Snowy Owl. Photo: Deborah Johnston/Audubon Photography Awards

How Climate Change Will Affect Birds in Alaska

Vulnerable Birds in Alaska

Highly and moderately vulnerable birds may lose more than half of their current range—the geographic area where they live—as they are forced to search for suitable habitat and climate conditions elsewhere.


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Below, find out which of the birds that nest or spend the winter in your area are most vulnerable across their entire range. Some birds may lose range outside of your state, making the protection of their current habitat in your area even more important.

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How will the Snowy Owl's range be affected in Alaska?

Rising temperatures and shifting weather patterns affect birds' ability to find food and reproduce, which over time impacts local populations, and ultimately continent-wide populations, too. Some species may even go extinct in your state if they cannot find the conditions they need to survive and raise their young.

Select a warming scenario to see how this species’ range will change under increased global temperatures.

Reducing warming makes many types of birds found in Alaska less vulnerable.

In order to hold warming steady, we must act now to reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere and limit warming to 1.5 degrees. We must reduce our carbon emissions and also absorb what is produced through natural solutions like reforestation or with technology that removes carbon from the air.

Click the three different warming scenarios to explore how increased warming puts more species in Alaska at risk.

Alaska's Birds and Habitats

The rough coasts of Kenai Fjords and spectacular tidewater glaciers of Glacier Bay National Park support hundreds of migratory and resident bird species. The marshes of Anchorage and lakes near Nome are home to Tundra Swans, while the Chilkat River near Haines hosts the world’s largest concentration of Bald Eagles. Thickets of dwarf willow outside Fairbanks, Anchorage, Denali, and elsewhere provide key habitat for Alaska’s state bird, the Willow Ptarmigan, whose heavily feathered feet act as snowshoes, allowing it to walk over fresh snow.

Audubon is working to protect critical habitats that will act as climate sanctuaries throughout Alaska, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Bristol Bay, the Tongass National Forest, and other lands and waters.

Climate Policy in Alaska

Electricity Generation Breakdown
2.2 % Wind
.7 % Biomass
25.3 % Hydro
49.8 % Natural Gas
8.5 % Coal
13.5 % Petroleum
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Targets
Renewable Portfolio Standard
Member of the US
Climate Alliance?

(Data: U.S. EIA)

Though the oil and gas industry is the largest component of Alaska’s economy, the state is advancing renewable energy growth through a renewable fund program and non-binding climate action plan developed under the previous governor. Adopting binding targets and actionable climate policies may help the state further decarbonize, as cities like Anchorage and Juneau have done through their climate action plans. Some rural communities, such as Kodiak, have transitioned to almost 100-percent renewable energy sources.

Climate Threats Facing Birds and People in Alaska

Alaska has warmed more than twice as fast as the rest of the United States, with average air temperatures increasing by 3 degrees Fahrenheit. Coastline erosion caused by sea-level rise, thawing permafrost, and loss of protective sea ice is imperiling communities and forcing difficult decisions about relocation. Increasing ocean acidity and rising sea temperatures threaten fish, a key food source for many native communities and Alaska’s third-largest industry Wildfires and insect outbreaks are also on the rise.

The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk harm people, too. Hover over or tap an area on the map to see specific threats that will affect that area as warming increases. Note: Climate-threat data were available only for the Lower 48; Alaska was excluded from the analysis.