Mike Denega

The Yakutat Tern Festival is a celebration of the natural and cultural resources of Yakutat, Alaska. The festival is family friendly and offers activities for birders as well as non-birders, including field trips, seminars, kid’s activities, evening banquets and other programs, a race, and art.
May 29, 10:00 AM AKDT – Jun 01, 4:00 PM AKDT
Location is TBD

There will be no registration fee for the 2021 Festival.

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Yakutat, AK: Where nature is at its grandest. 

Yakutat is one of Northwest Life and Travel's 52 places to get away! 

Featured Artist 2021:


Jennie Wheeler is a Master Artist and a Teacher of the Tlingit art of sewing and basket weaving. Born and raised in Southeast Alaska, Jennie calls Yakutat home. Yakutat, which was known for its superior basket weavers, is where she learned how to harvest spruce roots and how to weave. Jennie has spent a lifetime devoted to her craft, which began at the age of ten when her mother taught her how to sew moccasins. Tourists and locals love to visit her gift shop where she displays and sells her work. As a teacher Jennie travels throughout Southeast Alaska sharing her knowledge and teaching the skills of sewing and weaving. 

Jennie was recently awarded the 2016 Community Spirit Award from First People's Fund. She has devoted much her life to preserving her Tlingit culture through her art and teaching. 

Jennie proudly creates authentic Tlingit art

using traditional materials and technique.


Yakutat Tern Festival

Registration IS CLOSED pending finalization of schedule due to COVID-19

We are excited to add your names to the list! Please be patient with us while we get some kinks worked out with our new site. Feel free to e-mail us anytime!


The TENTH Annual Yakutat Tern Festival.

The festival is a celebration of the natural and cultural resources of Yakutat, Alaska. Yakutat hosts one of the largest and southernmost known nesting colonies of Aleutian Terns, as well as Arctic Terns and up to 200 other bird species that nest in, or migrate through the area. The festival is family friendly and offers activities for birders as well as non-birders, including field trips, seminars, kid’s activities, evening banquets, bird banding demonstration, and other programs.


Other area activities include sight-seeing, hiking, fishing, surfing, canoeing and kayaking, wildlife viewing, and beach-combing. 




our sponsors

Yakutat Tlingit Tribe

Yakutat Chamber of Commerce






Aleutian Tern

Aleutian Terns are of special interest because we know very little about them and their breeding range is limited to Alaska and Eastern Siberia. They nest on the outer coast of Alaska from Glacier Bay to Barrow. They are by all accounts a rare bird, with a global population estimated at approximately 30,000 individuals.  The breeding population estimate for Alaska is 5,500 birds. 

Aleutian terns have a distinct white triangular patch on their forehead just above the bill. They also have black feet, legs, and bill. Aleutian Terns are similar in size to Arctic Terns, but stouter with a more deeply forked tail. Perhaps the biggest contrast between Aleutian and other tern species is in their call. Instead of a harsh cry, Aleutian Terns emit a musical whistling sound similar to a shore bird.  Aleutian Terns are also much less aggressive in defending their nesting colonies; instead of dive bombing, they will generally hover high over the colony when disturbed by humans.

Besides limited colony counts, very little is known about the breeding ecology of this species, and information on their migration routes and wintering areas is only recently coming to light.    This species is designated as a species of concern by several agencies and conservation organizations, primarily due to suspected population declines throughout their range.  A dedicated group of researchers and managers are collaborating to learn more about this species including population status and trend, risks to the population as a whole, and potential future conservation actions.

Terns are small seabirds related to gulls. In contrast to the languid gull, terns contend for the title of most superb aerialists in the avian realm. Terns are capable of hovering in the air like a hummingbird, flipping over backwards, and then slicing down into the water like a pelican. Although they may scavenge occasionally, terns prefer to hunt small fish which they spot from the air and plunge into the water to catch.

Alaska is just one stop on the long journey for terns, but it is an important one.  Terns come to Alaska to lay their eggs and raise their chicks. They nest on the ground on beaches, gravel bars, and lake shores, laying their eggs in shallow depressions called scrapes. The eggs are camouflaged to look like little rocks and are hard to see.

Terns breed in several areas around Yakutat, primarily in mixed Arctic and Aleutian Tern colonies, including the largest known colonies on Black Sand Spit and near the Italio river. The Aleutian tern colony on Black Sand Spit on the Yakutat Forelands is one of the largest in the world, historically supporting up to 3,000 Aleutian Terns; current population estimates are less than 1,000, but continue to represent a significant portion of the global population.  Aleutian terns were documented on the Spit as far back as 1923, and the colony appears to be stable despite apparent declining populations elsewhere within Alaska.  In part because of the large population of Aleutian Terns found there, Black Sand Spit is identified an Audubon Important Bird Area.

Getting around in Yakutat






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