Species at Crooked Creek Information Site

Canada geese are common visitors at the Crooked Creek Information Site
 

Birds

The bird life at the Valdez Duck Flats and the Crooked Creek Information Site is spectacular. Birding is good throughout the year, but spring and fall migration will provide the widest diversity of species. Look for the following birds during your visit to Crooked Creek.

Waterbirds

  • Arctic tern
  • Lesser yellowlegs
  • Black-legged kittiwake
  • Herring gull
  • Glaucous-winged gull
  • Great blue heron

Waterfowl

  • Mallard
  • Bufflehead
  • Gadwall
  • Northern pintail
  • American wigeon
  • Canada goose

Perching Birds

  • American dipper
  • Varied thrush
  • Song sparrow
  • Common redpoll
  • Common raven
  • American robin
  • Violet-green swallow
  • Yellow-rumped warbler
  • Golden-crowned sparrow
  • Black-billed magpie
  • Northwestern crow
Adult bald eagle
 

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Our nation's symbol, the bald eagle is common in Prince William Sound. In fact, there are more bald eagles in Alaska than in all the other states combined! With their white head and 6.5 - 8 foot wingspan, bald eagles are unmistakeable. This majestic bird can be seen throughout the year along riverways and in forests in Prince William Sound. Large concentrations of eagles can be viewed in early spring during the yearly hooligan (eulachon) run. Also several pairs often nest along the Valdez Duck Flats and Dayville Road, providing a rare wildlife watching treat.

spawning red salmon - Clara Elge copyright
 

The Salmon of Crooked Creek

As regular as the seasons, pink and chum salmon return to the clear waters of Crooked Creek to spawn and die. From mid-July to late September, you can observe salmon choosing mates, defending territories and digging redds, or nests.

All Pacific salmon are anadromous, meaning that they hatch from eggs, travel to salt water to grow and mature, and then return to freshwater to lay their eggs and die. Although each of the five species of Pacific salmon have slightly different life patterns, they all depend upon both salt water and fresh water for their survival.

The fish that you see in Crooked Creek look very different from salmon in sea water. Ocean salmon are bright silver in color, but they change appearance as soon as they begin their journey back to fresh water to spawn. Both pink and chum salmon males develop a hooked jaw, and male pink salmon develop a large, fleshy hump on their backs. Chum salmon develop dark, maroon "tiger" stripes.

You are observing the beginning and the end of the salmon's life cycle. Wedged in the gravel bottom of Crooked Creek, the salmon eggs will overwinter and hatch in early spring. The newly-hatched fish, callled alevins, remain hidden in the gravel and survive on a yolk sac attached to their bodies. When the yolk sac is absorbed, the small fish emerge as fry.

Both pink and chum salmon head for the sea almost as soon as they emerge from the gravel. Pink salmon spend only 1.5 years in the ocean and return to spawn as 4-5 pound, two-year fish. Chum salmon spend 2.5 - 3.5 years in the ocean and are 8-10 pounds at maturity.

After overcoming obstacles that may include waterfalls, beaver dams, sea lions and people, the salmon's life in the stream is brief, as death comes shortly after spawning. Even in death salmon contribute to the food chain and return nutrients to the stream from which they came.