From lanky sandhill cranes to petite red-necked phalaropes, migratory birds are appearing statewide in ever-increasing numbers, adding life to Alaska’s skies and cacophonies of sound to marshes, coasts, and streams.
The birds’ arrival is a sure sign of spring and a reminder, too, for pet owners to keep dogs leashed or under control around sanctuaries and refuges, parks, wetlands, and other places migrating birds stop to rest, feed, or nest.
“The primary concern is that dogs are pretty good at finding nests and displacing incubating females,” said State Waterfowl Coordinator Jason Schamber, “and disturbing spring migrants can negatively affect birds that are completing migration and preparing to breed.”
Because the nesting season in Alaska is compressed compared to breeding areas further south, if a hen loses a nest, she is unlikely to lay a second clutch of eggs. Thus, this year’s productivity would be lost.
Migratory birds and their nests are protected from harassment by state law and under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, added Schamber. “So out of respect for wildlife, not to mention the law, we ask that owners keep their dogs restrained.”
Millions of migratory birds arrive in Alaska to breed each spring, including some four million ducks, two million geese, 25,000 Pacific sandhill cranes, and 22,000 trumpeter swans. Migration in most regions normally peaks around early- to mid-May with nesting occurring well into June.
For more information about migratory birds in Alaska, contact State Waterfowl Coordinator Jason Schamber at (907) 267-2206, [email protected]; or USFWS Public Affairs Specialist Andrea Medeiros at (907) 786-3695, [email protected].