Important Bird Areas

Alaska Range Foothills

Alaska

This site is the northeastern region of Denali National Park & Preserve - bounded by the Nenana River on the east, the Muldrow Glacier and Boundary Creek on the west, the crest of the Alaska Range on the south, and the northern slope of the northern Alaska Range foothills on the north. The northern foothills dominate the area and consist of open landscapes shaped by geological processes and glacial action. The region is topographically complex, with several large glacial rivers dissecting the foothills. Narrow bands of white spruce forest grow along the major rivers, but much of the area lies above treeline (750 - 915 m). The subalpine zones contain a mosaic of scrub vegetation, open spruce woodland, and meadow. Near treeline, the land cover shifts from open woodland to tundra shrubs, dwarf shrubs, grasses and annual plants. An abundance of birds and mammals live in the subalpine zone, including Willow Ptarmigan, Arctic Ground Squirrel, and Snowshoe Hare. The vegetation cover in the alpine regions varies by location, but typically includes mountain avens, dwarf willows, dwarf shrubs, grasses, and forbs. Common features of the alpine regions are windswept ridges, cliffs, rock outcrops, and expansive talus slopes. An abundance of birds and mammals live in the alpine zone, including Rock Ptarmigan, Arctic Ground Squirrel, Hoary Marmot, and Dall sheep. A single road runs through this part of Denali NPP, bringing approximately 400,000 visitors to the area each year.

Ornithological Summary

This site contains one of the highest reported densities of nesting Golden Eagles in North America, and is home to the longest running ecological study of Golden Eagles in Alaska (1987 to present), and perhaps in the northern latitudes of North America. The site contains an abundance of nesting substrate for Golden Eagles (cliffs and rock outcrops) and a diversity of food (Ptarmigan, Snowshoe Hare, Arctic Ground Squirrel, Hoary Marmot, and Dall Sheep lambs). In addition to a high density of nesting pairs, the area is also home to a large population of territorial and non-breeding Golden Eagles. The site is relatively close to the northern boundary of the Golden Eagle's range in North America, and the abundance of nesting pairs highlights the importance of northern breeding grounds to the continental population. The area also supports a substantial number of nesting Gyrfalcons and other subalpine and alpine nesting birds.

Dixon, J. D. (1938) Birds and mammals of Mount McKinley National Park. U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service Fauna Series No. 3.

Kochert, M.N., Steenhof, K., McIntyre, C.L. and Craig, E. (2002) Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). In The Birds of North America, No. 684. (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

McIntyre, C.L. and Adams, L.G. (1999) Reproductive characteristics of migratory Golden Eagles in Denali National Park, Alaska. Condor 101:115-123.

McIntyre, C.L. (2002) Patterns in nesting area occupancy and reproductive success of golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska, 1988-1999. Journal of Raptor Research 36 (1 Supplement):50-54.

McIntyre, C., Steenhof, K., Kochert, M.N. & Collopy, M.W. (2006) Long-term Golden Eagle studies in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Alaska Park Science 5 (1): 42-45.

Conservation Issues

There are no direct, immediate threats within the conservation unit. However, the potential cascading effects associated with global climate change may impact the area, potentially including increased frequency and intensity of wildfires, expansion of forest and shrubland, loss of wetlands due to drying, increased flooding events, and increased erosion. An increasing number of overflights by light aircraft, due to the demand for 'flight-seeing' tours, appears to be disturbing territorial Golden Eagles in the area and may become a bigger issue.

Ownership

The area is entirely federally owned. It is managed by the US Park Service as part of the Denali National Park & Preserve.

Habitat

The area consists of steep, rugged mountain ridges separated by broad valleys. Spruce woodlands are common at lower elevations and riparian spruce-hardwood forests occur infrequently at low elevations in valley bottoms. A substantial portion of the area is barren of vegetation. Where vegetation exists in alpine regions, there are communities of dwarf scrub types.

Land Use

The area is completely encompassed by the Denali National Park & Preserve.

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