Every year, close to two million birds nest on St. George Island, one of the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea, a couple hundred miles north of the Aleutian chain of Alaska. Murres, kittiwakes, cormorants, fulmars, Horned Puffins, and Parakeet Auklets arrange themselves on the cliffs. Gerrit Vyn, conservation media producer for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, describes the scene.
Hear more about the Pribilof Islands and the challenges seabirds face on the first episode of the Threatened podcast.
Seabirds of St. George Island
By Ari Daniel
The Pribilof Islands are two specks in the Bering Sea, a couple hundred miles north of the Aleutian chain of Alaska.
Gerrit Vyn: There’s a place on St. George Island called the High Bluffs.
Gerrit Vyn is a conservation media producer for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Gerrit: You have to hike for about two miles, kinda going along this long, gradual uphill into the fog and clouds. And all of a sudden, the land just falls away and you edge nearer and nearer to the edge of this cliff. And you look down, and it’s just like this cauldron of raucous bird sound and swirling murres and kittiwakes, with thousands of nests of these cliff-nesting birds. There’s lots of fractures and cracks and little ledges and little nooks and crannies.
Close to two million birds nest here each year — the murres and kittiwakes, but also cormorants, fulmars, Horned Puffins, and Parakeet Auklets, all arranged on the cliffs… while other puffins and auklets nest in burrows and boulder fields nearby.
Gerrit: Most of the time, they’re far out in the open ocean, no land in sight. But there’s an explosion of marine life, and all these birds feed on that marine life and nest on these remote islands. It’s so safe from most predators and there’s so much food there that that’s the place on earth that’s best for them to raise their young. It’s basically the only time during the year where they really spend any time near land. There are very few places left in the world where you can experience that raw power and energy.
For BirdNote, I’m Ari Daniel.
To hear more about the Pribilof Islands and the challenges seabirds face, subscribe to Threatened wherever you get your podcasts.
Producer: John Kessler
Production Manager: Allison Wilson
Editor: Allison Wilson
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Field Recordings by Ethan Candyfire
© 2020 BirdNote November 2020 Narrator: Ari Daniel
ID# pribilof-01-2020-11-27 pribilof-01