Look Closer . . . Aleutian Islands
for marine life
and wildlife watchers
who brave the storms
The islands and coastal waters
of the Aleutians are home to marine mammals, seabirds, waterfowl, land mammals
and other wildlife. Sea lions, sea otters and harbor seals inhabit the shorelines.
Whales and porpoises are found in coastal waters. Introduced mammals include caribou/reindeer,
rats and arctic fox.
Like a bridge between
continents, the Aleutians are an important resting and feeding stop for many migratory
birds. More than 250 species of birds have been observed along the chain, and
new species from Asia are added to the list almost annually.
but no Trees
The flora is a wonderful mix of plants from both North
America and Asia. Grasses, sedges, lichens, mosses, and heath plants carpet the
landscape. Bountiful and colorful wildflowers include chocolate lily, monkshood,
lupine, buttercup, iris, fireweed, and several species of orchid. Large beds of
kelp are found along the shorelines, and wild rye grows near the beaches. The
islands are treeless except for introduced spruce.
Ocean of Fish
oceans are as productive as those that surround Alaskas Aleutian Islands.
The cold, turbulent waters provide a fisheries resource important to foreign and
domestic fleets, sport anglers, subsistence users, and wildlife. Pollack, herring,
sole, cod, halibut, shellfish, and salmon are plentiful. Dolly Varden and salmon
spawn in streams throughout the chain. Pink salmon are the most abundant of these
but chum, coho, and sockeye salmon are also found.
fog, high winds, and frequent, often violent, cyclonic storms are typical in the
Aleutians. Clear, sunny days are rare.
Some Islands Make Their
Weather along the chain is very local. It can change dramatically
over a short distance or even within a span of a few minutes at one location.
Summer temperatures average only about 50°F, but winter temperatures average
30°F degrees, which is relatively mild for Alaska. Warm clothing and rain
gear are needed year-round.
Brightly colored puffins, swarming flocks
of auklets, noisy murre colonies, and thousands of screaming gulls
represent the vast seabird resource for which the Aleutians are known. The islands
provide nesting habitat for some 10 million seabirds.
largest known colony of crested and least auklets is found on Kiska, and
nearly a million northern fulmars nest on Chagulak. Tiny Kaligagan supports Alaskas largest colony of tufted puffins, more than 100,000 birds.
Seabirds spend most of their life at sea but return to the islands each spring
to raise their young.
The islands offer opportunities to see birds not found
elsewhere in North America. Whooper swans, tufted ducks, Siberian rubythroats,
wood sandpipers, far eastern curlews, and common black-headed gulls are a
few of the more regular Asiatic visitors.
Common terrestrial birds include
the bald eagle, raven, rock ptarmigan, peregrine falcon, snow bunting, song
sparrow, lapland longspur, winter wren, and rosy finch. All except the lapland
longspur are year-round residents.
Rock sandpipers and black oystercatchers
are found on the beaches and shoreline rocks. Terns, puffins, cormorants, and
guillemots can often be seen on nearshore ocean waters, harbors, and bays.
most easily seen are the green-winged teal, mallard, greater scaup, harlequin
duck, and common eider. Emperor geese, which nest on the Yukon Delta
National Wildlife Refuge, visit the Aleutians during the winter months. The refuge
is also the nesting stronghold of the Aleutian cackling goose.
Learn More: Adak Bird List
Last updated:September 8, 2008