About the Festival

About the Festival
Field Trips
Wildman Race
Art and Music
For the Kids
Terns of Alaska
Our Presenters
Other Activities
Photo Gallery
Photo Contest
2017 Sponsors
2018 Registration

Mission Statement:

Photo by Samson DemmertTo highlight the extraordinary natural and cultural resources of Yakutat by establishing a festival celebrating Aleutian terns.  The Yakutat area boasts the southernmost known and one of the largest breeding colonies of Aleutian terns within its range.  It is the intent of this festival to support, unify, and educate the community by promoting ecotourism.

Yakutat Tern Festival, May 31-June 3, 2018
Celebrating the natural and cultural resources of Yakutat, Alaska.

The First Annual Yakutat Tern Festival was held June 2-5, 2011, with great success.  One of the largest and southernmost known breeding colonies of Aleutian Terns exists here.  The Aleutian Tern has a limited range throughout Alaska and eastern Siberia and Russia, and very little is known about this species, including its migration patterns.  The Yakutat area is currently at the forefront of Aleutian Tern research, including studies on population trends, nesting ecology, and migration patterns. Participants of the festival will enjoy birding activities, natural history field trips, art exhibits, educational events for kids and adults, Native cultural presentations and speakers with professional stature representing a wealth of information about the Yakutat area.

Why Attend The Yakutat Tern Festival?

What distinguishes Yakutat as a world-class birding destination is its incredible habitat diversity which translates into opportunities for birders to view over 200 species of birds, over 100 nesting varieties, and many rarities, including of course Aleutian Terns. Spectacular mountain ranges and the Gulf of Alaska squeeze the Yakutat forelands into a narrow corridor for hundreds of thousands of resident and migratory birds. Early June is prime time to see terns up close and personal. Take advantage of an in-depth view of the greater Yakutat area by attending this festival with all of its organized events.  Arrive early or stay late to take in the additional activities such as surfing, fishing, hiking, beach-combing, and sight-seeing that Yakutat has to offer.

2015 in the news:  http://juneauempire.com/art/2015-05-06/fifth-annual-tern-festival-welcome-aleutian-terns

2015 Yakutat Tern Festival Bird Species List
Compiled by Greg Butcher, Migratory Species Coordinator, U.S.F.S. International Programs (click here for Excel file with details)

Brant - Branta bernicla

Canada Goose - Branta canadensis

Trumpeter Swan - Cygnus buccinator

Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos

Green-winged Teal - Anas crecca

Greater Scaup - Aythya marila

Surf Scoter - Melanitta perspicillata

White-winged Scoter - Melanitta fusca

Long-tailed Duck - Clangula hyemalis

Barrow's Goldeneye - Bucephala islandica

Common Merganser - Mergus merganser

Red-breasted Merganser - Mergus serrator

Pacific Loon - Gavia pacifica

Common Loon - Gavia immer

Leach's Storm-Petrel - Oceanodroma leucorhoa

Double-crested Cormorant – Phalacrocorax auritus

Pelagic Cormorant - Phalacrocorax pelagicus

Bald Eagle - Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Black Oystercatcher - Haematopus bachmani

Black-bellied Plover - Pluvialis squatarola

Pacific Golden-Plover - Pluvialis fulva

Semipalmated Plover - Charadrius semipalmatus

Killdeer - Charadrius vociferus

Spotted Sandpiper - Actitis macularius

Wandering Tattler - Tringa incana

Greater Yellowlegs - Tringa melanoleuca

Whimbrel - Numenius phaeopus

Ruddy Turnstone - Arenaria interpres

Black Turnstone - Arenaria melanocephala

Red Knot - Calidris canutus

Surfbird - Calidris virgata

Sanderling - Calidris alba

Dunlin - Calidris alpina

Western Sandpiper - Calidris mauri

Wilson's Snipe - Gallinago delicata

Red-necked Phalarope - Phalaropus lobatus

Parasitic Jaeger - Stercorarius parasiticus

Common Murre - Uria aalge

Pigeon Guillemot - Cepphus columba

Marbled Murrelet - Brachyramphus marmoratus

Kittlitz's Murrelet - Brachyramphus brevirostris

Black-legged Kittiwake - Rissa tridactyla

Bonaparte's Gull - Chroicocephalus philadelphia

Mew Gull - Larus canus

Herring Gull - Larus argentatus

Glaucous-winged Gull - Larus glaucescens

Aleutian Tern - Onychoprion aleuticus

Caspian Tern - Hydroprogne caspia

Arctic Tern - Sterna paradisaea

Eurasian Collared-Dove - Streptopelia decaocto

Rufous Hummingbird - Selasphorus rufus

Belted Kingfisher - Megaceryle alcyon

Steller's Jay - Cyanocitta stelleri

Black-billed Magpie - Pica hudsonia

Northwestern Crow - Corvus caurinus

Common Raven - Corvus corax

Tree Swallow - Tachycineta bicolor

Bank Swallow - Riparia riparia

Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica

Cliff Swallow - Petrochelidon pyrrhonota

Chestnut-backed Chickadee - Poecile rufescens

Brown Creeper - Certhia americana

Pacific Wren - Troglodytes pacificus

American Dipper - Cinclus mexicanus

Golden-crowned Kinglet - Regulus satrapa

Ruby-crowned Kinglet - Regulus calendula

Hermit Thrush - Catharus guttatus

American Robin - Turdus migratorius

Varied Thrush - Ixoreus naevius

Orange-crowned Warbler - Oreothlypis celata

Yellow-rumped Warbler - Setophaga coronata

Wilson's Warbler - Cardellina pusilla

Savannah Sparrow - Passerculus sandwichensis

Fox Sparrow - Passerella iliaca

Song Sparrow - Melospiza melodia

Lincoln's Sparrow - Melospiza lincolnii

Dark-eyed Junco - Junco hyemalis

Red Crossbill - Loxia curvirostra

White-winged Crossbill - Loxia leucoptera

Pine Siskin - Spinus pinus

2015 highlights

  • Keynote Speaker John Marzluff
  • Featured Artist Alison Bremner
  • Production of MacBeth by Edgeware Productions
  • Mt. St. Elias Dancers
  • Seminars by Greg Butcher and Mike Goldstein
  • Bird banding demonstrations
  • Land and water based field trips
  • Live Bird Programs by the Anchorage Bird Treatment and Learning Center

2012 Festival Highlights

  • Outstanding Field Trips - including viewing of Aleutian Terns
  • Numerous Activities for Kids relating to Birds and Cultural Resources
  • Native Cultural Events including the Mount Saint Elias Dancers and Native Story-telling
  • Related Speakers and Seminars on Yakutat Natural and Cultural Topics and new saltwater based trips
  • Keynote speaker Bob Armstrong
  • Wildlife Photography Workshop
  • Live Bird Programs by the Alaska Raptor Center
  • Bird banding demonstration

Festival details (click here to download the full 2012 festival brochure)

Summary of 1st Annual (2011) Yakutat Tern Festival:

24 partners and 20 sponsors contributed to a successful first year of the festival.

Over 200 participants attended this event, including approximately 60 people from out of town and over 50 children (18 and under).

11 people entered the photo contest, and 90 people voted.  Photos included such subjects as terns, berries, landcapes, shorebirds, eagles, fish, wildlife, and flowers.  Mike Denega (adult) and Sarah Newlun (under 18 category) won first place in the publically juried photo contest. 

Over 60 people attended the Mt. St. Elias Dancers fundraiser dinner and performance.  The King Salmon dinner was a delightful treat!

31 species of birds were observed during the field trips.

6 species of birds were captured and banded at the mist-netting station.

Seminars included topics such as Kittlitz’s murrelets, subsistence use of birds, birds in native culture, Yakutat area glaciers, and beginning birding. 

3 interpreters and 4 different species of birds from 2 raptor centers presented programs for children and adults.

Festival t-shirts sold out!

Children’s activities included native story-telling,  art activities, a puppet show, science activities, raptor center presentations, mist-netting and bird banding.

4  local non-profit groups provided delicious on-site fundraiser meals.

Forest Service biologist Nate Catterson shared his knowledge about the Yakutat area terns and the current Yakutat-based research efforts.

Key-note speaker Dr. Brad Andres, co-author of the book The birds of Yakutat, spoke to over 60 participants about the migration aspects which link Yakutat’s birds to the rest of the world.

Glass-blowing artist Preston Singletary displayed his art-work, worked with the children, and delivered a highly interesting presentation to participants.

Award-winning author and photographer Amy Gulick displayed her photos from Salmon in the Trees, and shared her experiences in Southeast Alaska with festival participants.

11 local artists and 1 an artist from Sitka displayed their art work, including a traditional life-sized canoe, bentwood boxes, jewelry, books, Chilkoot blankets, and Tlingit art-work.

Vendor booths included Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Yakutat Tlingit Tribe, Yakutat Salmon Board, and University of Fairbanks Cooperative Extension.

Participants and presenters traveled from :

  • Alaska (Juneau, Homer, Auk Bay, Fairbanks, Sitka, Craig, Palmer, Chugiak, Seward)
  • Colorado
  • Arizona
  • Washington
  • California
  • Oregon
  • Minnesota
  • New Mexico


For information regarding the festival, please contact Teresa Swanson or Susan Oehlers (907) 784-3359. In the lower 48 states, contact Mike Denega (530) 306-4936

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