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, Petrel, Cormorants, Heron

Section 3: Swans, Geese and Ducks

Sidebar: Ice Changes Everything – Wintertime on the Frozen Chignik

Sidebar: Nature Watching & Nest Finding: an Exercise in Mindfulness

Section 4: Hawks, Eagles and Falcons

Section 6: Upland Game Birds

Section 7: Shorebirds, Gulls, Terns and Alcids

Section 8: Owls

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

Section 9: Kingfisher, Woodpecker, Shrike

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

Section 10: Corvids

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

Section 11: Swallows

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

Section 12: 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:

Alphabetical Listing of Chignik Birds by Common Name

Chignik Species Checklist

References:

Alaska Peninsula and Becharof National Wildlife Refuge Bird List (U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service) (online)

Aniakchak National National Monument and Preserve Species List (online)

Audubon Guide to North American Birds (online)

Birds of America, editor-in-chief T. Gilbert Pearson. Garden City Books, Garden City, New York, ©1936

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

Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds (online)

Siblley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America, The, written & illustrated by David Allen Sibley, 2003

Recent Posts

Subsistence Salmon Beach Seining on Chignik Lake

This short video shows a group of Chignik Lake residents beach seining for Sockeye Salmon along the shores of Chignik Lake. The salmon thus harvested were later distributed to village members.

I didn’t have the lenses I might have preferred to have with me, and I have just barely begun the journey into videography, but on a recent hike up the lake to the mouth of Clarks River, an opportunity presented itself. Jake and Jamie pulled up to the beach in Jamie’s skiff and in a few minutes were joined by several other friends and neighbors who had traveled upcountry by honda. The plan was to do some beach seining along the lakeshore for Sockeye (Red) Salmon, with the request that since I was there, would I take some photos? 

I’d made the hike in hopes of finding interesting macro shots, or perhaps a moose or bear in a landscape setting. The 105mm prime lens attached to my camera wasn’t ideal for the shoot at hand, but it was the lens in hand – neither long enough to adequately capture the bear that was fishing at the mouth of Clarks when I first arrived, nor wide enough to capture the sweeping landscape the netting operation was set against. 

Nonetheless, I really got into recording this event, which has been occurring here in the Chigniks in one form or another for thousands of years. In fact, if you look closely along lake and river beaches where salmon harvesting has long occurred, you might get lucky and find stone artifacts such as the ones in the photo below.

From upper left, counterclockwise: The notched ends in the first three stones indicate that they were used as weights along the lead line – the bottom line – of a fishing net. The oblong object in the upper right is an ulu-like knife that would have been used to split salmon carcasses before they were hung to dry. It is still quite sharp. The two center pieces are arrowheads. 

Most of the time in most places, salmon spawn over clean gravel or small rocks in clear-flowing rivers and streams. Sockeye Salmon, however, often spawn along lake shorelines where upwelling in the form of small underwater springs is present. There doesn’t have to be a stream as long as enough water is seeping up through lakebed gravel in water a few feet deep. There the female Sockeye will scrape out her nest, her redd, with her tail, deposit her eggs which a male at her side will fertilize, and then push gravel back over the eggs to protect them while they incubate. Shortly after they’ve spawned, all the adult salmon will die. Their decaying carcasses provide a vital source of nutrition for the various zooplankton and small insects upon which their young will feed until they’ve matured sufficiently to migrate out to sea.

This past season, beginning in late May or early June, over half a million Red Salmon ascended the Chignik River. While many spawn in the lake itself, many others spawn in the Chignik River as well as in several tributary streams and rivers. These salmon, along with the Pink, Chum, Coho and Chinook that also run the Chignik, are foundational to life here. They provide food for our abundant bears, eagles, otters, seals and other wildlife, provide a nutrient base for the lakes and rivers, and, with the help of Brown Bears, become fertilizer for berry flats, wildflowers and other vegetation which, in turn, feed everything from mushrooms to mice to caterpillars to songbirds. It would be no exaggeration to say that every living thing along the Chignik is connected to salmon. That includes the 50-some residents of Chignik Lake, among which Barbra and I are two.

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