Share story

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska bird watchers conducted their annual bird count amid recent research that found 15 percent of the state’s bird species are declining or depressed.

The state’s Audubon Society members made the count on Saturday, the Juneau Empire reported .

Two Juneau bird watchers were excited to see cormorants, a species common in the Lower 48 but less abundant in Alaska. The red-faced cormorant made the Audubon Society’s declining watch list this year.

“If you go down south, people see a lot of cormorants, but this is a different species, so it gets me a little excited,” bird watcher Laurie Lamm said.

The group tracks 232 birds with its Alaska Watchlist. Birds are scored by four different criteria to determine their vulnerability and then placed on red and yellow lists. A high score lands a species on the red list, which includes birds in high danger of disappearing from Alaska.

Nils Warnock, executive director of Audubon Alaska, said 35 species made the red list this year.

He said a mixture of disappearing prey and habitat might be to blame for the decline of Alaska’s bird populations.

Disappearing permafrost and warming ocean temperatures due to human-caused global warming are also factors, Warnock said.

“We’re seeing a cascade of effects,” he said.

But there are species that are doing better, Warnock said. The emperor goose is a good example.

Significant declines in emperor goose populations in the early 1980s halted winter and fall hunting beginning in 1986. But the goose rebounded, allowing for a limited hunt of the goose this year in Alaska.


Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire,