authors Priscilla N. Russell and George C. West write that the "Dena'ina believe that birds use a wide variety of vocal and non-vocal actions to communicate among themselves, with other wildlife, and with humans." This perspective is an essential part of Dena'ina culture and world view as evidenced in the story below:
In the spring, people were fishing, but there were no fish. One man was sitting on the bank and listening. A bird sang, "tsik' ezlagh."
He ran into the house. "Hurry!" he said, "that bird sang 'tsik' ezlagh.'" And everyone went down to the beach with dipnets.
The one who had spread the news was watching, and a gull flying close to the surface of the water was calling "beq'ina" ['its fish eggs']. He went there with a dipnet. He jumped in the water, and he caught a king salmon.
And they marked that day. At times the fish ran earlier. At times they ran later. And they listened for that bird. Sometimes he sings later, sometimes earlier.
That is what they said. When the first salmon run, the golden-crowned sparrow sings.
-Peter Kalifornsky, excerpt from "A Dena'ina Legacy" (translated from Dena'ina)
See a list of birds found in the park using the NPSpecies tool below.
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Last updated: October 13, 2021