More than 20,000 birds often nest on the cliff faces of this craggy island in Kachemak Bay about three miles south of the Homer Spit. On a summer day, the scene can be almost overwhelming—thousands of screaming kittiwakes, babies crying from nests, murres and puffins and other seabirds diving offshore for fish, lone bald eagles on the hunt for a meal. The pungent air will reek with the fishy scent of guano and ocean spray, while thousands of birds might soar over your head in a massive wave. It’s one of the easiest-to-visit rookeries in Alaska.
What Will You See?
- Black-legged kittiwakes dominate, with 8,000 to 10,000 birds building mud nests on ledges and inside crannies.
- Common murres also nest on the cliffs, numbering 5,000 to 8,000.
- Other common residents will include the big glaucous-winged gulls, tufted puffins, pelagic and red-face cormorants, and pigeon guillemots—a who’s who of Alaska’s seabird world.
- The island is also known as a place where bald eagles sometimes prey on the smaller birds. It’s fascinating to experience the tremendous chaos among kittiwakes as they react to an eagle winging close.
Gull Island Tips
- The island is owned by the Seldovia Native Corp. and is off-limits to landing. You must be on a boat!
- Using binoculars or scopes will improve viewing and allow you to zero in on details of this crowded and ever-moving colony. A payoff will be intimate glimpses of fuzzy babies nestled in the nests, or being fed by adults.
- More than 370 kittiwake rookeries dot Alaska’s rugged coast, with most hosting about 5,000 birds but the largest can see upwards of 30,000 birds. An estimate 1.3 million kittiwakes live in Alaska.
- Try to visit in the morning. Kachemak Bay can become rougher during summer afternoons when the sea breeze picks up.