Birdwatching in Seattle

Birdwatching has become a rather popular outdoor activity lately. In the survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service birdwatching is ranked the 15th in the list of the most popular outdoor recreational activities. The reason is evident: many people work indoors and birdwatching offers a great opportunity to enjoy nature. Spotting and trying to identify birds can add a great deal of fun to an ordinary stroll, especially for those who feel bored just walking outside.

The weather in Seattle may be challenging sometimes, but it still offers plenty of birdwatching opportunities. In winter Seattleites have a chance to spot waterfowl, raptors, seabirds, and many other birds. The period before summer begins is the time of songbird migration. And even in a drizzly day one can spot a variety of birds as they usually come out to hunt insects appearing from the wet ground.

Seattle is blessed with a number of resources and great locations for birdwatching. If you are novice in birdwatching consider starting from the Seattle Audubon Society which regularly offers free public guided walks (make sure you reserve binoculars by phone a week in advance at the Audubon Nature Store). The organization also offers classes and field trips to both members and non-members (the cost for non-members is a bit higher).

Another place to visit is the Seward Park Audubon Center that features various family-friendly programs, including bird-focused evening "owl prowls" and themed program days on Saturdays.

Bald Eagle at West Seattle

The Seattle Parks Department also provides a number of birding programs on a regular basis, often even for free. The scope of the programs range from basic birding classes to programs dedicated to specific species. The Discovery Park "Birding by Ear" program is extremely popular and is worth joining.

Seattle boasts great many places where you can spot a variety of birds while enjoying a stroll outside. The Union Bay Natural Area (aka Montlake Fill) is regularly visited by about 200 species. To find out which species have recently been spotted there check out the white board in a kiosk at the east end of the area. The information provided there is updated regularly by birder Connie Sidles, who’s published three books of essays about the birds people can see at the Fill. Several ponds of the Fill attract a variety of ducks. In addition, Redwing Blackbirds have often been spotted in the vicinity of Lake Washington, while Great Blue Herons favor the area on the shore or ponds. Savannah Sparrows and swallows are commonly seen flying around the grasslands, and, if you are lucky, you can even spot Bald Eagles gliding.

For a closer look at for waterfowl and Bald Eagles head to the Washington Park Arboretum located just across Lake Washington from the Union Bay Natural Area. Other great places for birdwatching are Seward, Discovery, and Carkeek Parks.