Will migratory birds show up early?

Mar 24, 2015

Spring weather has come early, and the spring migratory bird subsistence hunt opens in Bristol Bay next week.

More than 90% of the Pacific Flyway population of Brant rely on Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.
Credit Ryan Hagerty, US FWS

Eric Taylor, the Migratory Bird Chief for the US Fish and Wildlife in Alaska, says so far he hasn’t heard of any early migratory push.

"At this point, no, we have not seen anything out of the ordinary relative to survival or migration. But it's a bit early here in Alaska," said Taylor.

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Taylor says within the next month, his office will have a better idea if there is an early migration or a change to species’ distribution patters.

"If the temperatures stay in the low 60's like we experienced here in Anchorage and Eagle River, that water will start to open up and birds will key in on warmer climates in northern areas and migrate earlier," said Taylor. "So indeed we may see an earlier migration of birds then we have seen in the past."

The warmer winters also seem to be enabling more over wintering, such as those birds choosing to stay along the Alaska Peninsula rather than head south towards Mexico.

"We're seeing up to 30,000 or more Brant stay at Izembek during the winter compared to twenty years ago when we had 2,000, if that, overwinter," said Taylor.

Taylor will be at a meeting Thursday in Dillingham to discuss the spring and summer migratory bird subsistence hunt. This year qualified users will likely not need to purchase a federal duck stamp. The hunt opens April 2. 

Contact Matt Martin at 907-842-2200 or matt@kdlg.org.