My 14 Best Bird Watching Spots in Alaska You Should Try

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Alaska is the largest state in the United States and is also the most northern. This state is known for vast areas of wilderness and rich birdlife, with over 450 species of birds recorded here. Being such a large state, it isn’t easy to know which spots in Alaska you should visit for birding, so I compiled this list for you.

The best bird watching spots in Alaska are those that provide views of the ocean and seabirds, such as Glacier Bay National Park and Gull Island. Other good places include the refuge at Dude Creek Critical Habitat Area and Fairbanks, with various habitats.

A table giving the most interesting birds you can see at each of my top 14 birding spots in Alaska:

Denali National ParkAmerican Three-toed Woodpecker and Gray Jay
Chilkat Bald Eagle PreserveBald Eagle and Common Merganser
Glacier Bay National ParkKittlitz’s Murrelet and Horned Puffin
Gustavus Forelands PreserveShort-eared Owl and Sandhill Crane
Dude Creek Critical Habitat AreaSooty Grouse and Varied Thrush
HomerBlack Turnstone and Rock Sandpiper
Gull IslandCommon Murre and Black-legged Kittiwake
Mendenhall Wetlands at JuneauGreen-winged Teal and Northern Pintail
Point Bridget State ParkBlack Oystercatcher and Pigeon Guillemot
Copper River DeltaDunlin and Western Sandpiper
Kenai Fjords National Park Fort-tailed Storm-Petrel and Rhinoceros Auklet
AnchorageHudsonian Godwit and Arctic Tern
NomeArctic Warbler and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
FairbanksGreater White-fronted Goose and Ruffed Grouse
Best Places to Bird Watch in Alaska

Read further to find out about the best bird watching spots in Alaska.

Best Bird Watching Spots in Alaska
Best Bird Watching Spots in Alaska

TIP: If you want to check out the best pair of binoculars for bird watching, we recommend a pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars (Amazon link).

Best Places to Bird Watch in Alaska

There are a lot of wilderness areas in Alaska, but access is not always easy. The top spots listed here are accessible and used by bird watchers.

1. Denali National Park

There is a limit to how far you can drive but much of the park you can visit by taking a tour, which is why you should contact the park to find out more information. 

The Mount Healy Overlook Trail and the Horseshoe Lake Trail are recommended for bird watchers. Several exciting birds can be seen along these trails. In fact, at least 160 species of birds have been recorded in Denali.

Bird species to watch for in the park include the following: Golden Eagle, Boreal Chickadee, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Gray Jay, Willow Ptarmigan, Ruffed Grouse, Snowy Owls, and Spruce Grouse. You can use an illustrated checklist of the birds of Denali to help you with your trip.

Other species include the Bohemian Waxwing, Varied Thrush, Trumpeter Swan, Common Redpoll, White-winged Crossbill, and Golden-crowned Sparrow.

TIP: Knowing how to spot the birds in your yard is key to enjoying visits from your winged friends as much as possible! The best sources are trusted books, I recommend using the following (Amazon links):
National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America
National Audubon Society Birds of North America

2. Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve

This is the refuge to visit to see Bald Eagles. The eagles feed on the salmon in the Chilkat River and nest in the area during summer. Other birds in the preserve include Common Mergansers, Arctic Terns, and Trumpeter Swans.

Passerine species in the area include Lincoln’s Sparrow, Varied Thrush, Wilson’s Warbler, and the Orange-crowned Warbler. Red-breasted Sapsuckers can be found in trees in the preserve.

3. Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park covers over 4 million acres, including mountains, temperate forests, and wetlands. To visit this park, you need to go by plane or ferry to the town of Gustavus. There are boat tours out into Glacier Bay.

Species to look for here in the waters include the following:  Barrow’s Goldeneye, Common Murre, Harlequin Duck, Pigeon Guillemot, Kittlitz’s Murrelet, Marbled Murrelet, and Pelagic Cormorant.

You should also watch for Bald Eagles, Black Oystercatchers, Tufted Puffins, and Horned Puffins. Gulls fly over with people seeing species such as the Arctic Tern and Black-legged Kittiwake.

Mew Gulls, Surf Scoters, White-winged Scoters, and Glaucous-winged Gulls can also be spotted in the waters here.

4. Gustavus Forelands Preserve

The Gustavus Forelands Preserve is encircled by the Glacier Bay National Park. The preserve has a lot to offer and is one of the sites where you can see Sandhill Cranes, Wilson’s Snipe, Short-eared Owls, and Canada Geese.

5. Dude Creek Critical Habitat Area

This area is near the Gustavus Forelands Preserve and consists of wet meadow habitat. Many birds can be seen here. Species recorded here include the following: Sandhill Cranes are most abundant here in September while migrating, and you can find species like the Hermit Thrush. 

Look in the woodlands for the Sooty Grouse and thrushes, including the Varied Thrush. You can also find Rufous Hummingbirds, Townsend’s Warblers, and Chestnut-backed Chickadees.

Species like the Pine Siskin and Red Crossbill can also be found in the trees of the woodlands. People have seen Lincoln’s Sparrows here, but they are secretive birds hiding in thick undergrowth.

6. Homer 

The town of Homer is popular with bird watchers, and a yearly festival is held in May. The Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival attracts many birders to the area. Many shorebirds can be seen in the area of Homer. 

You can find species like the Wandering Tattler, Pacific Golden-Plover, American Oystercatcher, Black Turnstone, Rock Sandpiper, Surfbird, and Red-necked Phalarope.

Oceanic birds to watch for here include the following species: Harlequin Duck, Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Black Scoter, Common Eider, Long-tailed Duck, Pacific Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Pigeon Guillemot, Marbled Murrelet, and Common Murre. Bald Eagles and Pelagic Cormorants are also seen in the area.

You can see Spruce Grouse, Gray Jay, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Varied Thrush, and Boreal Chickadee on the land. Other birds to look for include Pine Grosbeaks, Golden-crowned Sparrows, Common Redpolls, and White-winged Crossbills.

TOP TIP: Understanding the best practices for birding according to season and what birds may be likely to eat in certain seasons are critical aspects of bird watching that can help improve your ability to find the birds you are looking for.

7. Gull Island

You can take a 3-mile boat trip to Gull Island from Homer. You must watch the birds from the boat because you cannot set foot on the island. 

There are an incredible number of oceanic birds here. Thousands of Common Murre and Black-legged Kittiwakes nest here on the island.

It is also an excellent place to spot Tufted Puffins, Pigeon Guillemots, Red-faced Cormorants, and Pelagic Cormorants. It is possible to see Bald Eagles and Glaucus-winged Gulls in the area.

8. Mendenhall Wetlands at Juneau

This is a good area for shorebirds and waterfowl. You can also see gulls, including species like the Mew Gull, Bonaparte’s Gull, and Glaucous-winged Gull. 

Bald Eagles are often seen in the area. The eagles and gulls are seen in summer, as are passerines like the Alder Flycatcher, Rufous Hummingbird, Vaux’s Swift, Red Crossbill, Lincoln’s Sparrow, and Pine Siskin. 

Waterfowl breeds in the wetlands here include Northern Pintails, Green-winged Teals, and Northern Shovelers. 

9. Point Bridget State Park

Waterfowl you can see here include species like Barrow’s Goldeneye, Red-throated Loon, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Long-tailed Duck, Harlequin Duck, White-winged Scoter, and Surf Scoter.

Oceanic birds you can likely see here include the Pigeon Guillemot, Black-legged Kittiwake, Common Murre, and Marbled Murrelet. On the shores, among the rocks, you can look for Black Oystercatchers.

10. Copper River Delta

This area attracts birds because of its wetlands and muddy areas. Shorebird species you can find here include Semipalmated Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Least Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, and Dunlin.

A subspecies of the Canada Goose nests here, as do Trumpeter Swans. May is the best time of the year to visit this area because that is when the Cordova Shorebird Festival is held.

The site is an essential stopover for several migrating shorebirds, and the end of April into May is the best time to see these birds.

11. Kenai Fjords National Park 

This national park is located south of Anchorage and is famous for birding. You can see oceanic species by taking a boat ride into Resurrection Bay. Cruises are offered from Seward, which will take you to the ocean, where you can see seabirds, whales, and sea lions. 

Several unusual bird species can be seen in the ocean, like the Fort-tailed Storm-Petrel, Kittlitz’s Murrelet, Thick-billed Murrelet, Rhinoceros Auklet, Horned Puffin, and more.

You can also find Red-throated Loons, Sooty Shearwaters, Barrow’s Goldeneyes, and Harlequin Ducks. You can watch for Bald Eagles, Arctic Terns, and Black-legged Kittiwakes.

There is only one part of the park where you can drive: the Exit Glacier area. This area is open between May and November. Birds to look for along the trails here include the Boreal Chickadee, Steller’s Jay, American Dipper, Varied Thrush, Hermit Thrush, and Gray Jay.

12. Anchorage

Anchorage is an excellent place for birders, particularly at Westchester Lagoon. Some species you can find here include Red-necked Grebes, Greater Scaup, American Wigeons, and Red-throated Loons.

Shorebirds you can see include Hudsonian Godwits, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Short-billed Dowitchers. Arctic Terns may be seen flying overhead. 

Potter Marsh is at the southern end of Anchorage. April through September is the best time to bird watch in this area. You can find bird species such as Canvasbacks, Northern Pintails, Red-necked Grebes, and Horned Grebes.

Potter Marsh has a 0.5-mile boardwalk you can walk along, making this an excellent spot for birders in terms of access to the wetland. Yellowlegs and Arctic Terns can be seen in late summer at the marsh.

The Glen Alps Trailhead is also in Anchorage and an excellent place for finding birds, especially ptarmigans. You can see Rock Ptarmigans and Willow Ptarmigans here and other birds like Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches and White-winged Crossbills.

TIP: Check out my recommended products if you are looking for the best and trusted equipment for birdwatching in the wild or on your backyard (Amazon link):

13. Nome

Nome is situated on the shore of the Bering Sea and is only accessible by boat or plane. You can find several exciting birds here, including the following: Spectacled Eider, Steller’s Eider, Rock Ptarmigan, Arctic Loon, Pacific Loon, King Eider, and Emperor Goose. 

You can also see shorebirds in the area. Species of shorebirds to watch for include Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Bristle-thighed Curlews, Pacific Golden-Plovers, and Red-necked Stints.

Other birds you can look for in the area include Northern Wheatear, Boreal Chickadee, Bluethroat, Gyrfalcon, Arctic Warbler, Snow Bunting, and Hoary Wagtail.

14. Fairbanks

There is the 2,200-acre Creamer’s Field State Migratory Waterfowl Refuge, which is worth a visit. It is found on the northern side of Fairbanks. The refuge has wetlands, woodlands, and fields, providing habitat for many birds.

The refuge is an excellent place to find breeding Sandhill Cranes. Other birds in the refuge include the Greater White-fronted Goose, Tundra Swan, and American Wigeon. Some of the shorebirds that are seen in summer include Solitary Sandpipers and Lesser Yellowlegs.

Tanana Lakes Recreation Area on the southern side of Fairbanks is a park where you can find birds such as Rusty Blackbirds, Ruffed Grouse, White-winged Crossbills, and Boreal Chickadees.

Best Time to Bird Watch in Alaska

Although you can bird watch at any time in Alaska, summer may be best as it is not as cold, and more species of birds can also be seen due to migratory patterns. 

Bald EagleSummer 
Sandhill CraneSeptember
Best Time to Bird Watch in Alaska

The Alaska State Bird

Willow Ptarmigan - The Alaska State Bird
Willow Ptarmigan – The Alaska State Bird

The Alaska State Bird is the Willow Ptarmigan, Lagopus lagopus. Ptarmigans are a type of grouse member of the pheasant family.

The Willow Ptarmigan is a bird that can camouflage itself well. In summer, the bird is brown and red. In winter, the bird molts to white plumage, allowing the bird to blend in well with snow.

Bird Watching Laws in Alaska

The Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects birds in Alaska. You cannot capture or hurt any birds or disturb their nests. The offspring and eggs cannot be disturbed.

My Favourite Equipment for Bird Watching

Bird watching is one of the least expensive hobbies out there, but you still need some equipment to get the most out of it. 

The essential equipment to start bird watching is a pair of binoculars. My preference is 8 X 42 binoculars. The number 8 is how much the magnification is, while 42 is the field of view in millimeters of the lenses.

A pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars on Amazon is an excellent choice for both beginners and experts. 

In time, you can choose more expensive models and also opt to buy a spotting scope like the Celestron Ultima 80 on Amazon.

These are a lot more expensive compared with binoculars though, so if you are only a beginner, start with binoculars first. A spotting scope is only helpful for birds far away, such as out on a pond or seashore.

There are a few rules or guidelines you should abide by as an ethical birder. These are listed below.

  • Do not enter private lands without prior permission from landowners.
  • Follow all the rules in refuges and reserves, including cleaning up any garbage from your campsite.
  • Do not disturb birds on nests.
  • Do not use apps and play songs to call up birds when they are hungry, tired, and breeding during spring and summer.


Alaska provides an excellent opportunity for bird watchers with a chance to see oceanic species like puffins and auklets and land birds in the wetlands and woodlands.

The state is extensive, and access is not always easy, which is why our list of bird watching spots can help you to plan and make the most of a birding trip to Alaska.

TIP: If you want to check out the best pair of binoculars for bird watching, we recommend a pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars (Amazon link).

Rae Osborn

Rae Osborn is an avid bird watcher and holds a doctorate in Biology. Her interests in birds began as a child growing up in South Africa. She has continued to study birds and has bird watched in the United States and South Africa.

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