Migration Sensations

Where do they come from? Where do they go?

Over 100,000 shorebirds of 25 different species migrate through Kachemak Bay during the month of May, a spectacle of springtime and an unbelievable opportunity for people to observe an inspirational global journey. Here are just a few of the migration marvels and a little bit about their trek north:

Pacific golden plover. Courtesy of Robin Edwards

Pacific Golden Plover
Pluvialis fulva

Winters across the islands of the Pacific ocean and SE Asia, into northeastern Africa; breeds in western Alaska and Siberia. Like many Alaskans, this bird may spend part of the winter in Hawaii, where it is known as “kolea.”

Western Sandpiper
Calidris mauri

Winters along the coasts of North and South America, and breeds mostly on the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. Large flocks migrate through Kachemak Bay and the Copper River Delta during May.

Western sandpipers. Courtesy of Sam Wilson
Dunlin. Courtesy of Robin Edwards

Calidris alpina

Three subspecies of dunlin breed along the northwestern and Arctic coasts of Alaska. The pacifica subspecies migrates through Kachemak Bay on their journey to the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge and further north.

Sandhill Crane
Antigone canadensis

Though not a shorebird, the arrival of sandhill cranes during the festival is a sure sign of spring and a treat for birdwatchers. The cranes form immense flocks during the winter at southern wildlife refuges, like Bosque del Apache in New Mexico. Their journey may continue as far north as the Arctic Circle. The cranes that come to Kachemak Bay likely winter in the California’s Central Valley and arrive via the Pacific flyway.

Sandhill crane. Courtesy of Jennifer Fogle Smith
Sandhill crane. Courtesy of Diane Briggs

Black turnstone. Courtesy of Robin Edwards

Black Turnstone
Arenaria melanocephala

Endemic to the western coast of Alaska during breeding season, black turnstones migrate through the bay from their winter retreats along the rocky shores of the Pacific. They are also one of the few shorebirds that may remain in Alaska year-round.

For more birds that migrate to Alaska, take this Audubon virtual tour: