The 19 MOST Common Birds in Alaska! (2023)
What kinds of birds can you find in Alaska?
This question is hard to answer because of the vast number of birds found in Alaska. Did you know there have been over 475 species recorded here?
As you can imagine, there was no way to include this many birds in the below article. So instead, I tried to focus on the birds that are most regularly seen and observed.
Today, you will learn about 19 types of birds COMMON in Alaska!
If you’re interested, you may be able to see some of the species listed below at my bird feeding station right now! I have a LIVE high-definition camera watching my feeders 24/7. 🙂
#1. American Robin
- A beautiful thrush that features a rusty red breast and a dark head and back.
- Look for a white throat and white splotches around the eyes.
- Both sexes are similar, except that females appear paler.
American Robins are one of the most familiar birds in Alaska!
They inhabit a wide variety of habitats and naturally are found everywhere from forests to the tundra. But these thrushes are comfortable around people and are common to see in backyards.
American Robin Range Map
Even though they are abundant, American Robins rarely visit bird feeders because they don’t eat seeds. Instead, their diet consists of invertebrates (worms, insects, snails) and fruit. For example, I see robins frequently in my backyard, pulling up earthworms in the grass!
These birds also commonly nest near people. Look for an open cup-shaped nest that has 3-5 beautiful, distinctive sky blue color eggs.
American Robins sing a string of clear whistles, which is a familiar sound in spring. (Listen below)
Many people describe the sound as sounding like the bird is saying “cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up.”
#2. Downy Woodpecker
- These woodpeckers have a short bill and are relatively small.
- Color-wise, they have white bellies, with a mostly black back that features streaks and spots of white.
- Male birds have a distinctive red spot on the back of their head, which females lack.
Downy Woodpeckers are one of the most common birds in Alaska! You probably recognize them, as they are seen in most backyards.
Downy Woodpecker Range Map
Luckily, this woodpecker species is easy to attract to your backyard. The best foods to use are suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts (including peanut butter). You may even spot them drinking sugar water from your hummingbird feeders! If you use suet products, make sure to use a specialized suet bird feeder.
What sounds do Downy Woodpeckers make?
Press PLAY above to hear a Downy Woodpecker!
Once you know what to listen for, my guess is that you will start hearing Downy Woodpeckers everywhere you go. Their calls resemble a high-pitched whinnying sound that descends in pitch towards the end.
#3. Hairy Woodpecker
- Appearance-wise, Hairy Woodpeckers have striped heads and an erect, straight-backed posture while on trees.
- Their bodies are black and white overall with a long, chisel-like bill.
- Male birds can be identified by a red patch at the back of their heads, which females lack.
Hairy Woodpecker Range Map
Hairy Woodpeckers are common birds in Alaska in mature forests, suburban backyards, urban parks, swamps, orchards, and even cemeteries. Honestly, they can be found anywhere where large trees are abundant.
The most common call is a short, sharp “peek.” This sound is similar to what a Downy Woodpecker makes, except it’s slightly lower in pitch. They also make a sharp rattling or whinny.
Hairy Woodpeckers can be a bit tricky to identify because they look almost identical to Downy Woodpeckers! These two birds are confusing to many people and present a problem when trying to figure out which one you’re observing.
Here are the THREE best ways to tell these species apart:
- Hairy’s are larger and measure 9 – 11 inches (23 – 28 cm) long, which is about the same size as an American Robin. A Downy is smaller and only measures 6 – 7 inches (15-18 cm) in length, which is slightly bigger than a House Sparrow.
- Looking at the size of their bills in relation to their head is my FAVORITE way to tell these woodpeckers apart. Downys have a tiny bill, which measures a bit less than half the length of their head, while Hairys have a bill that is almost the same size as their head.
Outer tail feathers:
- If all else fails, then try to get a good look at their outer tail feathers. Hairys will be completely white, while Downys are spotted.
#4. Song Sparrow
- Chest has brown streaks that converge onto a central breast spot.
- Head has a brown crown with a grey stripe down the middle. Also, look for a grey eyebrow and cheek.
- Back and body are mostly rust-brown with gray streaks throughout.
Sparrows can be incredibly difficult to identify, due to how many types of sparrows there are and the fact they look very similar. But luckily, Song Sparrows are one of the easier sparrow species to determine correctly.
Song Sparrow Range Map
These birds are common in Alaska, especially in wet, shrubby, and open areas.
Unlike other birds that nest in trees, Song Sparrows primarily nest in weeds and grasses. Many times you will find them nesting directly on the ground.
My favorite feature of Song Sparrows is their beautiful songs that can be heard across the continent. The typical one, which you can listen to below, consists of three short notes followed by a pretty trill. The song varies depending on location and the individual bird.
#5. Red-winged Blackbird
- Males are all black, except for a bright red and yellow patch on their shoulders.
- Females are brown and heavily streaked. There is a bit of yellow around their bill.
- Both sexes have a conical bill and are commonly seen sitting on cattails or perched high in a tree overlooking their territory.
Red-winged Blackbird Range Map
During the breeding season, these birds are almost exclusively found in marshes and other wet areas. Females build nests in between dense grass-like vegetation, such as cattails, sedges, and bulrushes. Males aggressively defend the nest against intruders, and I have even been attacked by Red-winged Blackbirds while walking near the swamp in my backyard!
- RELATED: 10 LIVE Bird Feeder Cams From Around the World [Including MINE!]
When it’s the nonbreeding season, Red-winged Blackbirds spend much of their time in grasslands, farm fields, and pastures looking for weedy seeds to eat. It’s common for them to be found in large flocks that feature various other blackbird species, such as grackles, cowbirds, and starlings.
Red-winged Blackbirds are easy to identify by their sounds! (Press PLAY below)
If you visit a wetland or marsh in spring, you are almost guaranteed to hear males singing and displaying, trying to attract a mate. Listen for a rich, musical song, which lasts about one second and sounds like “conk-la-ree!“
#6. European Starling
- A common bird in Alaska, they are about the size of an American Robin. Their plumage is black and appears to be shiny.
- Short tail with a long slender beak.
- Breeding adults are darker black and have a green-purple tint. In winter, starlings lose their glossiness, their beaks become darker, and they develop white spots over their bodies.
Did you know these birds are an invasive species and aren’t supposed to be in Alaska?
European Starling Range Map
Back in 1890, one hundred starlings were brought over from Europe and released in New York City’s Central Park. The rest is history as starlings easily conquered the continent, along the way out-competing many of our beautiful native birds.
Their ability to adapt to human development and eat almost anything is uncanny to almost no other species.
When starlings visit in small numbers, they are fun to watch and have beautiful plumage. Unfortunately, these aggressive birds can ruin a party quickly when they visit in massive flocks, chasing away all of the other birds while eating your expensive bird food. To keep these blackbirds away from your bird feeders, you will need to take extreme action and implement some proven strategies.
Starlings are impressive vocalists!
Listen for a mix of musical, squeaky, rasping notes. They are also known to imitate other birds.
#7. Rock Pigeon
- A plump bird with a small head, short legs, and a thin bill.
- The typical pigeon has a gray back, a blue-grey head, and two black wing bars. But their plumage is highly variable, and it’s common to see varieties ranging from all-white to rusty-brown.
Rock Pigeons are extremely common birds in Alaska, but they are almost exclusively found in urban areas.
Rock Pigeon Range Map
These birds are easy to identify by sound. My guess is that you will already recognize their soft, throaty coos. (Press PLAY below)
Love them or hate them, Rock Pigeons have been associated with humans for a long time! Some Egyptian hieroglyphics suggest that people started domesticating them over 5,000 years ago. And because of these facts, scientists aren’t even sure where their original range was.
#8. Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadees are one of the most beloved birds in Alaska, and it’s easy to see why! These birds are often described as “cute,” as they are tiny, with an oversized head that features a black cap and bib.
Naturally, look for them in open deciduous forests, thickets, and cottonwood groves. They also adapt easily to the presence of people and are common to see in backyards and parks.
Black-capped Chickadee Range Map
Black-capped Chickadees are easy to attract to bird feeders!
In fact, once you set up a new bird feeder, they will likely be the first birds to visit, as they are curious about anything new in their territory. The best foods to use include sunflower, peanuts, and suet. Their small size and athletic ability mean these birds can use just about any type of feeder!
- RELATED: 7 Best Bird Feeders For SMALL Birds In MY Backyard (Perfect for chickadees)
Try identifying Black-capped Chickadees by their sounds!
These birds are extremely vocal, and you should have no problem hearing one. And luckily, their vocalizations are unique and relatively easy to identify. Listen below to a song that is a simple 2 or 3 note whistle, which sounds like it’s saying “fee-bee” or “hey sweetie.”
Black-capped Chickadees also make a distinctive “chickadee-dee-dee” call. And yes, it actually sounds like they are saying their name! Interestingly, they add more “dee” notes onto the end of the call when alarmed.
#9: Rufous Hummingbird
How To Identify:
- Males: Bright copper-orange on their back (although some males have a green back) and sides of their belly. Beautiful reddish-orange iridescent throat. White breast and ear patch behind eye. Compared to other hummingbird species, they are small.
- Females: They have a green crown, neck, and back. Rufous (copper) colored sides with a white breast and belly. Some females have a spot of red or orange on their throats.
Rufous Hummingbirds are one of the most aggressive types of birds in Alaska!
Be careful if one finds your hummingbird feeders or garden, as they will relentlessly attack and drive away other hummingbirds (including much larger species) away. They have even been seen chasing chipmunks!
Rufous Hummingbird Range Map
Rufous Hummingbirds have an interesting migration pattern. In the spring, they fly north up the Pacific Coast to their summer breeding grounds. They return to their winter homes in Mexico and parts of the southern United States by flying a completely different route along the Rocky Mountains!
What sounds do Rufous Hummingbirds make?
The most common sound you will hear these birds make is a series of chipping notes, which are given as a warning to intruding birds. Males also make a “chu-chu-chu” call at the bottom of a dive while trying to impress females.
#10. Chipping Sparrow
- Spizella passerina
- Some are brightly colored with a rusty crown, grayish belly, and a black-streaked eyeline.
- Others are paler with a brownish crown, grayish belly, and an unstreaked neck and belly.
- Both sexes are slim with a long tail and medium-sized bill.
Chipping Sparrows are found in eastern Alaska.
Luckily, they’re easy to identify, thanks to their rust-colored crown. You’ll often see them at backyard feeding stations, eating black oil sunflower seeds and other seed mixes on the ground.
Chipping Sparrow Range Map
Look for them in the woods by grassy meadows. These sparrows are also common in suburban areas!
Chipping Sparrows have loud, trilling songs. Their songs are long trill notes that they repeat over and over, almost sounding mechanical. Listen below!
#11. Dark-eyed Junco
- Junco hyemalis
- Smooth and soft-looking slate gray with a white belly.
- Small pale bill, long tail with white outer feathers.
- Dark-eyed Juncos have various color patterns depending on the region.
Dark-eyed Juncos are one of the most common birds in Alaska. You can easily identify these birds by how smooth their feathers look. Or look for a white flash from their tail feathers as they are flying away.
Dark-eyed Junco Range Map
This species is found in pine and mixed-coniferous forests when they breed, but in winter, they are seen in fields, parks, woodlands, and backyards. Dark-eyed Juncos have earned the nickname “Snowbirds” or “Winter birds” because they only show up every winter in many parts of their range.
Dark-eyed Juncos like to visit feeders in the winter, but ONLY ON THE GROUND, where they consume fallen seeds.
Males sing a two-second loud musical trilling song that can carry hundreds of feet away. In addition, both sexes also sing softer songs that are a mixture of warbles, trills, and whistles.
#12. Pine Siskin
- Spinus pinus
- Both sexes are small, brown, and streaked with fine yellow edging on their wings and tails.
- Sharply pointed bill and a short, forked tail and long pointed wingtips.
- The only finch in Alaska that looks the same between sexes.
Pine Siskins are typically found in mixed evergreen or deciduous forests, but they will move to a new place in search of food, like weedy fields, backyards, or gardens.
Pine Siskins can be seen visiting bird feeders during the winter. They prefer to eat smaller seeds without tough shells, such as sunflower seeds or Nyjer seeds.
Pine Siskin Range Map
These small birds are very social and search for food in flocks while chirping nonstop to each other. They don’t even stop chattering when flying!
Listen below to the Pine Siskin’s song, a twittering warble that rises and falls in pitch. They randomly throw in a “ZZZzzzzzreeee” that rises in pitch every so often. You will notice they sound more wheezy than other finches in Alaska.
#13. White-crowned Sparrow
- Zonotrichia leucophrys
- Both sexes can be grayish or brownish with a long tail.
- They have stripes on their heads in black and white or brown and tan. The head is peaked on the crown.
- Bills are orangish-yellow or pinkish.
White-crowned Sparrows are found in shrubbery habitats with open grassy areas in the breeding season. In winter, they prefer weedy fields, thickets, and backyards.
White-crowned Sparrow Range Map
If you want to attract these sparrows to your feeding station, use sunflower seeds. Just make sure the food is placed on the ground, as they won’t fly up to feeders. And having a brush pile will entice them to stay by giving them places to hide and feel safe.
White-crowned Sparrows are known for their long migration journeys. This sparrow has been known to travel over 300 miles in one night.
Males primarily sing, but on occasion, so will females. Their song lasts only a few seconds. Listen below:
#14. Red-breasted Nuthatch
- Sitta canadensis
Red-breasted Nuthatches are active little songbirds that have beautiful coloring. Look for compact birds that have almost no neck and a very short tail.
These small nuthatches breed in northern North America, the western mountains, and the upper northeast. But during winter, they can truly show up almost anywhere. These birds travel where needed to make sure they have enough food. In some years, they have been seen as far south as the Gulf of Mexico and Northern Mexico!
Red-breasted Nuthatch Range Map
Red-breasted Nuthatches are mostly found in Alaska in coniferous forests. Their preferred habitat contrasts sharply to White-breasted Nuthatches, who prefer living in deciduous forests.
Have you ever heard a tin horn while in the woods?
If so, you were probably listening to a Red-breasted Nuthatch! These birds make a fast series of nasally “yank-yank-yank” sounds, which have been compared to the sound that a toy tin horn makes. These calls are typically made by males that are still looking for a mate.
#15. Common Raven
- Corvus corax
- Large bird that is completely black, including its eyes and bill.
- The bill is hefty and thick.
- In flight, look for their wedge-shaped tail.
Ravens are one of the SMARTEST birds in Alaska!
For example, one study has shown that they are drawn to gunshots during hunting season to investigate the carcass but clearly ignore other loud noises that don’t lead to food, such as an air horn. Their intelligence makes them efficient predators, and it’s common for ravens to team up to get food, such as stealing eggs from nests or attacking larger prey like newly born lambs.
Common Raven Range Map
Since they are so smart and adaptable, Common Ravens are found in a wide range of habitats. Look for them living near the edges of towns, especially in landfills that supply an endless amount of food. But ravens also have no problem living far away from civilization.
Common Ravens are impressive vocalists that make many different types of calls, from harsh grating calls to shrill alarm sounds. But the most common sound you will hear in the wild is a gurgling croak that rises in pitch. Interestingly, they are able to mimic the sounds of many other bird species and even humans if they are raised in captivity.
#16. Black-billed Magpie
- Pica hudsonia
- A large black and white bird with a long tail.
- In the right light, you can see beautiful blue iridescent feathers on the wings and tail.
It’s hard to miss these bold birds in Alaska!
Black-billed Magpies demand your attention. They are very social, noisy, and comfortable living amongst people and are commonly seen in smaller towns. Naturally, they live in open grasslands and plains and tend to avoid dense forests.
Black-billed Magpie Range Map
Being part of the corvid family, which also includes jays and crows, Black-billed Magpies are incredibly intelligent. One interesting behavior is that they seem to have funerals when they discover a deceased magpie. Individual birds will begin calling loudly to attract more magpies, eventually having as many as 40 birds gathered for 10-15 minutes before flying away silently.
#17. Mountain Bluebird
- Sialia currucoides
- Males are covered with beautiful sky-blue feathers on their heads, back, and wings.
- Females are a bit trickier since they are primarily gray-brown, with tinges of blue on their tails and wings.
There are not many things more beautiful than seeing one of these bluebirds while hiking in the mountains. 🙂
The best place to look for these birds in Alaska is in open areas. As their name suggests, Mountain Bluebirds are observed at elevations up to 12,500 feet during the breeding season. However, once winter arrives, they typically fly down to lower elevations.
Mountain Bluebird Range Map
Mountain Bluebirds feast on insects during warm months and switch their diet to primary in winter. But unlike other bluebird species, they are excellent aerial hunters and routinely grab insects out of midair!
Finding a suitable nesting location is crucial for female Mountain Bluebirds; they rarely care about anything else. She chooses her mate almost solely based on the quality of his nesting cavity, ignoring things like looks, singing skills, and flying ability.
Next time you are in a mountain valley or meadow, keep your ears open and listen for a Mountain Bluebird. Press PLAY below!
#18. Steller’s Jay
- Cyanocitta stelleri
- Larger bird with a black head, rounded wings, and a long tail.
- A tall black crest on the crown of the head helps identify them.
- Both sexes are half black and half blue on their wings, belly, and tail.
You will find the Steller’s Jay in evergreen forests in Alaska. These bold birds often visit parks, campgrounds, and picnic areas.
Steller’s Jay Range Map
This jay is very intelligent, bold, and noisy. You can attract them to your feeders by providing peanuts, larger seeds, and suet.
Steller’s Jays are often nest robbers. They have even been known to attack or kill small adult birds like nuthatches or juncos.
Males and sometimes females have calls that sound like “shaack, shaack, shaack,” shooka, shooka.” Listen below.
#19. Spruce Grouse
- Canachites canadensis
- Male Spruce Grouse display an attractive brown-black plumage adorned with clean white spots, complemented by a striking red comb above their eyes during courtship displays.
- Females exhibit intricate scaling in shades of brown, buff, and white.
The Spruce Grouse is a stylish species typically found in evergreen forests in Alaska. These chicken-like birds primarily consume the needles of fir, spruce, and pine trees, resulting in an aromatic diet that makes them taste unappealing to many hunters.
Spruce Grouse have gained a reputation for their docility around humans, earning them the nickname “fool hens.” However, this behavior proves advantageous for birdwatchers seeking excellent opportunities to observe them up close.
Spruce Grouse Range Map
The Spruce Grouse has the remarkable ability to store up to 10% of its body weight in its crop, a specialized pouch located between the throat and stomach. This unique adaptation enables the bird to safely hold its food and digest it at a later time, which is especially useful during long and cold nights.
Which of these birds have you seen before in Alaska?
Leave a comment below!
To learn more about birds in Alaska, check out my other guides!
21 Types of WATER BIRDS That Live in Alaska (Ducks, herons, loons, etc.)
15 Types of BIRDS OF PREY That are Found in Alaska! (Hawks, owls, eagles, etc.)
The range maps above were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!