Birds of Chignik Lake

Birds of Chignik Lake

Table of Contents

As articles are published, readers will be able to click the below titles to go directly to them.

I. Introduction: The Chigniks – Avian Diversity and Change in a Remote, Unique Environment

II. List of Birds by Common Name (with scientific name), American Ornithologists’ Union Order

Section 1: Loons of Chignik

Sidebar: The Loons of The Lake

Section 2: Grebes and Ocean Visitors to Chignik Lake & Chignik River

Section 3: Swans, Geese and Ducks

Sidebar: Ice Changes Everything – Wintertime on the Frozen Chignik

Section 4: Hawks, Eagles and Falcons

  • Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk Accipiter striatus
  • Rough-legged Hawk Buteo lagopus
  • Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  • Merlin Falco columbarius
  • Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus

Section 5: Shorebirds and Gulls

  • Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis
  • Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca
  • Wandering Tattler Heteroscelus incanus
  • Wilson’s Snipe Gallinago delicata
  • Mew Gull Larus canus
  • Glaucus-winged Gull Larus glaucescens

Section 6: Owls

  • Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus
  • Northern Saw-whet Owl Aegolius acadicus

Section 7: Kingfisher, Woodpecker, Shrike

  • Belted Kingfisher Ceryle alcyon
  • Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens
  • Northern Shrike Lanius excubitor

Section 8: Corvids

  • Black-billed Magpie Pica hudsonia
  • Common Raven Corvus Corax

Section 9: Swallows

  • Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor
  • Violet-green Swallow Tachycineta thalassina
  • Bank Swallow Riparia riparia

Section 10: Birds of White Spruce Grove

  • Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapilla
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch Sitta canadensis
  • Pacific Wren Troglodytes pacificus
  • American Dipper Cinclus mexicanus
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet Regulus satrapa
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula
  • American Robin Turdus migratorius
  • Gray-cheeked Thrush Catharus minimus
  • Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus
  • ?American Pipit Anthus rubescens
  • Orange-crowned Warbler Vermivora celata
  • Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia
  • Wilson’s Warbler Wilsonia pusilla
  • American Tree Sparrow Spizella arborea
  • Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis
  • Fox Sparrow (Sooty) Passerella iliaca
  • Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow Melospiza lincolnii
  • Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis (Species Overview)
    • Slate-Colored form
    • White-winged form
    • Oregon form
  • Golden-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia atricapilla
  • White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis
  • Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis
  • Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra
  • White-winged Crossbill Loxia Leucoptera
  • Pine Siskin Carduelis pinus
  • Common Redpoll Carduelis flammea
    • Xanthochromic Common Redpoll rarity
  • Hoary Redpoll Carduelis hornemanni
  • Pine Grosbeak Pinicola enucleator

Appendix:

Chignik Species Checklist

Birds of the Chignik River Drainage, 1960-63, David Narver, University of Washington, July 1968

Alphabetical Listing of Chignik Birds by Common Name

Recent Posts

Birds of Chignik Lake: Long-tailed Duck – Political Correctness or Respect… when is a Name Change Merited?

No duck dives deeper (up to 200 feet) or more frequently than the Long-tailed. To catch The Chignik’s handsome, Neapolitan-ice-cream-colored drakes at their most colorful, you’ve got to get out on the lagoon in late winter when they are at their most abundant and resplendent. Later in spring and on through summer, they’ll disperse to tundra ponds where they molt into drabber plumage and lose their eponymous tails. (Chignik Lagoon, March 9, 2019)

You can find passages in older texts in which Long-tailed Ducks are identified by their former moniker, Old-squaws, an appellation assigned to these stunningly beautiful creatures for their habit of gathering in large groups where their somewhat gull-like calls and melodies fill the air almost without cessation. The name is a trifecta of insult – besmirching women, elders, and Native Americans in one fell-swoop. Come to think of it, it doesn’t do any honor to the ducks either. Several thoughts tempt my fingers to give them voice on this keyboard, but I refrain.

On patrol for mollusks and whatever else might be presented during a dive, a Long-tailed (left) ambles along with a female scaup on Chignik River. (December 30, 2016)

When, in the year 2000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska petitioned the American Ornithologists’ Union Committee on Classification and Nomenclature to change C. hyemalis’s common name, the committee balked. Categorizing empathy for those who might be offended by the term Old-squaw as “political correctness,” members of the AOU took the position that such sensibilities alone did not justify new nomenclature.

One might reasonably counter, “For goodness sake, why not?” We’re talking about language here; shouldn’t the way we speak be permitted to evolve alongside insight, understanding, and other manifestations of enlightenment?

The above Long-tailed Ducks were part of a group of 13 we came across on an Arctic tundra pond near Point Hope, Alaska. (August 25, 2013)

The objections of some AOU members notwithstanding, the pressure was on. Refuge was found by couching the long overdue change as a matter of maintaining consistency with the rest of the English-speaking world where “Long-tailed Duck” had already long been designated.

The matter of naming birds (and other beings) is interesting. Wouldn’t we all be better served by appellatives that describe a characteristic of the animal in question rather than some anthropomorphized perception of their behavior, or more arbitrary still, the surname of whomever claims first to have “discovered” it?

In any event, in the matter of C. hyemalis, Long-tailed Duck it is. Though, I’ve got to say, I can’t look at a drake in late-winter plumage and not think of that tri-colored Neapolitan ice cream, the candy-red eye a cherry on the chocolate.

From Flattop Mountain, you can take in a view of the Chignik River flowing into Chignik Lagoon. The entire drainage is rich with aquatic vegetation, mollusks and other invertebrates, and small fish, all of which represent potential meals for the area’s waterfowl. (September 21, 2018)

Long-tailed Duck Range Map: with permission from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Birds of the World

Long-tailed Duck: Clangula hyemalis
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Clangula: from the Latin clangare = to resound
hyemalis: Latin, of winter

Status at Chignik Lake, 2016-19: Common. At times abundant on Chignik Lagoon; Occasional on Chignik Lake; Summer ?

David Narver, Birds of the Chignik River Drainage, summers 1960-63: Not Reported

Alaska Peninsula and Becharof National Wildlife Refuge Bird List, 2010Common in Spring & Winter; Rare in Summer; Uncommon in Fall

Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve Bird List: Present

loon silhouette

Previous: Canvasback – The Duke of Ducks

Next Article: Steller’s Eider

*For a clickable list of bird species and additional information about this project, click here: Birds of Chignik Lake

© Photographs, images and text by Jack Donachy unless otherwise noted.

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