Red Knots & Semipalmated Sandpipers

Copper River Delta

Alaska, USA

The Copper River Delta in Alaska is an important staging area for nearly five million migrating shorebirds in early May, and also provides nesting habitat for several shorebirds that breed there.

Over 90 percent of Red Knots tagged with tracking devices at Grays Harbor, Washington, were detected in the Copper River Delta and nearby Cotroller Bay. These results suggest that Copper River Delta and Cotroller Bay are extremely important spring stopover sites and likely support a large proportion of the total roselaari Red Knot population. Although these sites’ importance to Red Knots is apparent, more research is needed to better understand the spatial-temporal patterns of use.


In recognition of the site’s importance to shorebirds, in 1990 the Copper River Delta was designated a Site of Hemispheric Importance by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN). For over 25 years, the local town of Cordova (with a population of approximately 2,300 residents) has celebrated this wonderful spectacle of nature with an annual shorebird festival. It is estimated that nearly 300 visitors participated in the 26th Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival, in 2017.

In May 2017, CEC supported the participation in the Copper River Shorebird Festival of representatives from other important shorebird sites along North America’s Pacific flyway. The goal of the exchange was to facilitate the sharing of best practices and lessons learned from Cordova about ways to develop ecotourism opportunities that promote shorebird conservation while generating economic benefits for the local economy.


Six site representatives participated in the exchange: four from Washington, United States, who represented Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor WHSRN sites; and two from Ensenada, Mexico, who represented the Bahía de Todos Santos proposed WHSRN site. Not only did the exchange allow these site representatives to experience and learn from a longstanding shorebird festival, but it also helped to build relationships that strengthen the nascent North American Pacific Coast Flyway Network.