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State of Washington

Willow Goldfinch
American Goldfinch Spinus tristis ©Simon Pierre Barrette - Creative Commons

Birding Washington

The state is divided by the Cascade Mountains, with the western third (Western Washington) being the wet side and the eastern two-thirds (Eastern Washington) being the dry side.

Western Washington is dominated by wet coniferous forests, and by coastal areas and inland marine habitats. There are an abundance of wetlands as well. The, Olympic Mountains, separated from the rest of Western Washington by Puget Sound, reach to nearly eight thousand feet (2400 meters).

The Cascade Range is even more impressive with a ridge running north to south across the state, ranging from about 3000 feet high to over 8000 feet (900 - 2400 meters); and with four huge volcanoes (Adams, Baker, St. Helens, and Rainier) towering above. Mt. Rainier, at 14,411 feet (4392 meters) is the fifth tallest peak in the 48 contiguous states.

Eastern Washington, while generally drier (and much less populated) than Western Washington, has perhaps even more habitat diversity. The eastern slopes of the Cascades feature dry coniferous forest, which fades into sagebrush hills. The mighty Columbia River cuts across the state, providing water to orchards and fields. In the northeast, higher elevation dry forest changes to wet forest again, as the Rocky Mountains just touch the northeast corner of the state. In the centre and southeast of Eastern Washington, huge wheat fields dominate.

Because of the wide range of elevations, habitats, and climatic zones, there is no simple list of best birding spots. Luckily, despite its large size, any point in Washington can be reached in a single day's drive from Seattle, as long as you don't stop to bird too much on the way!

On the coast, the area around Grays Harbor is recommended, as is the less accessible Cape Flattery area. Some of the best birding is at Ocean Shores. Pelagic trips are periodically run out of Westport www.westportseabirds.com/ Along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which separates the Olympic Peninsula from Vancouver Island, there is an abundance of good birding, especially around Port Angeles and Sequim.

In the Puget Sound area, Whidbey Island is a good bet, but there are an abundance of good locations in and around the cities as well, including Discovery Park (Seattle); Spencer Island (Everett) and the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) (south of Tacoma).

Birding the Cascade crest is more difficult, but can yield White-tailed Ptarmigan and Gray-crowned Rosy Finch (both only at highest elevations).

In Eastern Washington, the dry coniferous forests can be outstanding, especially spring in the Wenas valley, between Ellensburg and Yakima. The Okanogan region, with its higher latitudes and higher elevations, is the best place for boreal species. To the south, the Walla Walla river delta is great, especially for fall shorebird migration. The potholes area and the Columbia NWR, in the centre of the state, has countless lakes and ponds in a desert environment, providing oases for birds.

The best existing site guide for Washington State is A Guide to Bird Finding in Washington, by Terence R. Wahl and Dennis R. Paulson. It is available through the Washington Ornithological Society www.wos.org


Michael Hobbs

Former WOS Webmaster



Number of Species

Number of bird species: 511

As at November 2016


iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

Useful Reading

A Birder's Guide to Washington

by Hal N Opperman ABA 2003

ISBN: 1878788205

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birder's Guide to Washington

Diann MacRae, Elizabeth A. Mills (Illustrator) Paperback - 336 pages (June 1995) Gulf Publishing Company

ISBN: 0884151263

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birding in the San Juan Islands

by Mark Lewis & Fred Sharpe. Paperback - 219pp (1987) Mountaineers Books

ISBN: 0898861330

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birding Washington

Rob McNair-Huff and Natalie McNair-Huff Series: FALCON GUIDE SERIES 388 pages, 65 b/w photos, 50 maps. Falcon Press 2004

ISBN: 076272577X

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds in Place - a Habitat-based Field Guide to Birds of the Northern Rockies

by Radd Icenoggle Paperback 384 pages (1 May, 2003) Publisher: Farcountry Press

ISBN: 1560372419

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of Washington State

Brian Bell and Gregory Kennedy 384 pages Lone Pine Publishing 2006

ISBN: 1551054302

Buy this book from NHBS.com

National Geographic Field Guide to Birds: Washington and Oregon

Jonathan Alderfer Series: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC STATE FIELD GUIDES TO BIRDS 272 pages, maps, photos, drawings. National Geographic Society 2006

ISBN: 0792253132

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Shorebirds of the Pacific Northwest

by Dennis Paulson; Jim Erckmann (Illustrator). Paperback - 422pp (1998) University of Washington Press

ISBN: 029597706X

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Washington Birds : An Introduction to Familiar Species

Waterford PressPaperback - 12 pages (October 1997) Waterford Press

ISBN: 1889903353

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Useful Information

State Bird

Willow Goldfinch Fringilla tristis


Admiralty Audubon


Birding around Port Townsend…

Audubon Society in Washington


The usual State site for the National Audubon society… dry and useful as a link to local chapters… about time they put some more effort into a better design!

Audubon Washington


Audubon Washington conserves and restores natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity…

Black Hills Audubon.com


Black Hills Audubon Society represents Lewis, Mason, and Thurston counties in Washington. We are affiliated with National Audubon. Our goals are to maintain and protect our ecosystems for future generations, and promote environmental education and recreation…

Blue Mountain Audubon Society


Blue Mountain Audubon Society general membership meetings are held on the third Thursday of every month, 7:30 p.m. at the Fellowship Hall, First Congregational Church, corner of Palouse and Alder, Walla Walla…

Central Basin Audubon Society

Facebook Page

We are a chapter of the National Audubon Society with national memberships of over 500,000. There are over 30,000 memberships in the state of Washington. Our chapter now has about 150 members and is growing. We received our charter in 1989. The purposes of the CBAS are education, conservation, and recreation, to encourage public appreciation of the values of wildlife and natural habitats and to stimulate action for their protection.

Discovery Coast Audubon Society

Facebook Page

A New Chapter of Audubon - First one in 25 Years. The 26th Chapter in State of Washington…

Eastside Audubon


East Lake Washington Audubon brings together Birdwatching, environmental education and local conservation in Western Washington State, including Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Woodinville and Bothell. A classy site this, pleasing to the eye as well as useful for anyone visiting this area… the name has changed but the mission is the same: The mission of Eastside Audubon is to protect, preserve and enhance natural ecosystems and our communities for the benefit of birds, other wildlife and people.

Grays Harbor Audubon Society


Grays Harbor Audubon Society PO Box 444 Montesano, WA 98563 Phone: (360) 495-3101 FAX: (559) 851-8279 E-mail: GHAS@usa.com

Kitsap Audubon Society


…To preserve the natural world through education, environmental study, and habitat protection; and to promote awareness and enjoyment of local and regional natural areas…

Kittitas Audubon Society


The mission of the Kittitas Audubon Society is to develop an appreciation of nature through education and conservation with a focus on birds.

Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society


The Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society is the chapter of the National Audubon Society located in the Tri-Cities area (Richland, Kennewick, Pasco) of south-eastern Washington State. Our area is primarily a dry, sagebrush/chaparral type of environment, but we are located at the confluence of three major rivers, the Yakima, the Snake, and the Columbia, which, together with much agricultural irrigation, gives us a large amount of wetlands and riverine environments. This combination of factors, as well as our location under a major bird migratory pathway, gives us a much larger variety of species than might otherwise be expected…

Nature Conservancy of Washington


Not in the house style of the new NC websites but nontheless very well presented site with lots of info for birders. The Nature Conservancy of Washington has embarked on an ambitious fundraising campaign to save some of the last remaining lowland coastal ancient forest in Washington…

North Cascades Audubon Society


Another fairly ordinary local chapter site: Serving the communities of Whatcom County.

North Central Washington Audubon

Facebook Page

North Central Washington Audubon Society, a local chapter of the National Audubon Society, is dedicated to furthering the knowledge and the conservation of the environment of North Central Washington, our Nation, and the World… North Central Washington Audubon Society, P.O. Box 2934, Wenatchee, WA 98807

Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society


Another better than average local site.

Palouse Audubon Society


The Palouse Audubon Society has been serving the Palouse region of North Central Idaho and Eastern Washington since 1973. Our chapter, headquartered in Moscow Idaho has a membership of nearly 400 people enjoying our national heritage of songbirds and wildlife. We share both the opportunities to observe songbirds and other wildlife as well as our concerns about their continued survival.

Pilchuck Audubon Society


Pilchuck Audubon Society is a grassroots environmental organization with approximately 1,500 members in Snohomish County and Camano Island, WA. Our mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems focusing on birds and other wildlife for the benefit of the earth`s biological diversity…

Rainier Audubon Society


Mission: To conserve and restore natural ecosystems and protect birds and other wildlife for the benefit of humanity and biological diversity in South King County and the world we live in…

San Juan Islands Audubon Society


This is the web site of the San Juan Islands Audubon Society. We are a group who meets for bird walks monthly on one of the four islands in the San Juan Islands serviced by the ferry system. Our basic philosophy is enjoy the wildlife and try to tread lightly. Our goal is to attain a better understanding and respect for the flora and fauna of our surroundings. We invite all to join us…

Seattle Audubon Society


Seattle Audubon Society serves its members in their endeavours to appreciate, preserve and enjoy birds and the natural environment in the Pacific Northwest.

Skagit Audubon Society


The mission of the National Audubon Society is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the Earth`s biological diversity. This site is also a better than average one; well laid out and full of good stuff.

Spokane Audubon


To provide services to the Spokane region that allow natural ecosystems to become more healthy, thriving and restorative, to nurture and protect birds and other wildlife and their habitats, and to encourage biological diversity for the benefit of people and nature in the Spokane region and the world we live in. Education Program services include Audubon Adventures, Nature Mapping projects and the Spokane Audubon Centre for nature projects. Conservation Program services include the Important Bird Areas program. An attractive site with nice bird photos too.

Tahoma Audubon Society


The Pierce County Chapter of The National Audubon Society.

Vancouver Audubon Society


Vancouver, Washington (Clark County) Vancouver is located near the Oregon-Washington border on the Columbia River and north of Portland, OR.

Vashon-Maury Island Audubon Societ


The Vashon-Maury Island Audubon Society was founded in 1989. From the beginning, our membership included individuals of diverse ages and backgrounds who shared a common interest in nature and an enthusiasm for the very special environment of Vashon and Maury Islands. Today, at any one of our program meetings, you will find birders of all skill levels, wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts, environmental activists, and people who simply enjoy listening to our guest speakers and socializing with other members…

Washington Bird Records Committee & Rare Bird Reports


Details of what to submit and where to send it etc.

Washington Brant Foundation

Facebook Page

The Black Brant (Branta bernicla nigricans) is a small sea goose that is about the size of the common Mallard and stages one of the most spectacular migrations of all waterfowl…

Washington Ornithological Society


A sumptuous must visit site for birders contemplating this part of N America as a destination for a trip. Plenty of contacts and links too.

Whidbey Island Audubon Society


Whidbey Audubon Society is dedicated to the protection of wildlife species and their habitat on Whidbey Island and surrounding waters…

Willapa Hills Audubon Society


The mission of the Willapa Hills Audubon Society is to support ecologically responsible ways of life, to help maintain biologically diverse habitats, and to promote environmental understanding and enjoyment of nature…

Yakima Valley Audubon Society


We are people dedicated to the enjoyment and preservation of the natural world. Through birding, education and conservation activities in our community, we raise awareness and promote the cause of global environmental protection…


Abbreviations Key: See the appropriate Continent Page (or Country Page of those used on country sub-divisions)

Adriana Hess Wetland Park


Satellite View

Tahoma Audubon offers a wide range of activities at this small urban park. If you are looking to stay outdoors, you'll find an ADA-compliant trail that leads you through our demonstration backyard habitat area along the Donna Cooper Pepos Native Plant Trail. You will be surprised by the peaceful Morrison Pond - brimming with cattails, spirea and lily pads. You'll often see and hear Red-winged blackbirds, Violet green swallows, Buffleheads, and even the occasional Great blue heron perched high in a fir tree towering over the pond.

Dungeness River Audubon Center


Satellite View

The Dungeness River Audubon Center is intended to enable residents, students and visitors to enjoy and understand the unique natural character of the Olympic Peninsula, with special focus on the Dungeness River and watershed…

Nisqually NWR


Satellite View

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Complex includes Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually and Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuges.

Ridgefield NWR


Satellite View

Ridgefield NWR has a total of 5,150 acres of marshes, grasslands, and woodlands. Preservation of the natural Columbia River floodplain is the management objective of the Carty (2-mile self guided hiking trail) Roth and Ridgeport Dairy units. The River 'S' (4.2 mile auto tour route and 1.2 mile seasonal hiking trail) and Bachelor Island units are managed to maximize habitat for waterfowl and other wetland wildlife.

Seward Park Environmental & Audubon Center


Satellite View

The Seward Park Environmental & Audubon Center is part of national Audubon’s vision to make conservation the path to a better future by building a constituency as diverse as nature to help protect nature….

Tacoma Nature Center & Snake Lake Park


Satellite View

The Tacoma Nature Center is a 71-acre nature preserve encompassing Snake Lake and the surrounding wetlands and forest. Stroll nature trails to experience native birds, animals and plants. Join in exciting nature programs and summer day camps. Visit our collection of small animals including an observation beehive...

Washington State Wetlands Network


The Washington Wetlands Network (WETNET) mission is to protect, preserve, enhance and restore wetlands and watersheds for the benefit of birds and other wildlife and for human health and well being.

Willapa NWR


Satellite View

Unique among National Wildlife Refuges, Willapa encompasses a broad diversity of habitats. Hundreds of plant and animal species use habitat protected by this refuge, including a number of endangered species. Over 200 bird species...

Forums & Mailing Lists


Mailing List

To post to list: birdyak@yahoogroups.com

List contact: birdyak-owner@yahoogroups.com

To subscribe to list: birdyak-subscribe@yahoogroups.com


Mailing List – Discussion Group - BirdYak is a mailing list for topics relating to birding in Yakima County, Washington. Anyone may subscribe to this free service, both beginning and advanced birders.

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Birding Pal


Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

Peregrine Northwest

Tour Operator

Brian Bell Providing personalized guided birding services for beginners, those new to the northwest, and old hands at birding that want to see that special bird that they need!

Westport Seabirds Offshore Trips

Tour Operator

Welcome to Westport Seabird Offshore Trips. We're in the midst of the year 2000 pelagic trip season off the coast of Washington. In addition to regular species like Black-footed Albatrosses and Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, trips in recent years have featured seasonal species like Laysan Albatross, Flesh-footed, Short-tailed, and Manx shearwaters, Murphy's Petrel, Red-legged Kittiwake, and Thick-billed Murre. We'll make all-day trips 35 miles out to the edge of the continental shelf where Grays Canyon gouges its way to the seafloor and two deepwater trips farther offshore.

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…


Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2012 [05 May] - Bob Sundstrom - Oregon & Washington

Report PDF

…The splendid drive through the grasslands was dotted with good bird sightings: Long-billed Curlews foraging off the roadside, a Gray Partridge flying off the shoulder and then pausing in the open along a fence line, Say’s Phoebes and Rock Wrens at basalt outcroppings, and flashy Horned Larks and Lark Sparrows….

2013 [02 February] - Terry McEneaney

Report PDF

…We ended up with 103 species of birds, and 7 species of mammals, which was nearly identical to the species richness we encountered in 2012. There were some birds we missed, other new ones we picked up, typical for any tour…

2013 [05 May] - Bob Sundstrom - Oregon & Washington

Report PDF

…The Rivers and Mountains of Oregon and Washington tour begins (and ends) in Portland, Oregon, and then works east along the Columbia River Gorge, whose towering basalt cliffs and green-clad lower reaches place it among the most scenic places in the United States. By the first afternoon, we turn north from the river toward towering Mt. Adams in the South Cascades, where we will spend two nights at Mt. Adams Lodge….

2013 [06 June] - Bob Sundstrom

Report PDF

…Early morning and during afternoon breaks, the balcony is a lovely spot to sit and watch: perhaps Evening Grosbeaks or Western Tanagers foraging near the river’s edge, Violet-green Swallows fluttering at the balcony railing, Common Mergansers flying along the river, or a family of marmots scampering among the rocks. White-headed Woodpeckers nest nearby, and are sometimes seen at the lodge, and Pygmy Nuthatches are regular visitors to the pines here…

2013 [07 July] - Bob Sundstrom

Report PDF

…A Bewick’s Wren buzzed and showed itself and, a bit later, a Pacific Wren sang from the brushy edge. A Pacific-slope Flycatcher, a secretive bird of the mid-canopy, perched in the open for all to see. A bit later, a Willow Flycatcher perched on a utility wire. An hour later, during an outdoor dinner at Bob Sundstrom’s home in the country, we watched Rufous Hummingbirds buzz furiously around the yard. Black-headed Grosbeaks, boldly patterned in black and orange, visited the bird feeders, alongside raspberry hued Purple Finches, as California Quail crept into the feeding area…

2014 [02 February] - Terry & Karen McEneaney


…We concluded the trip with 105 species (106 taxa) of birds and five species of mammals. We observed more than 100,000 individual birds, with approximately 44,000 Snow Geese in four discernable geographic flocks comprising the bulk of the birds seen….

2014 [09 September] - Bob Sundstrom

PDF Report

...The first morning of the tour was devoted to inland birding near Scatter Creek south of Olympia, Washington. Here a Northern Pygmy-Owl perched for fine scope views, as a trio of Hutton’s Vireos and a family of Red-breasted Sapsuckers showed their alarm at the hooting owl. At leader Bob Sundstrom’s yard where we birded and picnicked, Band-tailed Pigeons perched in tree tops, seed feeders were busy with Purple and other finches, Spotted Towhees and a Black-headed Grosbeak picked up fallen seed, and an assortment of swallows and other birds put in their appearances....

2015 [06 June] - Bob Sundstrom

Report PDF

...Sparkling male Lazuli Buntings sang from shrub tops, and Calliope Hummingbirds with purple gorgets perched overlooking their territories. Nashville and MacGillivray’s warblers sang from brushy places, and Townsend’s Warblers sang from the conifers. We watched three species of chickadees in the same tree, and both Cassin’s and Purple finches peered down from the tree tops. Nice views of a Red-naped Sapsucker were soon followed by a wonderful study of a pair of Williamson’s Sapsuckers displaying side by side, a twosome so different in appearance they were once labeled distinct species.

2016 [02 February] - Terry & Karen McEneaney - Pacific Northwest


...Bird sighting highlights for the tour included Eurasian Wigeon, Long-tailed Duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Red-throated and Pacific loons, Cackling Goose, Black Turnstone, Surfbird, Lesser Yellowlegs, Rhinoceros Auklet, Short-eared Owl, Anna’s Hummingbird, Thayer’s Gull, Mew Gull, Bonaparte’s Gull, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Western Scrub Jay, Northwestern Crow, Pacific Wren, Varied Thrush, Hutton’s Vireo, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Red Crossbill, Purple Finch, and surprising female Common Yellowthroat...

2016 [06 June] - Bob Sundstrom - Washington Cascades

PDF Report

Our Spring in the Washington Cascades tour begins in Seattle and comes at a perfect season to bird across the Cascade Mountains and among the varied habitats near Leavenworth, Washington. Just over two hours east across the Cascade Mountains from Seattle and near the confluence of Icicle Creek and the Wenatchee River, Leavenworth looks up at splendid, snowcapped Mt. Stuart...

2016 [08 August] - Michael O'Brien - Washington Cascades

PDF Report

After a hiatus of three years, we ran this camp again in 2016, with a crew of fourteen enthusiastic and talented young naturalists. It was a special treat to have Victor Emanuel himself as one of the leaders on this event. The year 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of VENT’s youth birding camps, and Camp Cascades has been part of that program for much of that time. Congrats to Victor on 30 years of mentoring the next generation of birders, naturalists, and conservationists!

2016 [09 September] - Bob Sundstrom

PDF Report

...At our first stop at the bird feeders in leader Bob Sundstrom’s yard, we saw a nice array of birds for the first time on the tour: Purple Finches, Golden-crowned and “Sooty” Fox sparrow, Spotted Towhee, and Band-tailed Pigeons....

2017 [06 June] - Woody Wheeler - Olympic Peninsula

PDF Report

Annotated list


Othello Sandhill Crane Festival

Facebook Page

The Othello Sandhill Crane Festival began in 1998, sponsored by the Greater Othello Chamber of Commerce and the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service). Since the beginning the Festival has been financially supported by the City of Othello through tourism development funds (hotel/motel taxes) and logistically supported by the Othello School District and Othello Community Schools, reimbursed by Festival registration fees...

Port Susan Snow Goose & Birding Festival


Birding in the Stanwood Camano Island Area continues to be wonderful all winter long. The Snow Geese don’t typically head north until April 15th, so there are still thousands of reasons to come visit us. You’ll find plenty of beautiful scenery, hawks, herons, ducks and more. After the Geese and ducks are gone, there is still plenty to do and see…

Wings Over Water NW Birding Festival


Saturday, April 17, 2010 10am - 4pm Downtown Blaine, WA - Peace Portal Drive - wildlife field trips, birding stations, live raptor demonstration, kids activities, exhibits, art/craft vendors, expert wildlife speakers and prize draws. Free admission - 360-332-6484…


Burke Museum


Unfortunately, the bird collection itself is only referenced on the website (i.e. they don't have a page about it).

Slater Museum Ornithology Collection


The Slater Museum of Natural History was founded as the Puget Sound Museum of Natural History in 1930. James R. Slater started the museum as a collection of reptiles and amphibians and was the director from 1930-1951. The Bird Division was established in 1934 by Gordon D. Alcorn.


Bird brained stories


Along with being an erstwhile birder and blogger, I spin yarns of a different sort as a professional storyteller…

The Wild Bird


Birding shop owner's blog…



Brendan McGarry’s exploration of the natural world through photography & writing with a decidedly avian bent…

Other Links

Bird Notes


This web site is designed to gather information on bird distribution throughout Oregon, Washington, Idaho and British Columbia.

Bird Watching Hotspots in Walla Walla Vicinity


The delta is fast becoming one of the hottest birding spots in Eastern Washington. Spring and fall migrations bring thousands of shorebirds to this ever-increasing delta area. Some of the better state records are now being seen at the delta. The one drawback is the erratic decisions by the PUDs upriver on the Columbia and their drawdowns on water. You never know how exposed the mudflats will be. The best place to view the delta is difficult to find. Going north on Highway 12 from the junction, watch for a left turning (rough road) just past the bridge over the Walla Walla River…

Birding Klickitat County


Washington's home to the Acorn Woodpecker, Ash-throated Flycatcher & Lesser Goldfinch.

Pacific NW Backyard Birder


Enjoying and learning about common birds in British Columbia, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and northern California…



The North Olympic Peninsula offers exceptional bird watching year round. Our mild winter supports large numbers of ocean birds, including waterfowl. Spring and fall are migration times and offer great diversity in species. Summer residents are numerous and varied due to the diversity of habitat - from rain forest to tidelands.

Photographers & Artists

Artist - Don Wesley


Strange and intesting bird paintings…