|Southeast Alaska is home to a wide variety of birds, ranging from tiny songbirds to gulls and geese. Glaucous-winged gulls (kéidladi) are the most commonly targeted type of bird for their eggs (k’wát). They lay small clutches of two to three eggs in dense colonies on rocky outcrops, which are usually only harvested once one or two eggs have been laid to ensure they’re fresh. Tribal elders spoke at length in interviews about the cultural significance of harvesting gull eggs and the importance of taking trips to Glacier Bay to harvest eggs. One elder recalled a memory of harvesting in the park prior to the ban and subsequent relegalization of the process: “I think it was connection to your seasons. To …progress in your life. To continuity. To sharing in the community. To everyone coming together and, you know, doing this one thing…” Other tribal members noted that finding gull eggs in the Park had been more challenging in recent years. Residents also hunt ducks and geese, diversifying their diets.|
SINCE GULLS HAVE A VERY DIVERSE DIET AND ARE HIGHLY MOBILE CREATURES, THEY ARE RELATIVELY WELL SUITED TO ADAPT TO CLIMATE CHANGE.
Gulls are notorious omnivores, enjoying fish, shellfish, crabs, smaller birds, some plants, and even garbage dumps and dead animals. Since gulls depend on other animals that will be negatively impacted by climate change, they may face food scarcity, but given their foraging abilities and broad preferences for eating, they have more options than animals that rely on fewer food sources. Warmer temperatures also increase the amount of food birds need to eat, which will require them to spend more effort hunting and possibly put them at odds with fish populations. Gulls are also fairly well suited to adapt to habitat loss, since they have more opportunities for considering new vistas than clams and cockles do. While the area near Hoonah is expected to lose gull habitat, regions near Yakutat, Juneau, and Petersburg are all expected to gain gull habitat by the end of the century.
WARMER AIR TEMPERATURES WILL CHANGE THE TIMING OF WHEN THE EGGS HATCH, WHICH MAY NOT ALIGN WITH WHEN FOOD SOURCES ARE AVAILABLE.
Birds across North America have already been observed to lay their eggs earlier because of rising temperatures. About a third of birds near Chichagof island lay their eggs 25 days earlier than they did a hundred years ago. The changing in the timing of the laying process may cause a mismatch between when the young are born and when there is abundant food. While gulls have a variety of options for sources of prey, birds that rely more heavily on just a few species may have a hard time feeding their young. The timing issue may also be one of the main reasons that almost a third of birds in North America—about 3 billion—have died over the past fifty years.
POLLUTION MAY REDUCE FOOD AVAILABILITY OR DAMAGE THE QUALITY OF FOOD BIRDS HAVE ACCESS TO.
Birds without enough food lay fewer eggs and have smaller young that are less likely to survive the fledgling stage. Community members interviewed about gull egg harvesting practices reported that the quality and taste of the eggs was dependent on what the gulls had been eating. If their food sources become more polluted or they are required to switch to other food sources, the taste and/or nutrition of their eggs may be affected. While gulls have very diverse diets, songbirds and ducks are somewhat more limited (the first relying almost exclusively on insects, the second eating shellfish, crabs, and insects).
HABITAT DEGRADATION IS THE LARGEST THREAT TO DUCKS AND MANY TYPES OF SONGBIRDS.
Ducks rely heavily on shallow wetlands and estuaries for building their nests and foraging for food. Isostatic (glacial) rebound is going to drastically shift shorelines and habitats across Southeast Alaska, resulting in a loss of duck habitat in the near-Hoonah area by the end of the century. Ducks are also vulnerable to run-off and development near urban areas, namely the expansion of Hoonah’s airport in the Garteena Estuary. Songbirds face threats from logging and forest die-offs triggered by drought and insects, though many are adaptable and can nest and forage in clear-cuts as well. Since many of the species of birds in Southeast Alaska are migratory though, conservation efforts focusing on Hoonah are only half of the story and many of the largest threats affect their winter ranges, namely drought and forest fire in the Rockies and American Southwest.
1.1: Educate the community about negative impacts on various bird species from increasing water temperatures and other adverse climate change impacts
1.2: Investigate ways to motivate youth to be involved in natural resource management, especially habitat restoration projects
1.3: Assess prime Gull egg harvesting locations throughout Glacier Bay, identifying the ecological characteristics associated with healthy egg nests
1.4: Identify regional partners / stakeholders to help address and mitigate adverse climate change impacts on Gull populations and egg nesting sites
1.5: Identify and apply for funding sources that support traditional Indigenous ways of life and self-determination to fund projects that amlieroate adverse impacts on Gull nesting sites in Glacier Bay and local bird populations
2.1: Explore options that encourage traveling to regions near Yakutat, Juneau, and Petersburg to harvest Gull eggs to maintain traditional harvesting practices
2.2: Perform environmental monitoring in Gull egg harvesting locations throughout Glacier Bay to survey changes in Gull egg nesting habitats
2.2: Establish environmental restoration techniques to improve the quality and/or abundance of Gull egg nesting habitat and ecological conditions in Glacier Bay
2.3: Collaborate with the National Parks Service to establish new protocols / procedures that enable tribal co-management of natural resources within the park
2.4: Evaluate the region for future Gull egg nesting locations after considering prospected climate change impacts
2.5 Establish programs and capacities necessary to participate in advocacy efforts around climate change, just transitions, and maintaining Indigenous rights
3.1: Have continuous representation and participation in advocacy efforts around climate change and Indigenous rights
3.2: Participate in natural resource management decisions / processes in Glacier Bay, eliminating threats to Gull habitats and nesting sites
3.3: Maintain Gull egg harvesting practices in Glacier Bay as well as other locations, if necessary, to secure sufficient quantities of Gull eggs