Ketchikan Birdwatching

Common Loon

Birding in Ketchikan

With over 280 species of birds recorded in the area, birding in Ketchikan is a must do activity. Steep rainforest covered mountains, deep ocean fjords, muskeg, open alpine, rocky shorelines, and grassy estuaries provide diverse habitats for our avian friends. So grab a set of binoculars, your favorite field guide and enjoy!  

Northwestern Crow

Ketchikan Creek and Creek Street

Ketchikan Creek is a salmon stream that runs through the heart of town and is easily accessible from downtown cruise ship docks and many of Ketchikan’s hotels. At the mouth of the creek from mid-July until the end of October, Bald eagles, ravens, crows, and a variety of gulls collect to feed on spent salmon carcasses washing back to sea. Smaller trout and smolt attract Belted Kingfishers to Creek Street area as well. Making your way upstream via Married Man’s trail, keep your eye on the margin between the creek and forest for sparrows, warblers, thrushes and other smaller birds. Look for American dippers in the shallows near the stream edges, especially above the falls and fish ladder.

Bald Eagle poses in front of cruise ship while sitting on a piling in Thomas Basin Boat Harbor

Thomas Basin

Thomas Basin boat harbor is in the estuary of Ketchikan Creek. Walking the docks in the harbor is a good way to spot a variety of gulls and ducks. Watch the tops of the boat masts for perched Bald Eagles and Belted Kingfishers. Thomas Street, the historic wood planked street and cannery style buildings that flank Innman Hill, is a good place to see corvids (American /Northwestern crows, ravens, and Steller’s jays mostly) perched on railings and piling. Looking up the hill to the radio tower, there is almost always a bald eagle or two perched on the rungs. The shrubbery on the hill and the neighborhood gardens attracts songbirds. From there, head out onto the breakwater for a good view into the Tongass Narrows to look for seabirds, ducks, and loons. Marbled murrelets, Pigeon guillemots, Commons, Pacific, and Red Throated loons, Goldeneyes, Surf scoters, Common mergansers, Bonaparte’s gulls, Glaucus winged, Herring and other gulls are often spotted here.

Mother and baby Mergansers on a log at Ward Lake

Ward Lake

Ward lake is a popular spot with Ketchikan’s local birders due to the diversity of species found here. It is also easily within walking distance of the Ward Cove dock for bird watching enthusiasts who are traveling on a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship. Access to this area for those on foot is best achieved via the Frog Pond Trail.

Walk the trail that circles the lake to look for ducks, geese, Trumpeter Swans, gulls, Northern Flickers, Bald Eagles, Corvids, and a variety of song birds. 

Alaska Ocean Wilderness Expedition

Harlequin ducks are often spotted on our tour.

This tour is an excellent choice for birders, especially those who are interested in marine birds. Using a Zodiac expedition craft, we spend 2.5 hours exploring the Inside Passage in search of wildlife. Bald eagles, Harlequin ducks, Common murres, Marbled murrelets, and a variety of gulls are often spotted on this trip. The boat will also stop at one or more eagle’s nests. With small group sizes and knowledgeable crew, our Captains are always happy to be on the lookout for that life list bird you are looking for.

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