Sitka/Birds

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Initial checklist based on Marge Ward and Marlys Tedin's records along with J. Dan Webster's 2005 manuscript on the birds of Sitka.

This checklist currently has 278 accepted species with an additional 17 considered unsubstantiated.

Documented and Reported Species

Species   Sp     Su     F     W     Br     Notes  


Emperor Goose (edit) + - - VR - Only a few records, though when they show up, they seem to stay for an extended period. Marge Ward noted that on the two different occasions she observed this species locally, it seemed as though one member of a small group was injured and/or sick, so she thought the others may have remained to stay with the unhealthy bird.
Snow Goose (edit) VR - R - - Probably an Uncommon migrant, though Very Rare on the ground along the road system. Best seen by carefully observing flocks of geese flying overhead during migration.

Despite the strong probability that these birds fly over Sitka in some numbers each year, they have rarely been reported. It is clear that they very rarely spend much, if any, time on the ground along the Sitka road system, though it is possible they may more often spend some down time at other locations in the greater Sitka area. They are probably under reported in flights due to poor conditions for observation of flocks that are flying high overhead and a failure to look carefully because of a default assumption that flocks of flying geese are the more common Canada Goose.

Greater White-fronted Goose (edit) U + U VR - Typically seen only during Spring and Fall migration. In spring, most often at most a few dozen birds are seen on the ground briefly over the period. Occasionally there are hundreds that spend more time. In the fall, non flyover sightings are less common and typically of fewer individuals, though some are present for days or weeks before moving on. Observations of this species through the winter are unusual. Accidental in summer, spring migrants are last observed the last week of May, with the earliest fall observations in late August.
Brant (edit) U R R VR - Found near shore in small numbers most years in spring. More common out in the sound.
Cackling Goose (edit) U - U VR - Occurence is uncertain due to recent split from Canada Goose and poor records of subspecies prior to split. Probably Uncommon in migration and Very Rare in Winter.
Canada Goose (edit) FC U FC U Y Canada Geese migrate over Sitka in large numbers. They are sometimes seen on the ground around town, though reports are usually not frequent and only for small numbers (relative to the large flocks seen flying in migration). It is expected that this species may be found on the ground more often and in greater abundance in Sitka area locations that are not on the road system.

Canada Geese are known to nest in the area, they are probably Uncommon breeders Pre-flight young have been observed on at least one occasion near the road system at Medvejie Lake.

Trumpeter Swan (edit) U VR U U - Uncommon Spring and Fall migrant. Formerly Rare Winter resident, now Uncommon or possibly Fairly Common Winter residents. Most likely to be found on the road system at Starrigavan, Swan Lake, or Herring Cove.

Based on past reports, it appears that Trumpeter Swans are being seen more frequently and in greater numbers throughout the winter. In recent years, birds have been reported in winter months at Swan Lake, Thimbleberry Lake, Baranof Warm Springs, Fish Bay, Silver Bay, and Starrigavan Bay. Some wintering swans seem to stay in a single location, while others move between salt water and freshwater or split their time between more than one bay.

Tundra Swan (edit) R - R VR - Apparently Rare or Very Rare, as there are few recent reports, though formerly it may have been more abundant based on more frequent reports. This species may be underreported due to similarity to Trumpeter Swans and an assumption that migrating flocks in flight are Trumpeter Swans (which are known to winter in the area).

Phil Mooney reported that they, as well as Trumpeter Swans, are not infrequently found wintering in the the area, though there are few sightings from the road system.

Wood Duck (edit) + + + + - First documentation in the area was a single molting female shot by a hunter in Fish Bay late September 2012. Along the road system a bird was documented on Swan Lake in mid-October 2013, a male at Indian River winter 2014-2015, and another male present at Swan Lake starting in Jan 2016, present through Summer 2017. Female on Swan Lake 8 Nov 2020.
Blue-winged Teal (edit) R VR VR - - Rare Migrant. Probably occurs in the area annually, but not reported every year along the road system. Best seen at Swan Lake, Totem Park, or Starrigavan Estuary.
Cinnamon Teal (edit) + + + + - Very Rare or Accidental in any season.
Northern Shoveler (edit) FC R U VR - Uncommon to Fairly Common migrant (Summer records are of late Spring migrants) Rare to Very Rare into Winter. Best seen along the road system at Starrigavan, Totem Park, or Swan Lake.
Gadwall (edit) R VR R R - Rare in all seasons except Summer when they are Very Rare. Best seen at Swan Lake, Starrigavan Estuary, or Totem Park.
Eurasian Wigeon (edit) R VR VR VR - Rare to Very Rare in migration and Winter. Most often seen mixed in with American Wigeons.
American Wigeon (edit) FC R FC U - Fairly Common migrant, Uncommon winter resident and Rare in summer. Best seen along the road system at Starrigavan, Totem Park, or Swan Lake.
Mallard (edit) C C C C Y Common in migration and through the winter. Fairly Common in summer in recent years (especially on Swan Lake), but may have been Uncommon previously. Best seen in summer at Swan Lake (where nesting occurs annually), also at Starrigavan and Totem Park. Resident population, especially at Swan Lake, probably includes descendants of released domestic birds.
Northern Pintail (edit) FC R U R Y Uncommon in Fall and Fairly Common Spring migrant, Rare winter resident and Rare to Very Rare in summer. Most easily seen along the road system at Starrigavan, Totem Park, or Swan Lake. Juveniles reported from Kadashan Bay on one occasion.
Green-winged Teal (edit) C R C R R Common in migration, Very Rare to Rare in summer, and Rare to Uncommon in Winter. Most easily observed at Starrigavan, Swan Lake, or Totem Park. May be more common away from town in the summer.
Canvasback (edit) VR - R R - Rare fall migrant that sometimes stays into the first part of winter. Best observed at Swan Lake
Redhead (edit) VR + VR VR - Very Rare during migration and winter.
Ring-necked Duck (edit) U VR U U  ? Uncommon in mirgration and winter. Rare in summer. Best seen at Swan Lake in late fall and winter prior to it freezing over.

Ring-necked Ducks are somewhat mysterious in the Sitka area. They are typically observed on Swan Lake whenever there is sufficient open water from late fall through the winter. However, unlike other ducks that also winter on the lake, they are almost never observed along the salt water shoreline when the lake is frozen. They have been observed on Indian River, so it seems likely that they utilize rivers when the lake is not available, however they are not frequently reported from there, even when the lake is frozen.

Greater Scaup (edit) C R C C VR Common in migration and through winter. Rare in summer. Best seen during winter in The Channel. Sometimes found in spring large numbers along shores where herring have recently spawned.
Lesser Scaup (edit) U - U R - Probably Uncommon in migration and through winter. May be under reported due to difficulty distinguishing from the more common Greater Scaup. Relative to Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup seems to prefer freshwater, especially later in spring. Best observed on Swan Lake from fall through spring when there is open water.
Steller's Eider (edit) - - + VR - Presumed Very Rare in Winter and Accidental in Fall in the Sitka area based on very limited reports.
Harlequin Duck (edit) C FC C C Y Common in migration and Winter. Rare to Uncommon along the road system in Summer. Fairly Commonly in some near shore locations away from road system in summer. Best observed between Crescent Harbor and Indian River and near the mouth of Granite Creek at Halibut Point Rec Area.
Surf Scoter (edit) FC FC C FC - Fairly Common along the road system in migration and through winter. Uncommon during the summer, though Fairly Common in nearshore locations away from town. Apparently less abundant locally in recent years. Easily observed from Totem Park Fall through Spring.
White-winged Scoter (edit) C FC C C - Uncommon in migration and through winter and Rare in summer along the road system. May be Fairly Common to Common in near shore locations away from the road system, though abundance seems to be reduced in recent years. Most easily observed from boat, often seen nearshore along Halibut Point Road.
Black Scoter (edit) U VR U R - Uncommon during migration, Rare in winter and Very Rare in summer along the road system. Sometimes seen in flocks of Surf Scoters. Best observed between Crescent Harbor and Totem Park or along Halibut Point Road, including HPR Recreation Area. Apparently formerly more abundant than in recent years.
Long-tailed Duck (edit) FC + U FC - Common in winter. Uncommon in migration, and Accidental in Summer. Most easily observed in The Channel through most of the winter.
Bufflehead (edit) FC + FC FC - Fairly Common from mid-October through April. Most often found on salt water, but in smaller numbers on freshwater. Most easily observed at the Airport lagoon, between Crescent Harbor and Totem Park, Swan Lake, and Starrigavan.
Common Goldeneye (edit) U R U U  ? Uncommon from late November through April and Accidental in Summer along the road system. Best seen at Totem Park or Starrigavan.
Barrow's Goldeneye (edit) C R C C VR Common from late October through April and Accidental in Summer along the road system. Most easily observed at Totem Park, Starrigavan, or the Airport Lagoon. Marge Ward reported seeing ducklings at Herring Cove.
Hooded Merganser (edit) U R U U VR Uncommon from late October through early April and Rare in Summer along the road system. Most easily observed at Swan Lake or Starrigavan.
Common Merganser (edit) C U C C U Common fall through spring and Uncommon in summer. Easily observed at Starrigavan and Totem Park.
Red-breasted Merganser (edit) U R U U  ? Uncommon November through April and Rare during Summer along the road system. Most easily seen at Totem Park,The Channel and Starrigavan.
Ruddy Duck (edit) + + - + - Three reports from Swan Lake, including two birds on 30 May 2012 with at least one staying into June.
Willow Ptarmigan (edit) U U U U U Probably Uncommon in appropriate habitat, though numbers vary. Likely under reported due to cryptic plumage and difficulty of access to habitat. Best chance for observing along the road system is Harbor Mountain Recreation Area. The best near-town observation opportunities are along Harbor-Gavan Trail or Mt. Verstovia Trail close to the tree line.
Rock Ptarmigan (edit) U U U U U Probably at least Uncommon in appropriate habitat. The alpine habitat preferred by this species is not accessible by road, and other access is difficult and/or expensive, so true abundance is not certain. Best seen near town on Bear Mountain. Collections have been made on Kruzof Island and Chichagof Island.
Sooty Grouse (edit) R R R R R Probably Very Rare along the road system and Rare to Uncommon in the area. May be under reported due to cryptic plumage and habits and a preference for locations not close to town. Reported along the road system from Starrigavan, Harbor Mountain Road, Thimbleberry Bay, and Totem Park. Apparently formerly more abundant.
Pied-billed Grebe (edit) R + R VR + Rare to Very Rare Fall through Spring, Accidental in Summer. Swan Lake is the best location to see them along the road system.

Infrequently seen along the road system, when a Pied-billed Grebe does occur, it seems to stay for several weeks. These birds effectively blend in to their preferred surroundings in their winter plumage, and can be difficult to spot. Given a preference for freshwater habitat, it does not seem unlikely that these birds show up in the Sitka area many years, though perhaps not on Swan Lake, where they are most likely to be observed and reported.

Horned Grebe (edit) FC VR FC FC - Uncommon fall through early spring along the road system. Very Rare in Summer. Probably Fairly Common in the area. On the road system, best seen along Halibut Point Road or at Starrigavan.
Red-necked Grebe (edit) FC R FC FC - Uncommon along the road system from October through April. Very Rare in summer. Probably Fairly Common in the area fall through spring. Best observed between Crescent Harbor and Totem Park, Eliason Harbor, and along Halibut Point Road to Starrigavan.
Western Grebe (edit) - VR R R - Very Rare in winter on the road system. Probably Rare in the area. Best seen along Halibut Point Road.
Rock Pigeon (edit) U U U U Y Common in downtown Sitka through all seasons. Not observed off the road system.
Band-tailed Pigeon (edit) - - + - - Two Fall 2015 records (C. Goff, photos) from 15 October [1] and 8 November [2].
Eurasian Collared-Dove (edit) U U U U  ? Uncommon along the road system. Also reported from outlying communities or remote living sites.
Mourning Dove (edit) VR + R + - Most often reported in the fall, typically around open disturbed areas in town. One summer report from 4 July 2020 at old airport road (Cathy and Eric Parker, photos)
Common Cuckoo (edit) - + - - - A single bird found and photographed on Harbor Mountain near the picnic area 9-13 June 2015.
Common Nighthawk (edit) - + + - - Probably best considered accidental vagrants in summer and early fall. One found dead in Totem Park (date?); at least two other reports (June and August) of one being heard.
Vaux's Swift (edit) + - + - - Two or three reports from the road system. A small flock was observed flying overhead at Starrigavan 2 September 2015, and single birds in spring 2016. At least a couple of old (early 1900s) reports from the east side of Baranof Island suggest they may be more common during fall migration in that area.
Anna's Hummingbird (edit) VR VR VR VR - Very Rare in all seasons, though in recent years seems to be most often found in late Fall into early winter (if feeders are accessible to it).
Rufous Hummingbird (edit) FC FC U + C Typically arrives in early April with most departing by late August. Late fall and winter stragglers have been reported, but most sightings in that season are of Anna's Hummingbird.
Virginia Rail (edit) - - - + - Accidental winter. One observed for several minutes at Starrigavan Estuary by Jen Cedarleaf and Kim Middleton, 1 January 2006.
Sora (edit) - - + + - Accidental in fall and winter in the area. Not reported along the road system.
American Coot (edit) VR + U R - Uncommon in fall, Rare in winter, occasionally remaining through spring. Accidental in summer.
Sandhill Crane (edit) R R R VR Y Very Rare fall, winter, and spring along the road system. Rare in the area spring through fall. Most often observed in the area on Kruzof Island, where birds at least occasionally nest.
Black Oystercatcher (edit) FC FC FC U FC
Black-bellied Plover (edit) FC - U + - Uncommon to Fairly Common spring migrant, Rare in fall and accidental in winter. Year-to-year abundance is quite variable along the road system. Best seen at Totem Park, the Turnaround, Halibut Point Recreation Area, or Starrigavan.
American Golden-Plover (edit) VR - VR - - Overall abundance in the area is unclear, but seems likely that they do not show up most years. Very few reports from the road system. Only one recent fall report, a single bird calling (recording) from Starrigavan Ridge (August 2020).
Pacific Golden-Plover (edit) R - R + - Very Rare to Rare migrant on the road system. Probably a Rare migrant in the area. Seems to be less common during fall migration. Best observed at Totem Park. A single winter record from the airport 29 Dec 2020 (photo).
Killdeer (edit) R VR R + - Probably Rare in migration (though not reported every year). Very Rare in summer, and Accidental in Winter. Reported from Alice Island, Japonski Island, Totem Park, the golf course, and Starrigavan.
Semipalmated Plover (edit) FC R U - - Fairly Common in May, Uncommon in August on the road system. Abundance is somewhat variable from year to year. May be more common in better habitat that is available off the road system. Best seen at Totem Park, the Turnaround, Halibut Point Recreation Area, or Starrigavan.
Upland Sandpiper (edit) + - + - - Very few reports. Most recently from Gavan Ridge in the fall.
Whimbrel (edit) FC R VR - - Fairly Common spring migrant, with stragglers lingering into summer. Not reported most years in the fall, though may be present more often off the road system.
Hudsonian Godwit (edit) R - - - - Probably a Rare spring migrant that moves through in small numbers and does not often stick around for long. Not reported every year.
Marbled Godwit (edit) U - VR - - Regularly found in Spring in small to moderate numbers. A handful of fall reports.
Ruddy Turnstone (edit) R - VR + Rare spring migrant and Very Rare in fall. Accidental in winter. Apparently more abundant in the 1980s as compared to late 1990's through present.
Black Turnstone (edit) C U C FC - Fairly Common to Common from late July through mid-May. Best seen at Totem Park, Halibut Point Rec, or Starrigavan.
Red Knot (edit) U - - - - Very Rare along the road system where it is most often observed at Totem Park in spring, this species seems to prefer the outer coast where it has been observed on Vitskari Rocks and Low Island, and is probably present elsewhere in similar habitat. No fall records.
Surfbird (edit) C R FC U - Common spring migrant. Rare in summer as early fall migrants return. Fairly Common in fall and Uncommon through winter, with numbers variable from year to year. Easily found along rocky shorelines and tideflats, often in mixed flocks with Black Turnstone.
Ruff (edit) + - - - - Accidental with a single spring record.
Stilt Sandpiper (edit) + - VR - - Very Rare migrant. Not reported most years, but occasionally multiple birds are found.
Sanderling (edit) U R U VR - Uncommon migrant - more often found along the outer coast. Not reported on the road system every year.
Dunlin (edit) C - R VR - Common between mid-April and mid-May most years. Rarely reported from the road system at other times.
Rock Sandpiper (edit) U + R R - Uncommon from mid-April to mid-May. Rare in Fall and Winter. Summer records are of early Fall migrants.
Baird's Sandpiper (edit) VR - + - - Very Rare spring migrant, accidental in fall.
Least Sandpiper (edit) FC U U - - Fairly Common spring migrant, Uncommon fall migrant. First fall migrants are seen in July. Best seen at Totem Park, the Turnaround, or Starrigavan.
Buff-breasted Sandpiper (edit) - - + - - Three August reports, 15 August 1866 (collection), 25 August 2002 (Ward and Tedin), and 29 August 2020 (photos)
Pectoral Sandpiper (edit) U + R - - Irregular in abundance. Typically found in at least small numbers during Spring migration, occasionally abundant. Less often found during Fall migration.
Semipalmated Sandpiper (edit) R VR R - - Few reports from the road system. Probably Rare in the area during Spring and Fall migration (with southbound migrants sometimes seen in late summer).
Western Sandpiper (edit) C U U + - Common spring migrant. Southbound migration starts mid-summer and extends into fall, with fewer numbers than in spring.
Short-billed Dowitcher (edit) FC R U - - Fairly common in spring and uncommon in the fall. Found primarily on beach flats, and occasionally on large grassy areas. Best seen at Totem Park, the Turnaround or Starrigavan.
Long-billed Dowitcher (edit) R + R - Difficult to distinguish from the more common Short-billed Dowitcher, this species probably Rare in migration, though slightly more likely to be found in spring.
Wilson's Snipe (edit) FC R FC R - Fairly Common in migration when they can be found in open wet areas. Most winters one or more are observed at times throughout.
Spotted Sandpiper (edit) FC U FC VR U Fairly Common migrant and Uncommon breeder in the area. Breeding birds are most commonly found along lakeshores and larger rivers in the area.
Solitary Sandpiper (edit) VR VR VR - - May be Rare in the area, but few reports from the road system, especially in recent years.
Wandering Tattler (edit) U R U - - Uncommon in migration, with late spring and early fall migrants showing up during the summer season. Most often found along rocky shorelines. Along the road system the south area of Halibut Point Recreation Area is where they are most consistently observed.
Lesser Yellowlegs (edit) U R U - - Uncommon to Fairly Common migrant with migrations overlapping the summer season. Most easily found at Starrigavan or Totem Park.
Greater Yellowlegs (edit) FC U FC - U Fairly Common migrant and Uncommon or Rare breeder. Breeding does not typically occur along the road system but has been observed on Kruzof Island.
Red-necked Phalarope (edit) R U FC - - Mostly easily seen from the road system in August into early September. Not typically seen along the road system in spring. Southbound migrants show up on Sitka Sound in July.
Red Phalarope (edit) - - VR - - Very Rare along the road system and near shore waters, where there are few reports. May be more common offshore during migration.
South Polar Skua (edit) - VR  ? - C Only expected off-shore where there are few observers.
Pomarine Jaeger (edit)
Parasitic Jaeger (edit) U  ? U - - Probably Uncommon during migration (and perhaps in Summer) in the outer part of the sound and offshore. Very Rare along the road system.
Long-tailed Jaeger (edit) R  ? R - - Not reported from the road system. Probably regular offshore (and possibly in the sound) in small numbers during migration.
Common Murre (edit) C C C C Y Common breeder on St. Lazaria. Can be abundant in inshore waters during the winter. Most easily observed from the road system at Silver Bay during the winter, and Eastern Channel (from Whale Park) year round.
Thick-billed Murre (edit) R U U R Y Nests in fair numbers on St. Lazaria, but not often reported from inshore waters. Appears to be rare in Winter when individuals are occasionally found amongst the much more abundant Common Murres.
Pigeon Guillemot (edit) FC FC FC U Y Rarely seen from the road system. Probably Fairly Common in Sitka Sound (especially near St. Lazaria where they nest) spring through fall, and Uncommon in winter.
Marbled Murrelet (edit) C C C C C One of the most common birds on the water. It's not unusual to see these birds not far off from almost shoreline along the road system.
Kittlitz's Murrelet (edit)
Ancient Murrelet (edit) R U R R Y Most easily observed between Vitskari and St. Lazaria in late May and early June. After chicks hatch, families disperse and are present in the area, but infrequently reported.
Cassin's Auklet (edit) -  ? R VR - Apparently they can be quite common offshore in the summer months, but infrequently seen in Sitka Sound, mostly in the fall.
Parakeet Auklet (edit)
Rhinoceros Auklet (edit) FC C C R Y Fairly Common to Common spring through fall in the area. Rare in winter. Best seen on the road system from Whale Park during the summer.
Horned Puffin (edit) R U U R Y Uncommon in the Sitka area during summer and early fall, presumed Rare in other seasons. Very Rare along the road system in winter. Best seen between St. Lazaria and Sitka Point during summer or early fall (requires boat).
Tufted Puffin (edit) VR FC U VR Y
Black-legged Kittiwake (edit) FC FC C VR - Along the road system and/or close to shore, Very Rare in winter, Fairly Common Spring through Fall. More common in deeper water.
Ivory Gull (edit) - - + - - Kessel and Gibson (1979) reported that Wertheimer saw an adult at Little Port Walter in November 1975.
Sabine's Gull (edit)
Bonaparte's Gull (edit) U R U - - Most often found in spring, but not in large numbers. Seems to be much more abundant on the east side of Baranof Island.
Franklin's Gull (edit) + - - - - Two reports from the road system, one on the flats at Totem Park 30 April 2007 and a second from 12-23 May 2015 in the Channel and at Totem Park. An additional report came from Port Armstrong early May 2015 (possibly same bird as seen in Sitka?)
Heermann's Gull (edit) - - + - - Only a couple of reports; September 1996 and August 1999.
Mew Gull (edit) C FC C C Y Easily the most common of the smaller gulls. Most easily observed on loafing on tide flats. Occasionally seen at lakes, most often in the summer.
Ring-billed Gull (edit) - + + VR - Few reports. May be present more frequently than indicated, but almost certainly no more than Rare in any season.
Western Gull (edit) VR + + - - Reported in several springs of the 2010s. One early June report (photos). Accidental in Fall.
California Gull (edit) R R R - - Probably more abundant than reports suggest. Likely to be Rare spring through fall.
Herring Gull (edit) U U U R Uncommon Spring through Fall. Rare to Very Rare in Winter. Many winter reports of Herring Gull are probably mis-identified Thayer's Gulls or Herring x Glaucous-winged Gull hybrids.
Iceland Gull (edit) C VR C C - Common fall through spring. Very Rare in summer.
Slaty-backed Gull (edit) VR - VR VR - Very Rare in Spring, Accidental in Fall and Winter. All reports are since January 2006.
Glaucous-winged Gull (edit) C C C C Y
Glaucous Gull (edit) R VR R R - Rare in winter with individuals being observed most years. Also present in migration mixed in with the large flocks of migrating gulls.
Caspian Tern (edit) R R R - - Observations are Rare to Very Rare along the road system, but they may occur annually during migration spring through fall. Most frequently observed along the road system at Totem Park, though typically in small numbers for no more than a day or two. Also reported from other near-shore waters in the area as well as off-shore.
Arctic Tern (edit) R R VR - - Very Rare migrant along the road system. Probably Rare or Uncommon migrant off-shore in Spring into early Summer (based on a few reports).
Red-throated Loon (edit) U U U U Y Rare along the road system fall through spring, and Very Rare in Summer. May be Uncommon in near shore locations away from town. Best seen at Starrigavan or from Whale Park. Nests on lakes in the area, with reports from the early 1900s of nesting on Swan Lake.
Pacific Loon (edit) C VR FC C - Fairly common winter resident. Not typically seen along the road system in summer. Best viewing locations in town are Eliason Harbor, The Channel, Whale Park, and Starrigavan Bay. Can occur in aggregations of several hundred.

Pacific Loons seem to show up in Sitka area waters before they are typically seen from the road. Throughout the winter it is not unusual to see several feeding in the channel or harbors around Sitka.

It’s not clear to me why Pacific Loons (as well as Common Loons) would show up in the waters away from town before they are seen in town. Nor why they (apparently, I still need to confirm this) are seen in the area waters through the summer, but rarely, if ever, are seen from the road system. It seems unlikely that they are breeding here, so presumably any summer birds are non-breeding (hatched the previous year?) birds. As far as I can tell, they prefer near-shore environments, and I am not sure what differences would make the off-road system shoreline so much more appealing, but not in winter.

Common Loon (edit) FC U FC FC U Fairly Common winter resident that arrives mid-Fall and leaves in late Spring. Breeds in the Sitka area, though very rarely seen along road system in Summer. Best viewed during winter months at Eliason Harbor, The Channel, and Starrigavan.
Yellow-billed Loon (edit) R VR R R - Rare to Very Rare fall through spring along the road system. Accidental in summer. May be more common in near-shore locations off the road system.
Laysan Albatross (edit) R R R - - Pelagic bird. Presumed to be at least Rare along the continental shelf. Occasionally comes closer to land, and has been reported within a mile of the outer coast. Abundance throughout winter season is uncertain, but they have been reported by fisherman (fide KLJ) by late February at the mouth of Sitka Sound.
Black-footed Albatross (edit) FC FC FC - - Accidental along the road system. Reports were from the harbor area, so it's likely the birds came in aboard vessels that had been off-shore. Fairly Common on the continental shelf in summer, they are occasionally observed just inside Sitka Sound. Fisherman report seeing them routinely within 3 or 4 miles of Cape Edgecumbe during the summer season.
Short-tailed Albatross (edit) VR VR  ? - - Pelagic species presumed Very Rare to Rare off-shore in late spring and summer.
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel (edit) C C C R Y Rare to Uncommon along the road system in Fall. Although abundant breeders on St. Lazaria, they spend much of their time well off-shore and are not frequently seen. Best seen from the road system during or just after stormy weather in October and November. At these times, if present, they are typically seen in The Channel, Crescent Bay or the mouth of Silver Bay.
Leach's Storm-Petrel (edit)  ? C C  ? C Abundant breeder at St. Lazaria, not typically observed. Presumably foraging occurs well off-shore and approach to nests on land occurs at night. Most easily observed during fall at locations near the waterfront with bright lights at night, such as Moller Park.
Northern Fulmar (edit) FC FC FC FC - Pelagic species that is presumed to be Fairly Common to Common offshore.
Mottled Petrel (edit) R R R - - Pelagic species presumed to be Rare spring, summer, and fall.
Buller's Shearwater (edit) R R R - - Pelagic species probably Rare along the continental shelf.
Short-tailed Shearwater (edit) R R R - - Pelagic species that is presumed Rare off-shore spring through fall. Occasionally seen in Sitka Sound.
Sooty Shearwater (edit) C C C - - Pelagic species Common off-shore spring through fall - occasionally in huge numbers. Sometimes seen in Sitka Sound.
Pink-footed Shearwater (edit) R R R - - Probably no more than Rare in the area.
Manx Shearwater (edit) VR VR VR - - Several reports since 2006 suggest this species may be increasing in abundance, and may be Rare.
Brown Booby (edit) - - + - - Accidental in Sitka Sound and offshore. Two have come into town on fishing boats, 30 October 2014, and 2 November 2018.
Brandt's Cormorant (edit) VR R - -  ? Apparently Rare in the area during summer, there are no reports from the road system.

There is some question about the reports of Brandt's Cormorant in the Sitka area. In particular, the St. Lazaria nesting reports have been questions, as no other observers have reported nesting Brandt's Cormorants on the island, despite nearly two decades of summer-long observations of nesting birds starting in the mid-1990s.

Red-faced Cormorant (edit) - - - + - Casual in Winter.
Pelagic Cormorant (edit) C C C C U Fairly Common fall through winter and Rare to Uncommon in summer along the road system. Common all year in the area, with nesting often occuring on St. Lazaria Island. Relatively easy to find near any shore along the road system, but good viewing opportunities occur especially in The Channel and at Eliason Harbor.
Double-crested Cormorant (edit) FC U FC U  ? Fairly Common late September through early May and Very Rare to Rare in summer along the road system. Often seen near most any shoreline, probably most easily observed in The Channel or from Crescent Harbor to the mouth of Indian River in Totem Park. Occasionally seen at Swan Lake.
Great Blue Heron (edit) FC FC FC FC Y Fairly Common throughout the year. May show up along most any fresh or salt water shore-lines or perched in trees, but most easily observed at Totem Park or Starrigavan Estuary when the tide is out.
Great Egret (edit) -  ?  ?  ? - Accidental with at least one report.
Cattle Egret (edit) - - + + - Accidental in late fall and early winter. With reports from November 1985, December 1986, and November 1993.
Osprey (edit) R VR R - Y Very Rare to Rare in migration, Very Rare in summer. Probably a few move through in migration each year, but they are not often reported. Nesting reported from Silver Bay in the early 1900s, with summer reports from Goddard suggestive of possible breeding in the early 1980s.
Golden Eagle (edit) VR + VR VR + Very Rare to Rare in migration and winter. May be under reported due to similarity in appearance to the much more common juvenile Bald Eagles. A nesting pair was found at Blue Lake in June 2018.
Northern Harrier (edit) R + R - - Rare during migration. Probably a few move through each year, but spend little time in areas where they are likely to be observed. Best seen on the road system in the vicinity of the airport, at Totem Park or Starrigavan.
Sharp-shinned Hawk (edit) R R U R Y Uncommon in Fall and Rare to Uncommon at other times. In fall and winter, first year birds are most commonly seen. Best seen where small birds that make up prey are gathered, they will sometimes frequent feeders.
Northern Goshawk (edit) R R R R Y Rare to Uncommon in all seasons. May be under reported due to stealthy habits. Best seen at Totem Park tide flats or Starrigavan Estuary.
Bald Eagle (edit) C C C C C Common and easily found in all seasons, but can be especially abundant during late spring and early summer near The Channel.
Swainson's Hawk (edit) + - - - - A single record (C. Goff, photo) from 3 May 2017 [3].
Red-tailed Hawk (edit) U R U R Y Uncommon in migration, Rare summer and winter.
Rough-legged Hawk (edit) R + R VR - Rare in migration and Very Rare in winter.
Western Screech-Owl (edit) U U U U Y The most commonly reported owl in the area. Most often heard at night, with calls reported from all seasons.
Great Horned Owl (edit)
Snowy Owl (edit) - - VR VR - Many years at least one Snowy Owl is reported in late fall or early winter. They do not usually stay and/or survive for long. Most frequently observed at the airport.
Northern Hawk Owl (edit)
Northern Pygmy-Owl (edit) R R R R  ? Few reports of this species, though it is likely that they are regularly in the area in small numbers.
Barred Owl (edit) - - - + - Accidental in winter at Starrigavan.
Great Gray Owl (edit) - - - + - Only a couple of reports.
Short-eared Owl (edit) R - R VR - Probably migrates through in small numbers every year. Prefers open country, which is limited around Sitka. Most often reported from the airport, but also has been found at Starrigavan and Totem Park.
Boreal Owl (edit) - - + + - Very few reports, all from fall or winter.
Northern Saw-whet Owl (edit) VR VR VR VR  ? Very Rare to Rare with only a few records (including calls) over the years.
Belted Kingfisher (edit) U U U U Y Never abundant, but usually easy to find in all seasons, especially along salt water shorelines.
Red-breasted Sapsucker (edit) FC FC FC U FC Fairly Common spring through Fall. Probably Uncommon in winter when birds often move up in elevation (and so are not often reported) but return to lower elevations during periods of cold weather.
American Three-toed Woodpecker (edit) VR VR VR VR Y Few reports along the road system where preferred habitat (open scrubby forest) is not common. May be Rare in the broader area where preferred habitat is found such as near Goddard Hot Springs and further south on Baranof Island as well as on Kruzof Island.
Black-backed Woodpecker (edit) - - + -  ? Accidental in fall along the road system. Probably Very Rare at most in the area.
Downy Woodpecker (edit) R R R R  ? Found sporadically in any season. Breeding status is uncertain.
Hairy Woodpecker (edit) U U U U U Uncommon in all seasons.
Northern Flicker (edit) U R U R Y Most common in migration, but also found in smaller numbers at other times. Most observed birds appear to be intermediate between red-shafted and yellow-shafted, though typically closer to red-shafted in appearance.
American Kestrel (edit) VR - VR + - Very Rare to Rare in migration and winter.
Merlin (edit) R R U R R Probably Rare in all seasons. Best observed at Alice Island, Totem Park, or near nesting sites which occasionally are found along the road system.

Recent nesting reports include Harris Island in 2003 or 2004 reported by Floyd Tompkins, and in the forests above Edgecumbe Drive reported by Scott MacArthur in the early 2000s.

Gyrfalcon (edit) - -  ? + - At least one second-hand report from the 80s. Additional more recent reports have been made, but not well documented, so it's plausible this species is Very Rare in fall and winter. A recently deceased juvenile was found 2 December 2020.
Peregrine Falcon (edit) U U U VR Y Rare spring through fall along the road system. Accidental in winter. Probably can be considered Uncommon in summer in the area, though abundance in other seasons is not clear. In recent years has nested many summers (though not always succesfully) on St. Lazaria Island.
Tropical Kingbird (edit) - - + - - A single report from 16th-?? October 2016
Western Kingbird (edit) - + + - - A handful of reports from the road system: 25 August 1984 (Starrigavan Campground, Ward/Tedin) 23 June (SMC, Ward/Tedin) and 22 Sept 1991 (Ward/Tedin). 7-17 October 2020. 6 August 2012, one was reported in Patterson Bay on eastern Baranof Island (JRG, photo).
Eastern Kingbird (edit) - + - - - Two reports from the road system; 19 July 2008 at Indian River Estuary (Ward/Tedin), 18 June 2015 (Airport - HAB). Two reports from St. Lazaria Island, 2 July 2010, and 20 June 2014.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (edit) - + - - - A single documented report from Kruzof Island (near Liesnoi Island) 19 June 2014.
Olive-sided Flycatcher (edit) VR VR VR -  ? Only a few records from spring through fall.
Western Wood-Pewee (edit) + + VR - - Several fall records in the past decade+, one recent spring report (2020, Galankin Island), and one recent summer report (July 2020, Starrigavan Estuary); Marge and Tedin's records showed two late May records in the 80s, as well as a pair of reports from the same July in the late 1980s.
Alder Flycatcher (edit) - VR VR - - Very Rare along the road system in summer and fall. May be rare on Chichagof Island.
Pacific-slope Flycatcher (edit) U C U - Y Usually arriving the second half of May, but June they are common in preferred nesting habitat. Uncommon by August, and few birds are seen after the end of August.
Say's Phoebe (edit)
Brown Shrike (edit)
Northern Shrike (edit) - - VR VR - Scattered reports in Fall and Winter.
Warbling Vireo (edit) + VR VR - - One spring report (May 2020 near Mormon Church). At least two summer reports from close to town. Observed (audio recording) June 2012 at start of Indian River Trail, Also a July report in the early 1980s. A handful of fall records across several years. Also one June observation from 2013 at Rust Lake (heard).
Steller's Jay (edit) FC FC FC U Y Uncommon to fairly common along the road system, the distribution of this species seems somewhat patchy.
Clark's Nutcracker (edit) + - + - - No recent reports. Webster reported seeing one March-April 1933, and there is a collection reportedly made in 1869 (specific locale?)
Black-billed Magpie (edit) + - VR VR - Very Rare late fall and winter, sporadic reports from the road system, with occasional birds spending the winter and into spring.
American Crow (edit) C C C C Y Common, especially along shoreline and tideflats where they can frequently be seen foraging.
Common Raven (edit) C C C C Y Common from sea level to alpine in all seasons.
Horned Lark (edit) VR - VR + - Very Rare in migration. May be Rare off the road system due to better habitat.
Bank Swallow (edit) R R  ? - - Infrequently reported. Probably Very Rare to Rare in migration (into June).
Tree Swallow (edit) FC FC U - FC Arriving by the second week of April and Common by late spring through Summer. Uncommon in early Fall, with relatively few reports after August. They routinely nest in utility pole holes excavated by Red-breasted Sapsuckers and also have been known to use nest boxes. Most easily observed at Swan Lake.
Violet-green Swallow (edit)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (edit) VR + - - - Few reports - one from near Goddard by Webster and Hanson 24 May 1985. At Swan Lake, one bird 8 May 2012 (LPP) and two 5-11 May 2019 (CPFG, seen by several - photos). One at Starrigavan early July 2016 (LPP)
Barn Swallow (edit) U U U - Y Uncommon to Fairly Common May through August. Best observed along the road system at Japonski Island and Starrigavan.
Cliff Swallow (edit) VR + - - - Few reports. May move through area in small numbers annually and be overlooked. Best chance to see is at Swan Lake in spring.
Black-capped Chickadee (edit)
Mountain Chickadee (edit)
Chestnut-backed Chickadee (edit) C C C C C
Red-breasted Nuthatch (edit) R VR R VR + Very Rare to Rare on the road system. Irregular in numbers. Most often seen during Fall migration. Best observed in forested areas or at feeders.
Brown Creeper (edit) U U U U Y Uncommon to Fairly Common year-round resident. Has been observed building a nest under hanging bark slab on snag at Starrigavan.
Pacific Wren (edit) C C C U Y
American Dipper (edit) FC FC FC FC FC Fairly Common resident. Less often seen on the road system during summer after they move upstream to breed. Seen on most rocky swift moving streams. Totem Park, Granite Creek, and Starrigavan are particularly good locations for viewing along the road system in winter. In other seasons, Indian River Trail offers the best chance of finding them.
Golden-crowned Kinglet (edit) C C C C Y Most often common in all seasons, however abundance can vary, and in some years they have been nearly absent. Mostly easily observed in coniferous forest.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (edit) C C FC R Y Typically arriving by the last week of March, they are common through the summer and into Fall. Most winter stragglers are gone by the end of December, but in some years they have stayed through the winter.
Northern Wheatear (edit) + - - - - Single report from base of O'Connell Bridge 3 May 2010.
Mountain Bluebird (edit) + - + + -
Townsend's Solitaire (edit) + + VR VR - Casual in spring and summer, very rare in fall with only a few reports. Reports include Old Sitka in early May 2007, along Indian River Trail in early June 2008, and a few fall (mostly November) records. There are two January reports, most recently an individual found and photographed 15 Jan 2020. (A person in the neighborhood where it was observed mentioned the bird had been around for some time, and had been present the previous winter as well.)
Gray-cheeked Thrush (edit)
Swainson's Thrush (edit) U C U - Y Usually arrives by the fourth week of May and starts singing a few days later. Reports drop off quickly after mid-August.
Hermit Thrush (edit) C C C VR Y Common breeder from sea level to the tree line. Spring migrants typically arrive within a few days either side of the first of May. Lingering individuals are seen into December many years.
Dusky Thrush (edit) - - - + - A single first year bird was found at Crescent Harbor, December 1st, 2017. It was feeding on rose hips and mt. ash berries.
American Robin (edit) C C C U C Common breeder in open and edge habitats, as well as around town. Winter numbers vary from month to month as well as between years.
Varied Thrush (edit) C C C FC Y Generally Common or Fairly Common with lowest numbers generally in the winter. However abundance can vary significantly from year to year.
Gray Catbird (edit) - + + - - A single bird was observed along Green Lake Road just beyond Herring Cove during a breeding bird survey in June 2010(?), it was re-found and recorded later that day (or the next). Video was captured of a Gray Catbird on Lake Street September 7, 2018.
Northern Mockingbird (edit) - + + + - At least three occurrences. A couple of early 1990s records. In September 2014, found in the area between Kaagwaantaan Street and Tlinget Way where it remained until early January 2015.
European Starling (edit) FC FC FC FC Y Almost exclusively observed along the road system, where they are fairly common (abundance varying somewhat by neighborhood).
Bohemian Waxwing (edit) + + R R  ? Rare in late Fall and Winter. Variable in abundance, they usually show up during cold weather and feed on European Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia) fruit. There are some summer or early fall reports, though Cedar Waxwings would be the expected species in those seasons (and given the lack of historical reports of that species, there could be an issue of mis-identification).
Cedar Waxwing (edit) - R R VR Y In recent years a Rare summer breeder with adults and fledglings present into early fall. Few winter records, with some possibly due to confusion with Bohemian Waxwing a much more common species in winter.
American Pipit (edit) U U U VR U During migration found on lawns and tide flats. In summer mostly absent from low elevations, but can be found in the alpine.
Brambling (edit) - - + + - Casual in fall and winter, with a handful of reports. In the 2000s, one was present 27 Nov-3 Dec 2015 (found by E. Parker). One was found by (K. Johnson) 5 Nov 2020.
Evening Grosbeak (edit)
Pine Grosbeak (edit) R R U U  ? Most often seen in winter. Possible breeder in brush and forest near treeline
Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch (edit) VR R R VR Y Very Rare in Winter, Accidental in Fall along the road system. Presumed Rare to Uncommon in preferred alpine habitats.
Purple Finch (edit) + - + + - A handful of records from fall and winter. The first (with photos) December 2014. In starting in November 2017 through March 2018, as many as three birds were seen. A mid-May 2019 sighting (found by D. Turley) is the only spring report. One was found 5 November 2020 (by K. Johnson).
Common Redpoll (edit) + - - R - Absent or rare most years winter, but occasionally abundant. Abundance seems to depend primarily on winter conditions.
Hoary Redpoll (edit) - - - VR - Very Rare in winter.
Red Crossbill (edit) Ir Ir Ir Ir FC Irregular in all seasons from absent to abundant.
White-winged Crossbill (edit) R R R R  ? Irregular, but most often absent or rare in all seasons.
Pine Siskin (edit) FC FC FC FC Y Irregular in abundance from absent to abundant, but usually Fairly Common.
Lapland Longspur (edit) R - U VR - Not reported every year, most years when reported only small numbers are found over a few days. Seem to be uncommon in the fall, primarily in alpine habitats. May be more common in preferred open habitats not easily accessible from the road system.
Snow Bunting (edit) + - R R - Rare in Fall and Winter, occasionally staying into Spring. Not often reported away from the airport, where small numbers are observed most years. Probably occur in other preferred habitats (not found along the road system) in the general area in similar numbers.
Rustic Bunting (edit) - - + + - A single bird found by Eric and Cathy Parker at their feeding station, 3 November 2018, present into early January 2019.
Lark Sparrow (edit) - - + - - Single fall report.
Chipping Sparrow (edit) - + R VR - Accidental in Summer, Rare in Fall, and Very Rare in winter.
Fox Sparrow (edit) FC FC FC R FC Fairly Common Spring, Summer, and Fall. Rare in winter.
American Tree Sparrow (edit) + + R R - Rare Fall migrant with small numbers wintering in many years, Accidental or Very Rare in other seasons. Most likely to be seen at Moller Field, Japonski/Alice Island, or at feeders.
Dark-eyed Junco (edit) C C C C C Common in all seasons. Slate-colored Dark-eyed Juncos are Rare in the Fall and Winter.
White-crowned Sparrow (edit) U VR U R - Uncommon migrant, Rare in winter. Absent from road system in summer, though may be present elsewhere in the area (June report from Red Bluff Bay).
Golden-crowned Sparrow (edit) FC - FC R - Fairly Common to Common migrant. Rare in winter.
Harris's Sparrow (edit) VR - VR VR - Not present most years. Most reports are from fall vagrants that over winter.
White-throated Sparrow (edit) VR - VR VR - Not present most years. Fall birds often overwinter into spring.
LeConte's Sparrow (edit) - - + - - A single October record from Totem Park (2018-10-13, C. Goff, photos [4])
Savannah Sparrow (edit) C R C VR R Common in Spring and Fall migration. Very Rare in Winter. Rare in Summer along the road system; they are primarily found at the airport (where they presumably nest) in the vegetated margins of the runway.
Song Sparrow (edit) C C C C C Common in all seasons. Most easily observed along shorelines and shrubby patches in residential areas.
Lincoln's Sparrow (edit) FC FC U R FC Fairly Common May through September. Tapering off from Uncommon to Rare later in fall into winter. (They have been wintering in small numbers since around 2011.)
Swamp Sparrow (edit) - - VR VR - Probably Very Rare in late Fall into Winter. Few reports, but easily overlooked.
Spotted Towhee (edit) - - - + - A single bird on Galankin Island December 2016 is the only record.
Yellow-headed Blackbird (edit) - - + - - One fall record from Starrigavan (with photo documentation).
Bobolink (edit) - + - - - A single report from B. Taylor of a sighting at Swan Lake on 8 June 2013. Well described - see: Observation:Anon_5
Western Meadowlark (edit) + - + - - Single fall record from Totem Park. One photographed on Biorka Island May 25th, 2019.
Red-winged Blackbird (edit) R R R - - Not reported every year, but probably at least a few individuals move through the area each spring (lingering into summer) and fall. Singing males have been observed around Swan Lake in several years. In 2013 a pair successfully fledged at least 3 young.
Brown-headed Cowbird (edit) + + R - - Rare fall migrant, not reported every year. Accidental in late spring and summer.
Rusty Blackbird (edit) - + R VR - Most often found in the fall, but not reported annually. Very Rare or Accidental in other seasons. Have occasionally overwintered.
Brewer's Blackbird (edit) + - + + - A few reports, most recently in spring 2020 (at Swan Lake, with a later report from Starrigavan).
Northern Waterthrush (edit) + - + - - Accidental in spring and fall. One sighting in Totem Park along Indian River spring 2007 (A. Thoms). A single fall report from 30 October 2015 along Lincoln Street and the entrance to Totem Park (found by R. Goff, seen by many). Additional fall reports from Galankin Island (2018; Sight, K. LaBounty) and near Hames Gym (23 August 2020; photo, A. Thoms).
Tennessee Warbler (edit) - + VR - - Very Rare in fall, with only a few reports. July 7-10, 2019 a singing male was observed along Thimbleberry Lake trail.
Orange-crowned Warbler (edit) C C C + Y Arriving by early May, this warbler is commonly heard and seen around Sitka from sea level to treeline. Most birds are gone by the end of September.
Nashville Warbler (edit) - - + - - First documented downtown where one or two birds were present for at least one day in November 2006. Another bird was well documented in Castle Hill November 2018.
Common Yellowthroat (edit) VR VR VR -  ? Very rare migrant, most often reported at Swan Lake. May occasionally breed in remote areas with suitable habitat.
Cape May Warbler (edit) - - + - - Documented from November 2016 on Castle Hill.
Magnolia Warbler (edit) - - + - - A single bird at Castle Hill 31 October 2018. (It was observed captured and then killed by a Northern Pygmy-Owl shortly after it was found.)
Yellow Warbler (edit) C FC C - Y Singing migrants commonly heard from May into June. Breeding bird much less common. Southbound migrants common into September.
Blackpoll Warbler (edit)
Palm Warbler (edit) + - + + - Single spring report from 15 April 2015. Fall records from 3-24 November 2016, and 31 Oct to 29 December 2018 when several birds were present.
Yellow-rumped Warbler (edit) U U U VR Y Least frequently seen of the typical warblers, this species seems to be somewhat more common off the road system.
Black-throated Gray Warbler (edit) - - + - - One found at Castle Hill, 2018 October 31
Townsend's Warbler (edit) C C C - C After arriving near the end of April, this species is commonly heard in forested areas throughout the summer, with fall migrants mostly gone before October.
Wilson's Warbler (edit) FC FC FC - FC Widespread during migration. Breeding birds seem to favor brushy areas from low elevation to subalpine areas around treeline.
Western Tanager (edit) + + + - - Few reports - Accidental in Spring, Summer, and Fall.
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (edit) - - + - - A male visiting a feeder in October 2013 is the only record.
Black-headed Grosbeak (edit) - - VR + - Several fall reports. One winter report (Dec 2019-Jan 2020).


Unsubstantiated Species

Species   Sp     Su     F     W     Br  
Ross's Goose (edit) + - - - -
Common Eider (edit) - + - - -
White-tailed Ptarmigan (edit) - - -  ? -
Calliope Hummingbird (edit) - -  ? - -
Bristle-thighed Curlew (edit)  ? - - - -
Bar-tailed Godwit (edit) + - - - -
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (edit) - -  ? - -
White-rumped Sandpiper (edit)
Long-billed Murrelet (edit) - - + - -
Crested Auklet (edit) -  ? - - -
Red-legged Kittiwake (edit)
Lewis's Woodpecker (edit) - - - - -
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (edit) - -  ? - -
Pileated Woodpecker (edit) - -  ? -
Veery (edit)
American Goldfinch (edit) - -  ? - -
Brewer's Sparrow (edit)  ? - - - -