Flora and Fauna of the Pribilof Islands

This page was written by Jeanette Wolak and Erin Klauk as part of the DLESE Community Services Project: Integrating Research in Education.

Red-crested cormorants and horned puffins, Pribilof Islands, AK. Details

The Pribilof Islands are home to a diverse assemblage of flora and fauna. The islands includes a variety of seabirds, whales and fish, marine mammals, and land species such as arctic foxes and reindeer. Biologists who study these islands have labeled them the 'Galapagos of the North' in reference to their abundant biological diversity over such a small area.

The shallowly-sloping beaches of the Pribilof Islands serve as rookeries and haul-out grounds for large populations of northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus). These marine mammals were valued for their furs by Russian and American traders throughout the 18th and 19th century. For more information about the history of fur seals and Aleut seal hunters, click here.

Basaltic cliffs of St. George Island rise sharply from the ocean, measuring a thousand feet at their highest points (Danger in Numbers (more info) ). Over 3 million seabirds nest on St. George, including murres, auklets, puffins, cormorants, and black- and red-legged kittiwakes (Kenyon and Phillips, 1965 (more info) ). St. Paul also hosts a variety of seabirds, though populations are an order of magnitude lower.

To further investigate the flora and fauna of the Pribilof Islands, check out the links below:

Flora and Fauna of the Pribilofs

Resources containing information about the flora and fauna of the Pribilof Islands, Alaska.

  • Animals and Plants of the Bering Sea Land Bridge. This National Park Service website provides general information about plants and animals found in the Bering Sea region. Photographs are included, along with embedded links to topics of interest. (more info)
  • Bering Sea Climate and Ecosystem. This NOAA website provides current information on the Bering Sea ecosystem and climate. Links within the site lead to detailed information about the current state of the local environment, including atmospheric conditions and ocean temperatures. Additional links lead to essays and information about recent shifts in the North Pacific climate system, and the effect that this change has on every niche in this unique ecosystem. (more info)
  • Image Gallery of Bering Sea Wildlife. This resource contains images of Bering Sea wildlife, including birds, marine mammals, whales and fish. Historical photographs and images of marine vessels are also available. (more info)
  • Mapping Ecologically Sensitive Islands in the Bering Sea. This USGS article provides an overview of mapping in the Pribilof Islands. External links lead to information about the Pribilof Islands Restoration Project. (more info)
  • Is the Climate of the Bering Sea Warming and Affecting the Ecosystem?. [Overland and Stabeno, 2004] This journal article presents information on climate change in the Bering Sea region over a period of 42 years (1961-2003) and highlights the possible effects on marine wildlife in the Bering Sea ecosystem. Much of the climate information presented in this paper was collected on St. Paul Island. Many figures accompany the text and include graphical representations of monthly air temperature anomalies on St. Paul Island and maps of sea floor temperatures along the Bering Sea shelf. (Full Text Online)

Northern Fur Seals of the Pribilofs

Resources containing information about northern fur seals, Callorhinus ursinus.

  • A Puzzle in the Pribilofs. This 4-page NOAA article investigates potential causes for the decline of northern fur seal populations in the Pribiolf Islands since the early 1950s. (more info)
  • Danger in Numbers . This Nature Conservancy article provides a general overview of wildlife on the Pribilof Islands, with specific emphasis on northern fur seals. Potential causes for the decline in fur seal populations throughout the Bering Sea are also discussed. (more info)
  • Northern Fur Seal. This Alaska Fish and Game website describes general characteristics of the northern fur seal, Callorhinus ursinus. A general description of the fur seal is provided along with information about migration and distribution, feeding habits, historical significance and management. (more info)
  • Northern Fur Seal Information. This National Marine Mammal Laboratory website provides links to detailed information about the distribution of fur seals in the Bering Sea region. It also features related links that lead to maps of fur seal rookeries on St. Paul Island and St. George Island, as well as PDF reports that describe fur seal population dynamics from 1993-2001. (more info)
  • Behavior and Ecology of the Northern Fur Seal. [Gentry, 1998] This book contains very detailed information about the ecology and behavior of Callorhinus ursinus, the northern fur seal. Information provided in this book is based on the long-term study of northern fur seals on several islands in the Bering Sea (e.g., Pribilof Islands, Bogoslof Island, St. Matthew Island, etc.). Information is provided on population behavior, male and female interaction, mating, reproduction, and foraging habits. Several figures accompany the 408-page text. (citation and description)

Birds of the Pribilofs

Resources containing information about birds found in the Pribilof Islands, Alaska.

  • Birds from the Pribilof Islands and Vicinity. This 12-page PDF provides information about unusual species of birds found in the Pribilof Islands between 1947 and 1954. The focus of this report is primarily on Black-legged and Red-legged Kittewakes observed on St. Paul Island. (more info)
  • Implications of Climate Change for Alaska's Seabirds. This 14-page PDF report describes the importance of Alaska’s seabird population to the overall ecosystem. An overview of Alaskan seabirds is provided, along with information concerning breeding ecology, distribution of birds at sea, and monitoring of various populations. Finally, a discussion of the potential affects of climate change on marine birds and mammals is provided, using the example of Black Guillemonts in arctic Alaska. (more info)
Map illustrating bird concentrations, bird nesting areas and sea mammal areas on St. George Island.
Image courtesy of Federal Aviation Administration.

Map illustrating bird concentrations, bird nesting areas and sea mammal areas on St. Paul Island.
Image courtesy of Alaska Federal Aviation Administration.

For ideas on how to use these webpages in a classroom, a Study Guide is provided.