This bird is a juvenile Great Blue Heron. It is rare sighting of heron outside of its normal range which extends into Southeast but not Southwest Alaska.
Observation by Shaelyn Walker:
Not a common species of bird that is seen here.
Emily Johnson, Ornithologist, writes:
“This is definitely a Great Blue Heron. What an interesting find all the way out there!”
Comments from LEO Editors:
This is a juvenile Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). The Alaska Department of Fish and Game states that while many birds migrate out of Alaska in the fall, some great blue herons winter in Southeast and fishing the wetlands and shorelines. The Audubon Society informs us that the Great Blue Heron is very adaptable. It thrives around water ranging from from subtropical mangrove swamps to desert rivers to the coastline of southern Alaska. With its variable diet it is able to spend the winter farther north than most herons, even in areas where most waters freeze.
King Cove is a bit farther west than they are usually found. The Alaska Climate Research Center reports that:
“On December 2, 2020, a severe storm with heavy rainfall led to destructive landslides, mudslides and flooding in communities throughout Southeast Alaska. There was above normal precipitation in Southeast, and much lower below average temperatures were along the southeastern part of the state (Juneau at -2.3 ºF and Yakutat at -1.8ºF) in Nov of 2020.”
In December, Southeast and the Panhandle experienced above normal temperatures and slightly above normal precipitation. At this time, King Cove was experiencing closer to normal precipitation and temperatures and is not very far from their typical wintering habitat. It’s possible the changes prompted this young Great Blue Heron to find more suitable habitat to winter in. The Cornell Bird Observatory operates a website called eBird which provides a global database of bird observations. The Great Blue Heron range map reports only one previous sighting in King Cove, sometime between January and February of 2021. Correspondence with residents suggests this is possibly the same bird in eBird's data. The eBird data indicates that the Great Blue Heron has only been reported in this area (range presence), 0-2% of the time, meaning it is a rare sight indeed. For interesting bird sightings, eBird is a great place to post sightings and track your bird watching in a personal account under "My eBird." You can make for free on the site here Chyna Williams