7 of the Coolest Alaska Birds That You May See On a Birding Trip

Did you know that Alaska is home to over 470 bird species? Most are migratory, making their way to more southern and warmer areas when the weather gets cold. So while there are almost 500 species of birds in Alaska, you might have to get lucky to see the majority of them.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing though. For avid birdwatchers, part of the thrill is spotting the critters out in nature by chance. 

So if you're interested in heading north, read on to discover seven of the most amazing Alaska birds you can see on a birding trip!

1. Willow Ptarmigan

The willow ptarmigan is the state bird, meaning you can't do Alaska birding without crossing this one off your list. Thankfully, this won't be difficult to do, as it's relatively common.

This plump grouse is of a medium to large size, and is a ground-dweller. What's interesting is that its plumage changes throughout the year; while it's white in the winter (for camouflage), its feathers change to brown in the summer. Males will get different-colored feathers in to attract mates too.

For the best chances of seeing it on your Alaska birding trip, try hiking around Juneau or Denali National Park.

2. Bald Eagle

The bald eagle is the national bird of the US, so here's another must-view for Alaska birding. You can only find this raptor in North America, after all, and its population is mostly concentrated in this state. This means it'll be easy to spot one, whether it's soaring in the sky, sitting on a tree branch, or even swimming to hunt for fish.

Don't be surprised if a lot of the bald eagles you see aren't "bald." This is because they don't get their white, adult plumage until they're five years old.

One of the best ways to view these birds in Alaska is to visit in the summer. You'll find bald eagles at salmon runs along the Kenai River and Ketchikan. Or if you want to get up close and personal with them, go to the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka.

3. Trumpeter Swan

For native birds of Alaska, turn to the trumpeter swan. This large waterfowl looks almost identical to its cousin, the mute swan, but both its face and bill are black.

You might think there are many trumpeter swans around. However, what you're actually seeing is some of its other cousin, the tundra swan. These are also Alaska native birds, but the main difference is this: trumpeter swans have a deep call, and tundra swans have a higher one.

Go to any Alaskan lake or marsh, and you're certain to find trumpeter swans.

4. Puffins

Alaska is home to two puffins: the horned and tufted species. Both are adept swimmers that you'll spot darting around, looking for fish to snack on.

These puffins are squat, have both black and white plumage, and large triangular beaks. However, the way to tell them apart is to look for a black mark above each eye (horned puffin) or a tuft of feathers on the head and a long beak (tufted puffin).

Puffins make their homes in cliffs, and they're often in mixed colonies. Put Kenai Fjords National Park on your Alaska birding trip; you'll get two for the price of one here!

5. King Eider

Here's another one for those who want to observe the native birds of Alaska.

This weird yet beautiful duck has markings that are spectacularly unique. Its body is black and white, with a light pink breast, and its head is light gray and blue, with an orange and black patch above the beak. Do note that females have just black and brown plumage.

You'll need to go far up north in the state to see these Alaska native birds. Otherwise, visit the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward to observe these gorgeous ducks.

6. Spruce Grouse

The spruce grouse is a cute bird that people have nicknamed "fool's hen" and "stupid chicken" since it doesn't flee when predators come across it. It's on the smaller side with mainly white, black, and brown plumage. But males have a splash of red on their eyes (eyebrow comb), giving them a masked appearance.

As you may have guessed, spruce grouse has earned this name because it eats spruce needles. You'll find these ground-dwellers in the forests on the Kenai Peninsula, as well as south of Glacier Bay National Park.

7. Common Loon

Even though there are five species of loon in Alaska, we feel the one worth keeping an eye out for is the common loon. This aquatic bird has a striking appearance; it has a white breast, black wings with white dots, a black ring on the neck, and two white "necklaces" with small streaks. Most notably, this bird has piercing red eyes.

The common loon is a migratory bird, so you'll only catch them in Alaska's ponds and lakes during summertime. Otherwise, you'll have to head to the coast to watch them swim around.

How Many Alaska Birds Will You View?

These are but a few Alaska birds you can potentially observe on your trip. Even if you aren't a bird enthusiast, you won't be able to resist the excitement of spotting one in the wild.

The reality is, there are literally hundreds of other species waiting to be discovered by you, which will make an Alaskan tour unforgettable.

If you'd like to see these Alaska birds, then book an Alaska cruise with UnCruise Adventures now. You'll have an outstanding time viewing beautiful landscapes and wildlife.