Bird Watching in and Around Nome
Bird watching in the Nome region is wonderful. With three distinct habitats (Ocean, wetlands, and high alpine tundra) the region is a haven for more than 150 migratory species. The three roads out of Nome allow the viewer to do much observation from a vehicle.
Resident birds year round include Willow Ptarmigan, Common Ravens, and Snow Buntings. During late fall through spring it is a terrific place to see McKay’s Buntings when they migrate to the mainland from the Bering Sea islands. It is during the advent of spring, as the ice and snow begin to melt, that the migration begins. Mid May to mid June is the prime time to observe the many species that will nest in the region or beyond. Then in mid-August the fall the migration south begins. This is a great time to see very large groups of Sandhill Cranes, Canada Geese, and Tundra Swans.
Tundra, small ponds and the Bering Sea surround Nome. Pacific and American Golden-Plovers, Parasitic Jaegers, Pacific and Red-throated Loons are not uncommon. On the power lines next to the road along the beach you’ll see Arctic Terns and occasionally the Aleutian Tern. Whimbrels, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Arctic Warblers, and Common Redpolls may also be seen.
Safety Sound & Council Road:
Much of this road follows the Bering Sea Coast at Safety Sound. The road is on an isthmus with the ocean to the south and the spectacular wetlands/estuary to the north. Emperor Geese, and Steller’s Eiders, Harlequin Ducks, Long-tailed Ducks, Arctic and Pacific Loons may be seen in this area. Many other shorebirds and waterfowl use the area for nesting. Several species of gulls abound such as the Glaucous gull, Herring/Vega Gulls, Mew Gulls and sometimes Slaty-backed gulls. The road ends at the Niukluk River at the small “town” of Council. Council and its environs are the only boreal forest on the Seward Peninsula. Boreal Chickadees, Northern Goshawks and owls have been viewed in the area.
Kougarok or Taylor Road:
As you leave Nome you head north. About 85 miles of good road awaits you as you gain elevation and drive through the Kigluaik Mountains. Look hard for the Bluethroat near Salmon Lake and Gyrfalcons, among others. Willow Ptarmigan, Northern Wheatear, both Pacific Golden-Plovers and American Golden-Plovers occur along this road. The elusive Bristled-thighed Curlew can often be found towards the end of this road.
Teller is the only village in the area connected by road. The drive is beautiful and birds abound: You can see Northern Wheatears, American Pipits, Horned Larks, Yellow Wagtail and Snow Buntings, American Golden-Plovers and Baird’s Sandpipers. With some luck you might view the Bluethroat, and in Teller itself, the White Wagtail. Rock out-croppings are common, look for Golden Eagles, Rough-legged Hawks and sometimes Gyrfalcon.
Nome is located just below the Arctic Circle; therefore, weather conditions can vary greatly. Layering your clothing is the best. A pair of long johns, comfortable walking shoes, light gloves and a stocking cap are a good idea. A T-shirt and sweater or good heavy shirt and a water/wind proof outer jacket will keep the occasional rain and wind off of you. Be Safe and Have Fun!!
GETTING TO THE BIRDS
Though there are several bird species that can be seen within walking distance of Nome, birding is definitely better out in the country. You can either rent a vehicle from Stampede Vehicle Rentals, located in the Aurora Inn (907-443-3838), or you could take a birding tour through one of the following companies:
*Nome Discovery Tours
Phone: (907) 443-2814
Cell: (907) 304-1453
RECORD YOUR SIGHTINGS: When you return from the field, please stop by the Visitors Center and share your bird sightings with us! To see a list of many of the wildlife sightings that have been recorded in Nome, please check out the following links!
- 2013 Wildlife/Bird Sightings
- 2012 Wildlife/Bird Sightings
- 2011 Wildlife/Bird Sightings
- 2010 Wildlife/Bird Sightings