I’m guessing you need help figuring out which species you saw with green feathers. Well, you’ve come to the right place! To help you make an identification, I have included several photographs of each species and detailed range maps.
In addition to birds that are green, I have also included olive-colored birds.
10 GREEN BIRDS IN Alaska:
- Anas platyrhynchos
How to identify:
- Males have a bright green head, thin white collar, dark reddish-brown chest, yellow bill, and a black rear with a white-tipped tail.
- Females are mottled brown with orange and brown bills.
- Both sexes have purple-blue secondary feathers on their wings, most visible when standing or flying.
My guess is that almost everyone is familiar with the Mallard. These ducks are definitely the most common green birds in Alaska! But as you can see, only males are green.
Mallard Range Map
Mallards are extremely comfortable around people, which is why these adaptable ducks are so widespread. They are found in virtually any wetland habitat, regardless of location. We even find Mallards in our swimming pool every summer and have to chase them away so they don’t make a mess on our deck! 🙂
When you think of a duck quacking, it is almost inevitably a female Mallard. If there is a better duck sound, we haven’t heard it! Interestingly, males do not quack like females but instead make a raspy call.
#2. Rock Pigeon
- Columba livia
Rock Pigeons are extremely common in Alaska but are almost exclusively found in urban areas. These birds are what everyone refers to as “pigeons.” You have probably seen them gathering in huge flocks in city parks, hoping to get tossed some birdseed or leftover food.
The typical pigeon has a gray back, a blue-grey head, and two black wing bars. In addition, look for a GREEN and purple iridescence around their necks!
Rock Pigeon Range Map
Pigeons are easily attracted to bird feeders, especially if leftover food is on the ground. Unfortunately, these greenish birds can become a nuisance if they visit your backyard in high numbers. Many people find their presence overwhelming and look for ways to keep them away!
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. But, interestingly, scientists aren’t even sure where their original range occurs!
#3. American Wigeon
- Mareca americana
How to identify:
- Compact ducks with round heads. Blue-gray bills that are tipped in black.
- Males are mostly brown but have a distinctive green band behind their eyes and a white crown.
- Females have brown bodies overall, with a grayer-colored head.
American Wigeons are numerous, but they prefer quiet lakes and marshes away from people.
Their diet consists of a higher proportion of plant matter than other ducks. They will even go to farm fields to feed, similar to geese. Their short bill provides a lot of power to help pluck vegetation easily!
American Wigeon Range Map
Since they can scare easily when approached, one of the best ways to see these green-headed birds in Alaska is to listen for them!
Males give a 3-part nasal whistle (whew-whew-whew) any time of the year, which sounds like a kazoo (heard below)! Females don’t whistle, but they do produce a harsh grunt quack.
#4. Northern Shoveler
- Spatula clypeata
How to identify:
- Males have reddish-brown flanks, green heads, a white chest, black backs, and yellow eyes.
- Females are brown, and sometimes you can see a bluish shoulder patch.
- Both sexes have distinctive bills, which are large and wide!
If you only glance at the male’s green head, casual observers in Alaska might accidentally think these birds are Mallards. But if you look closer, you should notice their ENORMOUS spoon-shaped bill, which is what Northern Shovelers are known for.
Northern Shoveler Range Map
Northern Shovelers use their large bill to shovel and sift through mud and sand to find tasty tidbits like crustaceans, mollusks, and aquatic insects that are buried. Interestingly, their bill has over 100 tiny projections on the edges called lamellae that help filter out the food they want to eat.
Males make a guttural “took-took” sound during courtship, when alarmed, and in flight. Females make a nasally-sounding quack.
#5. Green-winged Teal
- Anas carolinensis
How to identify:
- Males have chestnut-brown heads and a green ear patch.
- Females have a dark eye-line and are mottled brown throughout.
- Both sexes have a green patch on their wing, visible in flight and most of the time when resting.
Green-winged Teals are the smallest dabbling ducks in Alaska. They are only 12-15 inches (31-39 cm) in length and weigh between 5 and 18 ounces (140-500 g).
Green-winged Teal Range Map
These birds often travel and hang out with other species. Look closely for the smallest duck in a mixed flock, and there is a good chance it’s a Green-winged Teal. Even females, which look similar to female Mallards, should stand out because they are noticeably smaller!
Males give a short, clear, repeated whistle, a unique sound for a duck if you ask me! Females often give a series of quacks at any time of the year.
#6. Red-breasted Merganser
- Mergus serrator
How to identify:
- Slim ducks with long bodies and necks and a long, thin bill.
- Breeding males have a dark green head with a spiky-looking crest. Cinnamon-colored chest and red eyes.
- Females and non-breeding males are greyish-brown overall.
Red-breasted Mergansers breed in boreal forests across much of North America, where they can be found on many inland lakes. During winter, these sea ducks migrate south and spend most of their time just off the coast, although it’s possible to find them in just about any large, unfrozen body of water.
Red-breasted Merganser Range Map
Fish are their primary food source, and they must eat roughly 15-20 per day to supply their energy demands. It’s estimated they need to make about 250 dives per day to catch this amount of fish!
Sometimes they will help each other out, and individuals will work together to herd minnows to shallower water, which makes the fish easier to catch.
Did you know that birds that primarily eat fish typically taste horrible? Because of this, Red-breasted Mergansers, and the other merganser species found in Alaska, are not usually hunted. It’s also why you don’t see anyone trying to eat a penguin!
#7. Common Merganser
- Mergus merganser
How to identify:
- A large duck with a long, slender orange bill with a black tip and dark eyes.
- Breeding males have a largely white body, a black back, and a mallard-like green head.
- Females and non-breeding males sport a cinnamon-colored head and a grayish-white body.
Due to their thin bill, these green-headed birds stand out in Alaska. A Common Merganser’s favorite food is fish, which they catch with the help of their serrated bill. But they also indulge in aquatic invertebrates such as crustaceans, mollusks, insects, and worms.
Common Merganser Range Map
Common Mergansers are so good at fishing that many other ducks try to steal from them when they surface. In fact, it’s common to see flocks of seagulls following them, hoping to snatch an easy meal. Even Bald Eagles have been known to rob them of their hard-earned fish!
Naturally, these ducks nest in tree cavities that woodpeckers have carved out. Interestingly, newborn ducklings are only about a day old when they leap from the entrance to the ground, at which point the mother will lead them to water, and they catch all their own food immediately.
#8. MacGillivray’s Warbler
- Geothlypis tolmiei
- Coloring is yellow to olive green on the body, with a blue-gray hood.
- Males are brighter in color, with a black patch on the eye. Females lack the black patch and have a lighter gray hood.
Look for MacGillivray’s Warblers in dense vegetation near streambeds and second-growth forests. They prefer to stay close to the ground, where they forage for insects. These olive-green birds are easy to spot during migration, resting in dense thickets during the day.
Their cheerful call and bright patterned coloring make them a welcome sight. The MacGillivray’s Warbler song is trilling and high, with an inflection near the middle: “jeet jeet JEET jeet jeet.”
#9. Anna’s Hummingbird
- Calypte anna
How To Identify:
- Males: They are best known for their iridescent pinkish-red heads. The underparts are a mix between gray and green. The tail and back are dark green. Most of the time, a broken white eye ring is visible.
- Females: Duller than the males, with a green cap and body. Their tail has a white tip. Many birds have a patch of metallic purple or red on their throat.
These tiny green birds are no larger than a ping-pong ball and weigh about the same as a nickel.
Anna’s Hummingbirds are different from most hummers since they don’t migrate much, if at all. These hummingbirds are year-round residents from southern British Columbia to northern Mexico. They have varied habitats, including deserts, mountains, woodlands, gardens, and chaparral.
Anna’s Hummingbird Range Map
To help locate these green birds in Alaska, listen for a long song that often lasts ten seconds or more. The song starts with a series of buzzes, followed by a pleasant-sounding whistle. The entire sequence can last more than ten seconds and typically finishes with some chip notes.
#10. Violet-green Swallow
- Tachycineta thalassina
- Sleek-looking birds with a slightly forked tail and long wings.
- Greenish back with white cheeks and white underparts.
- An iridescent purple or violet rump.
At first glance, these swallows appear dark. But once the sun hits their feathers, you can truly appreciate their beauty as their metallic green backs and purple behinds become visible.
Violet-green Swallow Range Map
Your best chance at seeing these green birds in Alaska is usually over open water.
Violet-green Swallows will fly over lakes, ponds, or rivers in the early mornings, hunting for insects. Since they tend to flock with other species of swifts and swallows, look for the birds with a white belly and cheeks.
Violet-green Swallows spend winters in Mexico and Central America and are only in North America during the breeding season.
Learn more about other birds in Alaska!
What green birds in Alaska have you seen?
Let us know in the comments!