Alaska is chock full of birding opportunities. The vast state has a maritime refuge home to more than 40 million nesting seabirds and an arctic coastal plain that draws migratory birds from around the United States and beyond. These remote destinations aren’t the only hot spots in the state for birding. You can easily put together your own Alaska birding tour by stopping in some of these popular birding destinations on the road system.

Potter Marsh

Just 15 minutes south of Anchorage on the Seward Highway, Potter Marsh is an accessible wetland ideal for birding. A wooden boardwalk extends 1,550 feet from the parking area and through the marsh’s rich bird habitat.

More than 130 bird species have been spotted in the marsh, including Canada geese, northern pintails, canvasback ducks, and red-necked grebes. You might be able to spot an eagle perched in the nearby cottonwoods. Locals say early July evenings make for the best bird watching.

In addition to birds, you may spot muskrat, moose, or salmon swimming up Rabbit Creek to spawn. Turnoff at milepost S 117.6 to access the marsh.

Red-necked grebe. Photo by Becky Matsubara, Flickr.

Homer Spit

Drive down the Kenai Peninsula to Homer at the end of the Sterling Highway. Homer sits on the north shore of Kachemak Bay and is a hotspot in May for viewing migrating shorebirds. Nearly 100,000 birds migrate through the area each spring.

Throughout the summer the famous Homer Spit remains a worthwhile stop for shorebird and seabird viewing. Go further with a boat trip to Gull Island, a famous spot three miles off the tip of the spit that is home to 15,000 nesting birds. On that trip keep an eye out for red-faced cormorant, common murre, and tufted puffin.

Stop in the Island and Ocean Visitor Center for birding exhibits, bird viewing, and a chance to learn about the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. Visit kachemakbaybirders.org for more information on local birds and a birding checklist.

Kenai Fjords National Park

Head to the other side of the Kenai Peninsula for a boat trip into Resurrection Bay and a chance to view all the marine life in Kenai Fjords. In addition to scouting for whales and sea lion rookeries, many cruises into the bay will stop at bird colonies. The area is a great chance to see black oystercatchers, marbled murrelets, and horned puffins. More than 190 bird species live in Kenai Fjords.

Denali National Park

A golden eagle about to take flight
A golden eagle in Denali. NPS Photo / Kent Miller

It’s worth stopping in Denali on any Alaska birding tour that’s heading north from Anchorage. The park is of course a wildlife hotspot for all kinds of creatures, including birds. It provides a chance to see a golden eagle, northern goshawk, or gyrfalcon. Over 160 bird species call Denali home, according to the park service.

Fairbanks

The population center of interior Alaska has plenty of birding opportunities. Head to Creamer’s Field for migratory bird viewing in the spring and fall or for a sandhill crane festival in August. Creamer’s is an old dairy with wide open fields that attract migrating birds. The dairy went up for sale in 1966, and it is now an 2,200-acre refuge managed by the state. The refuge’s trails are a great place to see songbirds. Friends of Creamer’s Field staff provide guided tours during the summer.

On the south side of Fairbanks is the Tanana Lakes Recreation Area. The 750-acre area is a playground for swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, and birding. Wander the trails and watch for yellow-rumped warblers and ruby-crowned kinglets.

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