Cape Espenberg is a 1.5 km wide by 13 km long peninsula formed by a series of vegetated beach ridges that extend into western Kotzebue Sound from the most northern portion of the Seward Peninsula.

Ornithological Summary

Schamel et al. (1979) and more recently Schamel (unpubl. data) provided the only quantitative information on shorebird use of littoral habitats of this area. Throughout their studies they identified a total of 20 species of shorebirds using the area. For four of these taxa (Dunlin, Semipalmated and Western Sandpipers and Red-necked Phalaropes) Schamel listed each of their occurrences in terms of thousands of birds. Schamel also conducted a series of six aerial surveys of the area between 3 June and 15 September 1977 that resukted in a total of 14, 467 shorebirds being recorded. The highest single count (9,905) occurred on 1 September and included 98% Dunlin. None of these data support WHSRN designation of this site, however, Schamel (pers. comm.) indicated strong directional movement of Western and Semipalmated Sandpipers through the area suggestive of high daily turnover. Such turnover could easily encompass use by 20,000 or more birds thereby qualifying the area as a WHSRN Regional Reserve. It would also qualify the site as an IBA of global importance.

Cape Espenberg to Cape Whales is an important Common Eider breeding area, possibly up to 10,000 birds. A few Emperor Geese also nest at Cape Espenberg as well.

Until more recent data become available, however, this site is PENDING GLOBAL/CONTINENTAL status.

Total: >20,000

Red Phalarope: Spring
Red-necked Phalarope: Spring, autumn.
Ruddy Turnstone: summer
Long-billed Dowitcher: summer

Conservation Issues

Transportation of petroleum porducts and associated leakage and spills.

Consumptive use through hunting.


Intertidal mudflats; sand beach; Graminoid/sedge meadows; sand spits.
Shoreline = 56 km
Barrier beach/spit = 20 km2
Vegetated intertidal = 39 km2
Unvegetated intertidal = 5 km2

Land Use

Urban/industrial and hunting.

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