Alaska is a land of extremes. The diversity of its avifauna reflects the heterogeneity of its landscape, with more than 500 species of birds recorded in the state. Species inhabiting primarily terrestrial habitats, known collectively as landbirds, constitute the largest and most ecologically diverse component of the Alaska avifauna. Habitats used by landbirds range from temperate rainforests in southeastern Alaska to Arctic tundra across much of northern Alaska. Most of these landbird species are migratory, and four major global migration flyways converge on rich breeding areas in Alaska.
Alaska has one endemic landbird species, the McKay’s Bunting, and is home to an impressive number of landbird populations for which it hosts a large proportion of the regional, continental, or global population. Thus, Alaska has a significant stewardship responsibility for these particular landbird species and subspecies.
Habitats in Alaska remain largely pristine due to the region’s remote nature, vast size, and small human population. Alaska’s growing population and attendant economic development, however, present many challenges that could affect all wildlife, including landbirds. Threats in Alaska are often considered to be less significant than those occurring elsewhere, where habitats are being altered by more rapidly increasing anthropogenic pressures, but they carry far-reaching consequences nonetheless. Habitats and ecosystem dynamics are changing rapidly due to the magnitude of climate warming at high latitudes. As such, effective landbird conservation in Alaska requires a broad, landscape-scale approach.
Conservation of landbirds over such an extensive and diverse landscape also demands that we integrate efforts in habitat management, population monitoring, research, education, and outreach at local, regional, continental, and international scales. Information on distribution and habitat requirements of landbirds should be incorporated into land-use planning decisions. Synthesizing information on distribution and population trends of landbirds is a critical, time-sensitive task. Such information should be provided in a form that is readily available to land managers and policy decision-makers.
The primary objectives of this plan are to (1) describe the region and Alaska’s landbird avifauna; (2) identify species of concern, important habitats, and key information needs; (3) highlight major conservation issues and threats to landbirds; and (4) identify potential conservation actions. We first examine landbird conservation at the statewide level within broad perspectives (regional, continental, and global), then take a detailed look at the specific issues, information needs, and potential conservation actions within each Bird Conservation Region in Alaska.