Let’s Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

Seattle’s lush parks and urban green spaces make it a haven for a diverse range of bird species.

Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or just someone who enjoys a casual stroll through the city, knowing what birds to look for can make your experience even more rewarding.

Some of the most common birds you’ll see include the American Robin, known for its red breast, and the striking Bald Eagle, often seen soaring above the treetops.

Don’t be surprised if you spot the vibrant feathers of a Northern Flicker tapping away on a tree trunk or the bold Steller’s Jay, which often visits backyards in search of food.

These birds not only add color and life to Seattle but also create delightful opportunities for bird enthusiasts to observe their unique behaviors close up.

The city’s waterfront areas are equally alive with bird activity. Glaucous-winged Gulls and Great Blue Herons are regulars, with the former often found scavenging near the shores and the latter majestically standing in shallow waters.

Exploring these waterfront habitats can provide fascinating glimpses into the lives of these birds and deepen your appreciation for Seattle’s natural beauty.

Bird-Watching Basics in Seattle

Seattle’s mild climate and abundant green spaces make it an ideal location for bird-watching. Equipped with binoculars and a guidebook, even beginners can enjoy spotting common local species.

Equipment

For a successful bird-watching experience:

  • Binoculars: Essential for close-up views.
  • Guidebook or App: Helps identify birds.
  • Comfortable Clothing: Dress in layers.

Best Locations

Some prime spots for bird-watching include:

  • Discovery Park: Offers diverse habitats.
  • Green Lake Park: Ideal for waterfowl.
  • Washington Park Arboretum: Great for woodland birds.

Time of Year

Bird activity varies by season. Spring and fall are migration periods filled with diverse species.

Birding Etiquette

Respect nature:

  • Keep Quiet: Minimize noise to avoid startling birds.
  • Stay on Paths: Protect habitats by not venturing off-trail.
  • Don’t Feed Birds: Human food can harm them.

Being prepared and respectful enhances the bird-watching experience for everyone.

Whether solo or with a group, Seattle’s birding scene offers a rewarding escape into the natural world.

Backyard Birds (Found in Trees/Bushes)

Seattle’s backyards are home to various birds that can often be seen perched on trees and bushes. Among them are colorful hummingbirds, intelligent crows, and vocal starlings.

Anna’s Hummingbird

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

Anna’s Hummingbird is notable for its iridescent green feathers and the rosy-red throats of the males.

These small, agile birds can be seen hovering near flowers, sipping nectar. In urban Seattle areas, they are often attracted to hummingbird feeders.

Their distinctive “squeaky” song adds a unique charm to any garden. They are year-round residents and are adaptable to different environments, making them frequent visitors in residential open spaces.

American Crow

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

The American Crow is a common sight in Seattle’s backyards, recognized by its all-black plumage and distinctive cawing.

Crows are highly intelligent and can often be seen foraging through trees and shrubs. They are known for their problem-solving skills and complex social interactions.

Often, they are seen in groups, communicating with each other through a variety of sounds. They play a crucial role in the ecosystem as scavengers, cleaning up waste and helping to keep the environment tidy.

Steller’s Jay

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

Steller’s Jay stands out with its striking blue and black plumage and tufted head.

These birds are typically found in coniferous forests but are also common in Seattle’s backyards.

They are known for their loud, harsh calls and bold behaviors, often visiting bird feeders to grab seeds and nuts.

They have a varied diet that includes insects, berries, and small animals. Steller’s Jays are also known for their mimicry of other birds’ calls, adding an interesting dynamic to the local bird chorus.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

Red-breasted Nuthatches are small birds with a characteristic red-orange chest and a white face with a black stripe through the eyes.

They are typically seen climbing tree trunks and branches headfirst, searching for insects and seeds.

These nuthatches are known for their nasal “yank-yank” call. During the colder months, they may visit suet feeders in Seattle backyards.

Their ability to store food makes them well-prepared for winter, allowing them to stay active all year.

Bushtit

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

Bushtits are tiny, social birds that travel in flocks. They sport grayish-brown feathers and long tails.

Frequently seen flitting through trees and bushes, they are on the hunt for insects and spiders.

Their nests are unique, hanging like bags from branches made of moss and lichen. In the winter, they often huddle together for warmth.

These birds’ constant activity and high-pitched twittering make them a delightful presence in any backyard.

Black-capped Chickadee

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

Black-capped Chickadees are small birds with a distinctive black cap and bib, white cheeks, and gray back.

Known for their curious nature, they are often found inspecting tree bark and branches for insects.

Their namesake “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” call is easily recognizable. They have a range of vocalizations used for communication within their flocks.

Chickadees are frequent visitors to bird feeders, especially in winter, where they enjoy seeds and suet.

Bewick’s Wren

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

Bewick’s Wren is a small, energetic bird with a long tail often held upright. It has a brown back, a white belly, and a distinctive white eyebrow stripe.

Renowned for its loud and varied song, Bewick’s Wren is an excellent singer.

Happy to live in gardens with dense shrubs and bushes, it eats insects, which it finds by probing bark and leaf litter.

These birds add a lively melody to Seattle’s backyards with their vocal performances.

European Starling

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

European Starlings are medium-sized birds with iridescent black plumage speckled with white.

Known for their mimicry, they can imitate the calls of other birds and various sounds.

They often gather in large, noisy flocks, which can sometimes be seen resting in trees.

Starlings have a varied diet that includes insects, fruits, and seeds.

They are very adaptable and can thrive in a variety of environments, making them a common sight in urban and suburban areas.

Backyard Birds (Found On/Near The Ground)

Many birds in Seattle’s backyards are found on or near the ground. These birds are often seen foraging for food or building nests in low areas.

House Sparrow

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

House Sparrows are small birds that adapt well to urban environments. They have a stout body, short legs, and a distinctive black bib.

Males are identifiable by their bright brown and black markings, while females are more muted in color.

House Sparrows commonly gather in groups and are often seen searching for seeds, insects, and crumbs.

Spotted Towhee

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

Spotted Towhees are ground-dwelling birds known for their striking black, white, and orange plumage.

Males have a glossy black head and upper parts, white spots on wings and back, and an orange-red side.

They prefer thick underbrush and are often seen scratching the ground for insects and seeds.

White-crowned Sparrow

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

White-crowned Sparrows are medium-sized, with bold white and black stripes on their heads.

They have a grayish face and underparts with streaky brown backs.

These birds forage in small flocks on the ground and enjoy seeds, grains, and insects, often seen flitting through bushes and thickets.

House Finch

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

House Finches are small birds with a vibrant red-orange plumage on males and brown-streaked patterns on females.

They commonly frequent feeders and are known for their cheerful songs.

These finches forage on the ground for seeds and berries, often in backyards and parks.

Pine Siskin

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

Pine Siskins are small finches with heavily streaked brown plumage. They have a sharp, pointed bill and patches of yellow on the wings.

These social birds are often seen in flocks, foraging on the ground for seeds of conifers and other plants.

They are adaptable and may visit feeders.

Northern Flicker

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

Northern Flickers are large woodpeckers with brownish barred bodies and a distinctive red or yellow shaft on their central tail feathers.

They prefer open ground and feed mainly on ants and beetles.

Flickers are often spotted on lawns, pecking at the earth with their long bills.

American Robin

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

American Robins are familiar to most people, with their orange-red breasts and gray-brown backs.

These birds are often seen hopping on lawns and fields, searching for worms and insects.

They also eat berries and fruits and are noted for their pleasant song.

Dark-eyed Junco

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

Dark-eyed Juncos are small sparrows with varying plumage but generally have a dark hood and pale underparts.

They are ground foragers found in wooded areas and gardens, searching for seeds and insects.

Their soft chipping calls are a common sound in Seattle backyards.

Park & Forest Birds

In Seattle’s parks and forests, you can spot a range of fascinating bird species, from the majestic Bald Eagle to the small but vibrant American Goldfinch.

Barred Owl

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

The Barred Owl, known for its distinctive “Who cooks for you?” call, is a common nocturnal predator in Seattle’s wooded areas.

This owl has a mottled brown and white appearance and large round eyes. They prefer dense forests and often nest in tree cavities or abandoned nests of other large birds.

Barred Owls primarily feed on small mammals, birds, reptiles, and even amphibians.

Downy Woodpecker

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

Often seen in city parks, the Downy Woodpecker is the smallest North American woodpecker.

Identified by its black and white striped head and short bill, it is a frequent visitor to bird feeders.

They are adept at pecking into tree bark to find insects. These woodpeckers also drum on trees and other surfaces to establish their territories.

Barn Swallow

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

Barn Swallows are easily recognizable by their distinctive forked tails and long wings.

They are often seen flitting over open fields and water in search of flying insects.

They build cup-shaped mud nests under bridges, eaves, and in open barns. With their iridescent blue backs and reddish throats, they are as beautiful as they are agile.

Pileated Woodpecker

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

Known for its striking size and loud, distinctive call, the Pileated Woodpecker is a spectacular sight.

This large bird has a bright red crest and black-and-white striped face. Found in mature forests, they carve out large rectangular holes in search of ants and beetles.

These birds play a crucial role in creating habitat for other species by excavating trees.

Cooper’s Hawk

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

A skilled hunter, Cooper’s Hawk is frequently spotted in wooded areas and sometimes urban parks.

This bird of prey has short, rounded wings and a long tail, aiding in swift, agile flight through trees.

They mainly feed on medium-sized birds, which they catch with impressive speed and precision. Cooper’s Hawks are known for their stealthy hunting techniques.

American Goldfinch

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

The American Goldfinch, with its bright yellow plumage during the breeding season, brings a splash of color to Seattle’s parks.

They are small and prefer open areas with sunflowers, dandelions, and other seed-bearing plants.

Known for their undulating flight pattern, these birds often travel in small flocks.

They feed primarily on seeds and occasionally insects.

Song Sparrow

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

A common and familiar bird, the Song Sparrow has a distinctive streaked appearance and a melodious song.

They thrive in a variety of habitats, including marshes, shrublands, and even suburban gardens.

Their diet consists mostly of seeds and insects.

Males are known for their varied and loud songs, which they use to mark their territories and attract mates.

Bald Eagle

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

The Bald Eagle, a symbol of American wilderness, is a majestic bird found near large bodies of open water.

With a wingspan reaching up to 7.5 feet, they are powerful fliers.

These eagles feed primarily on fish but will also eat carrion and small mammals.

They build some of the largest nests of any bird species, often reused and added to each year.

By observing these birds and their behaviors, one can gain a deeper appreciation for the diverse avian life within Seattle’s green spaces.

Birds Found In/Near Water

Seattle’s water-rich environment is home to a variety of birds that either live near water bodies or depend on them for food and breeding.

These birds are often easily spotted in local parks, lakes, rivers, and coastal areas.

Red-winged Blackbird

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

The Red-winged Blackbird is known for its striking red and yellow shoulder patches.

These birds are often seen perched on cattails and other marsh vegetation.

They are highly territorial during breeding season and can be quite aggressive in defending their area.

Their diet consists mainly of insects and seeds, and they are particularly fond of weedy fields and wetlands.

Males are known for their distinct “conk-la-ree” song, which they use to attract mates and establish territory.

Females, on the other hand, have a more subdued plumage and are primarily responsible for nest building and rearing the chicks.

The nest is typically built in marshes attached to reeds or shrubs, providing protection from predators.

Mallard

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

Mallards are easily recognizable with their glossy green heads (in males) and distinct white neck rings.

These ducks are highly adaptable and can be found in almost any water body, including ponds, lakes, rivers, and even city parks.

They are dabbling ducks, which means they feed mainly on the water’s surface rather than diving deep.

Their diet includes aquatic vegetation, invertebrates, and small fish.

Mallards are also known for their social behavior, often seen in flocks during migration.

They have a strong bond with their mate, and both the male and female participate in rearing the ducklings.

The ducklings are precocial, meaning they are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of hatching.

American Coot

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

The American Coot is a dark, chicken-like bird with a white beak and forehead shield.

Unlike ducks, coots have lobed toes rather than webbed feet, which help them swim and walk on soft, wet ground.

They are excellent swimmers and divers, often seen in freshwater lakes and ponds, feeding on aquatic plants and small invertebrates.

Coots are also known to be quite vocal, using a variety of calls to communicate.

During breeding season, they build floating nests anchored to reeds or submerged plants.

Their aggressive behavior during this time is notable as they often defend their territory vigorously.

Juvenile coots have a distinctive reddish-orange coloration at hatching, which fades as they grow older.

Killdeer

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

The Killdeer is a medium-sized plover with a distinctive, high-pitched “kill-deer” call.

They are often found near water but prefer open grounds such as mudflats, fields, and shores.

Their diet mainly consists of insects and small invertebrates, which they forage by running and stopping abruptly to peck at the ground.

Killdeers are ground nesters, often laying their eggs in a simple, shallow scrape on open ground.

They are known for their broken-wing act, where they feign injury to lure predators away from their nest.

This protective behavior is crucial for the survival of their eggs and chicks, which are precocial and capable of running within hours of hatching.

Belted Kingfisher

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

The Belted Kingfisher is easily recognized by its large head, shaggy crest, and long, spear-like bill.

These birds are often seen along rivers, lakes, and coastal waters, where they dive headfirst to catch fish.

Their distinctive, rattling call is often heard before the bird is seen.

Kingfishers nest in burrows dug into sandy banks and are known for their territorial behavior, especially during breeding season.

The male and female share duties in excavating the nest and caring for the young.

They primarily feed on fish, but their diet can also include amphibians, crustaceans, and small aquatic insects.

Double-crested Cormorant

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

The Double-crested Cormorant is a large, dark waterbird with a long neck and a distinctive hooked bill.

These birds are commonly found in freshwater lakes, rivers, and coastal areas.

They are expert divers and catch fish by swimming underwater using their powerful, webbed feet.

Cormorants often perch with their wings outstretched to dry after diving.

They nest in colonies, often on islands or remote coastal cliffs, building their nests out of sticks and other materials.

Their diet mainly consists of fish, but they are also known to eat amphibians and crustaceans.

Their presence in large numbers can sometimes be a concern for local fisheries.

Glaucous-winged Gull

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

The Glaucous-winged Gull is a large, gray-and-white gull with pink legs and a thick bill.

These birds are commonly seen along Seattle’s coastlines, bays, and estuaries.

They are opportunistic feeders, eating a wide range of food, including fish, marine invertebrates, and human refuse.

Gulls are known for their loud calls and social behavior, often seen in large, noisy flocks.

They nest in colonies on cliffs, rooftops, and other elevated locations.

Their adaptability to urban environments has made them a common sight in Seattle’s coastal areas.

The chicks are fully dependent on their parents for food and protection until they fledge.

Great Blue Heron

Let's Go Birding! 32 Common Seattle Birds to Look For

The Great Blue Heron is one of the most iconic birds found near water in Seattle.

These tall, elegant birds have long legs, a long neck, and a powerful bill used for spear fishing.

They are commonly seen standing still in shallow water, waiting to catch fish, amphibians, and small mammals.

Herons nest in colonies called rookeries, often in tall trees near water bodies.

Their nests are large and bulky, made of sticks and lined with softer materials.

Both parents take turns incubating the eggs and feeding the chicks.

These birds are solitary hunters and are known for their patient, deliberate hunting technique.

Interacting with Birds Responsibly

When enjoying Seattle’s lush bird life, one should consider the well-being of these feathered friends.

Feeding Birds: It’s tempting to feed birds like ducks and pigeons.

Stick to birdseed or suet, avoiding bread and processed foods. These can harm birds.

Observation Etiquette: Use binoculars to observe birds from a distance.

Getting too close can stress them out or disrupt their natural behavior.

Pets: Keep dogs on leashes and cats indoors. Pets can scare or harm birds.

Nesting Sites: During nesting season, it’s important to respect nesting sites.

Disturbing nests can cause parents to abandon their young.

Bird Baths: Providing a clean bird bath helps birds stay hydrated and clean.

Refresh the water daily to prevent the spread of diseases.

Windows: Birds often hit windows.

Placing decals or keeping blinds slightly closed can reduce these collisions.

Here’s a quick table to help you interact with birds responsibly:

ActivityDoDon’t
FeedingUse birdseed and suetUse bread or processed foods
ObservationWatch from a distanceGet too close or touch
PetsKeep on leashes/indoorsAllow to roam near birds
NestingAvoid disturbing nesting sitesPeek or touch nests
Bird BathsClean daily, use fresh waterIgnore maintenance
WindowsUse decals, partially close blindsLeave windows clear

Seasonal Variations in Bird Populations

Bird populations in Seattle change with the seasons.

In spring, migratory birds return, filling the skies with vibrant activity. Common spring visitors include:

  • American Robin
  • Swainson’s Thrush
  • Rufous Hummingbird

The summer months see a rise in insectivorous birds. Watch for the:

  • Barn Swallow
  • Western Tanager
  • Warbling Vireo

Autumn brings a notable shift. Birds prepare for migration or adapt to the cooling temperatures. Some species to spot are:

  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Northern Flicker

In winter, Seattle hosts a different array of visitors. Many birds from the north settle in the mild climate. Look out for:

  • Varied Thrush
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Common Redpoll

Seattle’s lakes and waterfronts see shifts as well. In warmer months, expect more herons and kingfishers. With winter, you might find:

  • Bufflehead
  • Common Merganser
  • Pied-billed Grebe

Keep an eye on gardens and parks throughout the year. Seasonal changes in flora attract different species. For example, in winter:

  • Anna’s Hummingbird visits feeders.
  • Bushtit flocks hunt for insects.

Bird Conservation Efforts

In Seattle, many groups are working to protect bird species.

Birds Connect Seattle is one of the most active organizations. They focus on education and habitat restoration.

Volunteers gather data about local birds and share their findings. This helps track bird populations over time.

Another important effort involves bird-safe building practices.

Advocates are pushing for buildings to adopt designs that prevent bird collisions. This includes using bird-friendly glass and lighting.

Habitat preservation is also vital.

Groups work on restoring natural areas, removing invasive species, and planting native plants. This creates better environments for birds to thrive.

Local parks often have bird-friendly zones.

These areas have bird feeders, nesting boxes, and protection from predators. Visitors can see a variety of birds up close in these spots.

Education and outreach are essential parts of these efforts.

Schools and community centers host events and workshops. Topics include bird watching, conservation practices, and how to create bird-friendly gardens.

Seattle’s residents can get involved in many ways.

They can join birding clubs, participate in cleanups, or support bird conservation groups. Even simple actions like keeping cats indoors can make a big difference for local bird populations.

Urban Birds and Adaptation

Urban birds in Seattle have shown remarkable adaptability. They adjust their behaviors and nesting habits to thrive in city environments.

Some species even prefer urban settings over rural areas.

Pigeons, for example, are a common sight downtown. They nest on buildings and feed on food scraps.

Resourceful and resilient, pigeons have become experts at city living.

Table: Common Urban Birds and Their Adaptations

Bird SpeciesAdaptations
PigeonNests on buildings, eats human food scraps
House SparrowUtilizes building ledges for nesting
American CrowScavenges for food, uses urban materials for nesting

House Sparrows also make the most of urban life. They find nesting spots on building ledges and enjoy a varied diet from human leftovers.

American Crows can be seen scavenging for food. They use urban materials to build their nests and show high intelligence in navigating the city landscape.

Seattle’s urban birds demonstrate significant behavioral shifts. Some sing louder to be heard over traffic noise, while others adjust their feeding times to avoid human activity.

About the author

My name is April, and I’m a Seattle-based writer, traveler, and foodie. I started this travel guide blog to share my passion for Seattle with fellow travelers and locals alike.

Whether you’re looking for the best coffee shops, the trendiest restaurants, or the most scenic hiking trails, I’ve got you covered.

When I’m not writing or exploring Seattle, you can find me watching movies with my husband, reading, or gardening with my dog in the backyard.

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