Chapter 1 1. Aleutian/Bering Sea Islands Included in this region are the Aleutian Islands, extending westward from the Alaskan mainland for 1,100 miles, and the Bering Sea Islands, including the Pribilofs, St. Matthew, Hall, St. Lawrence, and Little Diomede. The Aleutian chain is volcanic in origin with a maritime climate in which wind is ever present. Vegetation at higher elevations consists of dwarf shrub communities, mainly of willow and crowberry. Meadows and marshes of herbs, sedges, and grasses are plentiful, and some islands have ericaceous bogs. Sea ice does not extend to the Aleutians, and permafrost is generally absent; however, sea ice is an important feature of the Bering Sea. Seabirds are a dominant component of this region's avifauna and several species, the Red-legged Kittiwake, the Least Auklet, and the Whiskered Auklet, breed only in this region. Southern Hemisphere procellariiforms occur regularly in the offshore waters of the southern Bering Sea and northern Gulf of Alaska during Alaskan summers. The breeding diversity of passerines (mainly the Lapland Longspur, Snow Bunting, and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch), and shorebirds (including the Black Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Ruddy Turnstone, and Rock Sandpiper) is low. However, the McKay's Bunting, the only endemic Alaskan passerine, is restricted to this area. Bering Sea Islands IBAs, Alaska St. Lawrence Island (1), St. Matthew and Hall Islands (2), Pribilof Islands (3) Highlight: Remote windswept islands designated for the breeding McKay's Bunting (St. Matthew and Hall, possibly also St. Lawrence and Pribilofs), and for the Red-legged Kittiwake (75 percent of world population breeds in the Pribilof Islands). Designation: The Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, which administers much of the islands, is a National Natural Landmark. Location: Includes St. Matthew and Hall Islands (60 N, 172 W), the Pribilof Islands (57 N, 170 W), and St. Lawrence Island (63 N, 170 W). Size: Bering Sea Unit of the Alaska Martime Wildlife refuge is 170,000 acres. The Bering Sea Wilderness Area is 81,340 acres. Ownership: Private and federal: Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, Bering Sea Wilderness Area. Habitats: Windswept tundra, precipitous cliffs, some lower-lying coastal lagoons, and beaches. Land Use: Wilderness. Some subsistence hunting and offshore commercial fishing. Site Description: Two groups of remote, windswept islands separated by 200 miles of ocean, and one larger (100-mile-long) island that lies around 150 miles farther to the north. The islands are treeless and covered in low spongy tundra with grasses reaching a foot high in places. Some dwarf willows are also present. The northerly St. Lawrence and St. Matthew and Hall Islands (81,340 acres, of which 77,000 is St. Matthew) are surrounded by pack ice nine months of the year. The bleak climate is characterized by high winds and frequent fog. St. Matthew rises to 1,500 feet in altitude, and the steep sea cliffs of nearby Pinnacle Island reach 1,200 feet. The tiny, northerly Hall Island has a hauling-out site for Pacific walrus. St. Matthew has a lake with endemic landlocked chinook salmon, and singing voles and Arctic foxes are the common terrestrial mammals. Of the five islets that make up the more southerly Pribilof Islands, St. Paul is the most frequently visited by birders, although 90 percent of the breeding seabirds occur on nearby St. George. The low tundra of the islands is punctuated by rocky outcrops, and the volcanic soil is a reddish color. During the summer the landscape is brightened by a flush of colorful wildflowers, and there are two lakes on St. Paul where waterfowl and shorebirds gather. There is a colony of approximately one million northernAmerican Bird Conservancy Staff is the author of 'American Bird Conservancy Guide to 500 Most Important Bird Areas in the United States Key Sites for Birds and Birding in All 50 States', published 2003 under ISBN 9780812970364 and ISBN 0812970365.