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Birds of Washington – 30 Most Common Bird Species You Can Spot!

Birds of Washington

The birds of Washington are an incredible 522 species! Coastal habitats host an abundance of waterbirds and Bald Eagles, Varied Thrushes sing from evergreen forests, and Mountain Bluebirds brighten the dry habitats of the east.

Washington has a lot of birds! How many have you been able to identify?

To help, we made a list of the most common backyard and wild birds in Washington!

 

Most common birds of Washington

According to eBird data from 2021 to 2023, these are the 30 most common birds of Washington.

To help identify them, we included also added information about field marks and behavior (remember that the species on the bottom of the list are common birds too!).

 

30 Washington’s most common birds

American Robin

Female American Robin

Scientific name: Turdus migratorius

Length: 10 inches
Weight: 2.7 ounces
Wingspan: 17 inches
Song: 
“cheery, cheery, cheery, cheery, cheer, cheer

The American Robin is a familiar and common thrush that is dark gray above and brick red below. It also has an orange-yellow bill, a blackish head with white markings around the eyes and on the throat, and a white belly.

Both sexes of this thrush species are similar but males are darker above and more reddish on the underparts. Young American Robins have more white marks on their faces and spotting on orange underparts.

In flight, this common thrush in Washington also shows white corners in its outer tail feathers.

American Robins forage on the ground for worms, insects, snails, and other small creatures. In winter, these common birds flock together and perch in trees and bushes to eat berries and fruit.

The American Robin makes a cup nest in trees and lives in parks, woodlands, towns, and many other habitats. They reside in Alaska, most of Canada, the USA and in Mexico.

Key Identifications:

  • Fair-sized songbird that is dark gray above, and brick red and white below.
  • Forages for worms and bugs on lawns and other open grassy areas, also flocks together to feed on fruiting trees in the winter.
  • Makes a cup nest in trees.
  • The American Robin is quite vocal and makes a loud, sharp, “yenk!” call and quieter “check,check,check” calls. It also has a lovely cheerful song of caroled phrases, “cheery, cheery, cheery, cheery, cheer, cheer”.

With an estimated population of 370 million, the American Robin is considered to be the most numerous landbird in North America.

 

American Crow

American Crow

Scientific name: Corvus brachyrhynchos

Length: 17.5 inches
Weight: 1 pound
Wingspan: 39 inches
Song:
Caw! Caw!”

The American Crow is a big, all black bird with a strong, stout bill. In certain lighting, it can have metallic purple and blue iridescence.

Both sexes look the same and have some feathering on their beaks, long, broad wings, and a broad tail.

American Crows have direct flight with strong, steady wing beats. Crows are very social and intelligent birds that are usually seen in flocks. They forage together on the ground or in trees and eat just about anything they can find.

Some of their more regular foods include carrion, fruit, nuts, seeds, insects, and small animals. Like most jays and crow species, they also eat the eggs and nestlings of other bird species.

This species builds bulky stick nests high in trees and lives in most habitats except for high mountains and arid zones.

The American Crow occurs in southern Alaska and much of Canada and the USA.

Key Identifications:

  • Big, all black bird with long, broad wing and a broad tail.
  • Forages for carrion, fruit, seeds, insects, and small animals.
  • Builds a bulky stick nest high in a tree.
  • American Crows are very vocal birds. They can make several calls but their most common one is, “Caw! Caw! Caw!”.

The American Crow is a common, large black bird that frequently calls, “Caw! Caw! Caw!”. It usually occurs in flocks and lives in all sorts of places, even urban zones. These birds are very smart and have funerals or wakes! When a crow dies, other crows mark the occasion by gathering together and loudly calling.

 

Song Sparrow

Song sparrow

Scientific name: Melospiza melodia

Length: 6.25 inches
Weight: .7 ounces
Wingspan: 8.25 inches
Song: 
seet serate sitsziziziziziziziz seet

The Song Sparrow is a small, gray and brown, streaked songbird with a thick dark mark on each side of its white throat. Males and females look the same and have white underparts with a dark brown mark on their breast, and dark brown streaks on their breast and sides.

Most Song Sparrows also have two narrow wing bars and show a rounded tail when fluttering between bushes.

This species feeds on insects, seeds, and small fruits. Pairs forage by picking up food items on and near the ground. They are also frequent visitors to bird feeders.

Song Sparrows use grass, stems, hair, and other materials to make a cup nest placed on or near the ground. They nest in dense vegetation, shrubbery, or low trees, often near water.

This species uses a wide variety of brushy habitats in open and wooded situations in southern Alaska, most of Canada, and all of the USA.

Key Identifications:

  • Small brown, streaked sparrow with a dark mark on its breast.
  • Forages on and near the ground for seeds and insects in brushy habitats.
  • Builds a cup nest on or near the ground in a shrub or low tree.
  • Makes high-pitched “tink”, chirping calls, and has a cheerful song with a trill, “seet serate sitsziziziziziziziz seet”.

Song Sparrows are reddish-brown songbirds with dark brown streaks and a dark brown breast patch on white underparts. They usually occur in pairs and are often heard and seen in brushy areas and large gardens. There are several subspecies with distinct plumages, including a large, dark one that lives on the Aleutian Islands.

 

Dark-eyed Junco

dark eyed junco

Scientific name: Junco hyemalis

Length: 6.25 inches
Weight: .67 ounces
Wingspan: 9.25 inches
Song: 
sipsipsipsipsipsipsip

Dark-eyed Juncos are sparrow-like birds with pale conical bills and dark eyes. This small bird has variable plumage with most being slate gray or gray and brown with white on their bellies, and white under their tails.

Other plumages include birds with dark masks and faint white wing bars, juncos with pale gray hoods and pinkish sides, and birds with blackish hoods and chestnut sides.

This species feeds on seeds, insects, and some fruit and grain. Juncos forage on the ground in wooded areas, parks, and other habitats. They also feed on fallen seed beneath feeders.

They build cup nests on the ground under fallen logs, in roots, and other hidden spots. After breeding, juncos form flocks that forage together in similar wooded and semi-open habitats.

Dark-eyed Juncos are common birds in Canada, the USA, and parts of Mexico.

Key Identifications:

  • Sparrow-like gray and brown bird with dark eyes, a pale beak, and white in the tail.
  • Forages for seeds and insects on the ground, can feed on seeds at and beneath feeders.
  • Builds a cup-shaped nest on the ground in tree roots, under logs, and other hidden places.
  • This species often makes a sharp, high-pitched chip note, “pik!”. On breeding grounds, males sing a short, plain trill, “sipsipsipsipsipsipsip”.

Dark-eyed Juncos are sparrow-like, gray and brown birds with much white in the tail. Common wintering birds in many areas, they forage for seeds on the ground in wooded and park-like habitats.  In many places, this common species is also known the “Snowbird” on account of only occurring in the winter months and having white on the belly and tail.

 

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

Scientific name: Poecile atricapilla

Length: 5.25 inches
Weight: .39 ounces
Wingspan: 8 inches
Song: 
see bee, see bee

Black-capped Chickadees are small grayish birds with a black cap, black throat, and a stubby black beak. Both sexes look alike and have a white face, white edging to the feathers in their wings, and some buff on their underparts.

These cute little birds feed on caterpillars, insects, spiders, seeds, and fruit. They are regular visitors to feeders but also forage on bark, twigs, and in foliage. When foraging, they often hang upside down from twigs and usually occur in small flocks.

This species makes a small, soft nest out of moss and deer hair. It builds its nest in tree cavities and can also use nest boxes.

Black-capped Chickadees live in a variety of wooded habitats and can also occur in gardens. They are year-round residents in parts of Alaska, Canada, and the northern USA south to Oregon, northern New Mexico, northern Ohio, and the Appalachian Mountains to North Carolina.

Key Identifications:

  • Small, cute, grayish birds with a black cap, white face, and a black throat.
  • Forages for insects, spiders, seeds, and fruit in wooded habitats. Also visits feeders.
  • Nests in tree cavities and nest boxes.
  • This little bird is quite vocal and often says its name, “chick-a-deedeedeedeedee”. They also make other chattering calls and sing a whistled song, “see bee, see bee”.

The Black-capped Chickadee is a small, acrobatic bird with a black cap, white face, and a black throat. It is also a state bird of Massachusetts. They usually forage in flocks with other chickadees and other small birds and often visit feeders. This species hides dozens of seeds and other bits of food for the winter, and recalls where each of these food items are hidden.

 

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

Photograph © Glenn Bartley.

Scientific name: Pipilo maculatus

Length: 8.5 inches
Weight: 1.4 ounces
Wingspan: 10.5 inches
Song: 
two two two chreee!

The Spotted Towhee is a thrush-sized, colorful, sparrow-like bird with reddish eyes and a black, finch-like beak. It has black upperparts with some small white spots, a black hood, and a white belly with chestnut flanks.

It also has a buff undertail, and white spots on the underside of its longish, rounded tail. Both sexes look similar, but the female has a grayish-brown head. Juveniles are like dark brown, streaked sparrows with white in their tails, two buff wing bars, and a buff undertail.

Spotted Towhees find insects and seeds by using both feet to scratch and toss leaf litter. This bird also eats berries in bushes, especially in winter.

This species makes an open cup nest out of grass and other plant matter in dense vegetation near or on the ground.

The Spotted Towhee lives in shrubby habitats from Manitoba and the Dakotas west to the coast. In winter they range east to Kansas and south to Texas.

Key Identifications:

  • Medium-sized, colorful songbird with a black hood, white spotting on black upperparts, and chestnut flanks.
  • Forages on the ground for insects and seeds in leaf litter in shrubby habitats.
  • Makes an open cup nest in dense vegetation, on or near the ground.
  • Often calls and makes a nasal, cat-like call, “rheyeah”, and sings a short trilled song, “two two two chreee!

Spotted Towhees are thrush-sized black and white birds with chestnut flanks and white spotting on their wings and/or back. They occur in pairs that forage for insects and seeds in leaf litter. When female Spotted Towhees are disturbed on their nests, instead of flying away, they distract predators by running away.

 

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker is Alabama state bird

Scientific name: Colaptes auratus

Length: 12.5 inches
Weight: 4.6 ounces
Wingspan: 20 inches
Song: 
kick,kick,kik,kik,kik.kik.kik.kik.kik.kik.kik.kik!

Northern Flickers are fairly large, tan and gray woodpeckers with barring on their backs. They have a black mark on their breast, black spotting below, and a dark, stout beak.

Males in the east have a tawny throat and face with a black mustache and small red spots on the back of their heads. Males in the west have mostly gray heads with a red mustache.

Female Northern Flickers look like males but lack the mustache mark.

In bounding flight, they have white rumps and flash color on their underwings. This is bright yellow in eastern birds and reddish in flickers west of the Rocky Mountains.

This woodpecker eats many ants and other insects that it catches on the ground. It forages by flying to the ground, locating anthills, and lapping them up with its long tongue.

Northern Flickers nest in tree cavities and live in wooded and open habitats in Canada, the USA, and Mexico.

Key Identifications:

  • Tan and gray woodpecker with black barring above, black marks below, and a bright, white rump.
  • Forages for ants and other insects on the ground.
  • Nests in tree cavities.
  • A vocal woodpecker, the Northern Flicker often gives loud, “flicka,flicka,flicka” calls, and another loud, single note that sounds like, “Keer!” They also have a long, laughing vocalization of repeated notes, “kick,kick,kik,kik,kik.kik.kik.kik.kik.kik.kik.kik!”.

Northern Flickers are fairly big, tan woodpeckers with gray highlights, a white rump, and black markings. They mostly forage for ants on the ground in open and wooded areas. The red-shafted Northern Flickers in the west used to be considered a separate species from the yellow-shafted flickers of the east. At present, they are considered to be one species because they frequently hybridize with each other.

 

Mallard

Mallard pair

Mallard pair (Male and female)

Scientific name: Anas platyrhynchos

Length: 23 inches
Weight: 2.4 pounds
Wingspan: 35 inches
Song: 
quack, quack

The Mallard is a fairly large, familiar duck. The male has a metallic green head, yellow bill, narrow white ring around the neck, and chestnut breast. The rest of the bird is pale gray with pale brown, and black on its back and around his tail.

Female Mallards are mottled brown and buff with a dark crown and line through the eyes, and have a dark gray and orange beak.

In flight, both sexes show a green-blue wing patch bordered with white.

Mallards eat a variety of items, including insect larvae, snails, other small aquatic creatures, acorns, seeds, and grain. They forage by filtering and picking up food items in and near shallow water, and in farm fields.

This Washington duck species makes a shallow nest with sticks and lined with down feathers. It builds its nest on the ground, hidden in grass or under a bush.

The Mallard lives in ponds, marshes, and many wetland habitats in Canada, USA, and Eurasia.

Key Identifications:

  • Feeds on insect larvae, grain, seeds, and other items picked up with its bill in and near shallow water.
  • Makes a shallow stick nest hidden in grass or under a bush.
  • The female Mallard makes the classic “quack, quack” duck sound. Males make similar but softer sounds and a whistling call.

The Mallard is a fairly large and familiar duck with a dark green head (the male), or is buff and brown with a dark gray and orange beak (the female). Thus duck species often lives near people and occurs on lakes, ponds, and other wetlands. No matter how different they look, most small domestic duck species are descended from wild Mallards.

 

House Finch

House Finch

Photograph © John Hansen

Scientific name: Haemorhous mexicanus

Length: 6 inches
Weight: .88 ounces
Wingspan: 10 inches
Song: 
chip,chip,chiprididip,ZREEYachip”

House Finches are sparrow-sized birds with dark, rounded beaks and fairly long wings. Males are orange-red or rose-red on their head, throat and breast, and have some red on their rump. They also have brownish streaks on their back, flanks, and white belly.

Like the male, female House Finches have two white wing bars on long, gray-brown wings. However, they lack red and are mostly streaked, dull brown-gray birds.

House Finches feed on seeds, buds, fruit, and flowers. They often visit feeders in Washington but also forage on the ground, and in bushes and trees.

We see these pretty birds in deserts and arid zones and in parks, farmland, urban areas, and other semi-open habitats.

The House Finch makes a soft cup nest built on a tree, building ledge or other spot with some overhanging cover. They often occur in small groups and live in southern Canada, most of the USA, Mexico, and Hawaii.

Key Identifications:

  • Reddish or plain gray-brown, streaked, sparrow-like bird.
  • Eats seeds, flowers, buds, and fruit. Can visit feeders but also forages on the ground and in bushes and trees.
  • Makes a soft cup nest in trees, on building ledges, and other places.
  • The House Finch often makes a soft, “fidip” call. Males also sing a warbling song from prominent, high perches. It sounds like, “chip,chip,chiprididip,ZREEYachip”.

House Finches are sparrow-like, reddish or brownish, streaked birds. They live in arid zones as well as in parks and urban areas. All of the millions of House Finches that live east of the Rocky Mountains are descendants of birds released on Long Island in 1939.

 

Anna’s Hummingbird

Annas Hummingbird

Scientific name: Calypte anna

Length: 4 inches
Weight: .15 ounces
Wingspan: 5.25 inches
Song: 
zree zree zee zree

The Anna’s Hummingbird is a small bird with a needle-like beak, green back, and green underparts with some gray markings. The male has glittering dark pink on his crown and throat while the female lacks these colors. Instead, she has small green spots on her throat and has some black and white in her tail.

Both sexes have a small white spot behind each eye.

Like other hummingbird species, the Anna’s Hummingbird feeds on nectar from flowers and also catches tiny insects in flight. It feeds from a variety of flowering bushes and other plants and visits hummingbird feeders.

This species makes a tiny cup nest out of spider webs and soft vegetation. It builds its nest in a variety of trees, bushes, and vines.

The Anna’s Hummingbird lives in brushy habitats and gardens from southern British Columbia to Arizona. Most birds are permanent residents but some winter in northwestern Mexico.

Key Identifications:

  • Small green hummingbird with a straight beak, grayish-green underparts, and white spot behind the eye. The male has dark pink on his head and throat.
  • Feeds on small flying insects and nectar.
  • Makes a small cup nest out of spider webs and soft vegetation.
  • Makes dry and scratchy sounds, “zree zree zee zree”.

The Anna’s Hummingbird is a small gray-green hummingbird of gardens and brushy habitats on the Pacific coast. They feed on insects and nectar and often visit feeders. Urban gardens have helped this species expand north from California to Washington and British Columbia.

 

European Starling

European Starling

Photograph © Greg Lavaty.

Scientific name: Sturnus vulgaris

Length: 8.5 inches
Weight: 2.9 ounces
Wingspan: 16 inches
Song: 
tiktiktitZHREEree..tiktiktik..ZHREE”

European Starlings are plump, short-tailed birds with long sharp beaks and longish, pointed wings. In summer, they have yellow beaks, glossy black plumage with purple and green highlights, and some small white spots.

Males and females are similar, but males have less spotting and glossier plumage. In winter, they have black beaks, white spots, and more reddish colors in their wings.

Young starlings are shaped like adults but are grayish birds with a dark beak and a pale throat.

This species feeds on a variety of insects, fruit, and seeds. They can dominate bird feeders and are common species in urban areas, parks, farmlands, and other open habitats.

This European Starling builds a soft cup nest in a tree cavity, nest box, or suitable cavity in other structures.

European Starlings flock with each other and blackbird species, especially during the winter. They live across a large part of Canada and the USA.

Key Identifications:

  • Rotund, short-tailed bird with a long, sharp beak, and pointed wings. Glossy black with some spotting in the summer and blackish with heavy white spotting and streaking in the winter.
  • Feeds on seeds, fruit, and insects. Visits feeders and forages on the ground in flocks.
  • Builds a soft cup nest in nest boxes and other cavities.
  • The European Starling makes a wide variety of mechanical and whistled sounds. They also mimic other birds and sounds in their environment. They sing long, jumbled mechanical-sounding songs, “tiktiktitZHREEree..tiktiktik..ZHREE”.

European Starlings are rounded, blackish birds with long, sharp beaks and short tails. They live in towns, cities, parks, on farms, and in other open habitats. This species forms large flocks called, “murmurations” that move in coordinated patterns.

 

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Scientific name: Branta canadensis

Length: 35 – 45.2 inches
Weight: 5.29 – 19.8 pounds
Wingspan: 50 – 67 inches
Song: 
uurrRUNK! uurrRUNK!

The Canada Goose is a large, grayish-brown bird with a long black neck, and black head with a white throat and cheeks. Males and females look alike and have pale barring, a white belly and undertail, and a short black and white tail.

They have strong, direct flight and make deep flaps with long, broad wings.

Canada Geese feed on grass, sedges, and other vegetation, grain, and berries. They forage by walking along and grazing, or picking food from the ground and bushes. This species also feeds by dipping its head below the surface of shallow water.

This large goose uses grass and other plants to make a large, shallow cup nest on a small mound or other elevated spot next to water.

The Canada Goose prefers open grassy areas and farm fields near water where it can feed and see predators before they get too close. They live in Alaska, most of Canada, and most of the USA, being one of the most common birds of Washington.

Key Identifications:

  • Big, gray-brown goose with a long black neck, and black and white head.
  • Grazes vegetation and forages for berries in wide open, grassy habitats near water like golf courses, parks, and airports.
  • Makes a shallow, open cup nest on an elevated spot next to water.
  • Vocal and often makes honking calls, “uurrRUNK! uurrRUNK!”.

Canada Geese are a large, common goose species with long black necks, and a black and white head. These big birds are a common sight on golf courses and other places that combine open lawns and water. When the Canada Goose and other birds migrate in “V” formation, they expend less energy than flying on their own.

 

Steller’s Jay

Steller's Jay

Scientific name: Cyanocitta stelleri

Length: 11.5 inches
Weight: 3.7 ounces
Wingspan: 19 inches
Song:
eyeah eyeah eyeah eyeah

The Steller’s Jay is a large, blue and black jay with a long, perky crest. It has a sooty, blackish head, dusky, blue-gray chest and back, and is vibrant blue on the rest of its body.

Steller’s Jays can have bits of white near their eyes and on their throats. They also have barring on their wings and tail, and a stout, dark beak.

Both sexes are similar, but young birds are a bit paler.

Steller’s Jays are omnivores that forage on the ground, in bushes, or high in trees. We usually see them in pairs or small groups as they search for insects, seeds, bird nests, and all sorts of other feeding opportunities.

The Steller’s Jay makes an unkempt nest in trees and lives in coniferous and oak woodlands in parks and forests. They live in western North America from southern Alaska to California, the Rocky Mountains, Mexico, and northern Central America.

Key Identifications:

  • Large black and blue jay with a long crest.
  • Small groups forage for insects, seeds, nuts, and small animals from the ground to high in trees.
  • Makes a messy nest in trees.
  • This jay often makes loud and raspy calls, “eyeah eyeah eyeah eyeah.

The Steller’s Jay is a common, dark blue, crested jay of western North America. Small flocks often visit campsites, parks, and can also visit feeders. This species can mimic sounds made by squirrels, dogs, cats, and even chickens!

 

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Scientific name: Agelaius phoeniceus

Length: 8.75 inches
Weight: 1.8 ounces
Wingspan: 13 inches
Song:
kan-keree!”

The Red-winged Blackbird is a medium-sized blackbird species with a sharp, all-black bill. Males also have a scarlet patch with a pale yellow border on the shoulder of each wing.

Female Red-winged Blackbirds are dark, heavily streaked, brownish-gray birds with an orange-buff eyebrow and throat. She can also have a little bit of dingy red on her shoulder.

Red-winged Blackbirds often flock together and can form very large groups in the winter. They feed on seeds, grain, and insects found on lawns, in marshes, farm fields, and other open habitats.

This species builds a cup nest made of leaves and dead stems in a bush or other low vegetation in a marsh, park, or brushy field.

Red-winged Blackbirds are very common birds that live in all sorts of open habitats. We see them in parks, farming areas, and marshes in much of Canada, the USA, Mexico, and parts of the Central America.

Key Identifications:

  • Males are medium-sized blackbirds with a bright red patch on their wings. Females are heavily streaked, have a sharp black beak, and buff on the head.
  • Feeds on seeds, grain, and insects on the ground in many open habitats.
  • Builds a cup nest in a bush or other low vegetation.
  • Red-winged Blackbirds often call. Males sing a loud, “kan-keree!” and both sexes also make “check!” calls and a high-pitched whistle-like sound.

The Red-winged Blackbird is a common, social species easily seen in marshes and open habitats. In the winter, it can form huge flocks that feed in farm fields. This species can make a daily commute of 50 miles to and from roosting and feeding sites.

 

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

© Elaine R. Wilson

Scientific name: Sitta canadensis

Length: 4.5 inches
Weight: .35 ounces
Wingspan: 8.5 inches
Song: 
yeank, yeank, yeank

The Red-breasted Nuthatch is a small, warbler-sized bird with a dark gray, straight or slightly upturned beak, gray upperparts, and reddish-orange underparts. It also has a black cap, a white face with a narrow black mask, and black and white in its short tail.

Males and females are similar, except that females are paler and have a gray cap.

Red-breasted Nuthatches eat insects during the summer and conifer seeds in the winter. These small, animated birds forage by creeping down coniferous tree trunks and on branches. They use their bills to probe bark and pick out insects and seeds.

This species excavates a tree cavity and makes an open nest of bark and other vegetation.

The Red-breasted Nuthatch lives in coniferous and mixed forests in southern Alaska, Canada, and the western and northern USA. They also breed in the Appalachians and can be seen in most of the USA in winter.

Key Identifications:

  • Small, short-tailed bird with a narrow white eyebrow, black mask, gray upperparts, and reddish-orange underparts.
  • Creeps along tree trunks and branches to forage for insects and conifer seeds.
  • Nests in tree cavities.
  • The distinctive nasal call of the Red-breasted Nuthatch, “yeank, yeank, yeank”, is a good way to find this bird.

The Red-breasted Nuthatch is a small, short-tailed bird with black and white on its head, gray upperparts, and reddish-orange underparts. It usually occurs alone and lives in coniferous woods and trees. To protect its nest, this species puts sticky pine resin around the border of its nesting hole.

 

Bald Eagle

Female and male Bald Eagle

Judging by the size, female is on the left and male is on the right. Photograph © Andy Morffew

Scientific name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Length: 31 inches
Weight: 9.5 pounds
Wingspan: 80 inches
Song: 
pip pipipipip!

The Bald Eagle is a huge, dark brown raptor with a white head, white tail, and a big yellow beak. Males and females look the same except that females are bigger.

Young birds are dark brown with mottled white and have a mostly dark beak.

In flight, Bald Eagles soar on broad, long wings held flat like a board. They also have deep and slow wing beats.

The Bald Eagle snatches fish from the surface of lakes, rivers, and other shallow wetlands. It also feeds on carrion and occasionally catches small mammals and birds as big as a Canada Goose.

This big raptor builds a big, bulky stick nest high in a tree in or near wetlands. They often use the same nest year after year.

Bald Eagles occur in a variety of wetland habitats in Alaska, Canada, most of the USA (including Washington), and in some parts of northern Mexico.

Key Identifications:

  • Although adult Bald Eagles are unmistakable, young birds can be confused with the Golden Eagle. They are best recognized by their mottled plumage, huge beak, and flat, soaring wings.
  • Preys on fish, small mammals, ducks and geese, and also eats carrion.
  • Builds a big, bulky nest out of sticks in wetland habitats.
  • Bald Eagles make brief, whistled piping calls, “pip pipipipip!”.

The Bald Eagle is a huge raptor with a white head and tail, young birds are dark brown with white mottling. This bird of prey catches fish and aquatic animals and feeds on carrion in many wetland habitats.

 

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Photograph © Glenn Bartley.

Scientific name: Poecile rufescens

Length: 4.75 inches
Weight: .34 ounces
Wingspan: 7.5 inches
Song:
sipidit sipidit

The Chestnut-backed Chickadee is a small bird with a sooty cap, white face, and a black throat. It also has a red-brown back, flanks, and undertail, and a short, stubby bill.

Both sexes of this cute little bird look the same. They occur in chattering flocks with other small birds, and flutter between bushes and trees on short, rounded, dark gray wings.

Chestnut-backed Chickadees are busy little birds that feed on small insects, caterpillars, spiders, berries, and seeds. They pick these food items from foliage and bark, and are also regular visitors to bird feeders.

This chickadee species makes a nest out of animal hair and other soft materials at the bottom of a tree cavity. They can also use nest boxes and occur in dense coastal forests from southern Alaska to California. Another population lives in similar coniferous forests from southern British Colombia to Idaho and northeastern Oregon.

Key Identifications:

  • Tiny red-brown and gray songbird with a sooty cap, white face, and black throat.
  • Small, busy flocks forage for small arthropods and seeds in foliage and at feeders.
  • Nests in tree cavities and nest boxes.
  • This chickadee makes wheezy “dee dee” calls and higher-pitched, chittering sounds, “sipidit sipidit.

The Chestnut-backed Chickadee is one of the common, classic small birds that live in the wet coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest. They usually occur in flocks, visit feeders, and are pretty easy to see. This bird uses a lot of fur from Coyotes, rabbits, and other mammals in its nest, and even covers its eggs with fur.

 

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Scientific name: Ardea herodias 

Length: 46 inches
Weight:
 5.3 pounds
Wingspan:
72 inches
Song: 
Grunk! Grunk!”

The Great Blue Heron is a large, gray and pale brown heron with a long neck and legs. It has a strong, yellowish beak, black and white head with a wispy black crest, and rufous thighs.

Both sexes are alike and have pale bellies and black flanks. Juveniles have streaked underparts.

In flight, they make slow, deep flaps with long, broad gray and black wings. In Southern Florida and the Caribbean, Great Blue Herons are all white and sometimes considered a separate species, the “Great White Heron”.

These powerful herons feed on fish and small animals such as rats, snakes, and birds.

Great Blue Herons build messy, stick nests and breed in colonies, often in swamps.

We find these impressive birds in and near a wide variety of wetlands in large parts of Canada, the USA, and the Caribbean.

Key Identifications:

  • Huge gray and pale brown wading bird with a thick, yellowish beak and a wispy crest. In southern Florida, it is all white but still has a crest and a strong yellowish beak.
  • Stalks and preys on fish and small animals.
  • Builds messy stick nests and breeds in colonies.
  • Great Blue Herons aren’t all that vocal. When taking flight they make a croaking sound, “Grunk! Grunk!“.

The Great Blue Heron occurs on rivers, lakes, and many other wetlands. It stands still for long periods of time while waiting for prey to come within range of its sharp beak but is also, often seen in flight.

 

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

© Alan D. Wilson

Scientific name: Zonotrichia leucophrys

Length: 7 inches
Weight: 1 ounce
Wingspan: 9.5 inches
Song: 
tuuur teeteetee zhree zhree zeh

The White-crowned Sparrow is a thrush-sized sparrow with black and white stripes on its head, and a small, finch-like orange or pinkish beak.

Both sexes look alike and have a gray face, gray underparts with pale brown flanks, streaked brown back, and gray-brown rump. Their rounded wings are mottled brown with two pale wing bars.

In winter, young birds have brown and tan stripes on their head.

The White-crowned Sparrow feeds on insects, seeds, grass, buds, and fruit. It forages by picking food items from the ground and in low vegetation. In winter, this species moves around forest and park-like habitats in flocks.

This sparrow makes a cup nest out of grass, bark strips, and other plant matter and builds it on the ground or in a low bush.

White-crowned Sparrows occur in shrubby habitats in Alaska, Canada, the Rocky Mountains, along the Pacific Coast, and winter in much of the western, central, and eastern USA.

Key Identifications:

  • Thrush-sized sparrow with a black and white striped head, gray underparts, orange or pinkish finch-like beak, and two wing bars.
  • Eats insects, seeds, and fruit on and near the ground, often in flocks.
  • Makes a cup nest on or near the ground.
  • Makes a sharp call, “Pick!” and sings a pleasant song, “tuuur teeteetee zhree zhree zeh”.

The White-crowned Sparrow is a fairly large sparrow with black and white stripes on its head. Young birds have brown and tan striped heads and this species occurs in flocks in the winter. Some White-crowned Sparrows are “bilingual” as they learn more than one regional song.

 

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

Scientific name: Carduelis tristis

Length: 5 inches
Weight: .46 ounces
Wingspan: 9 inches
Song: 
swit sweet, sipsipsipchichisweetsweet

The American Goldfinch is a small, sparrow-sized finch with a black and white, slightly forked tail, pale rump, and white undertail. In summer, males are bright lemon yellow with a small black cap, pale beak, and have some white markings on long black wings.

Females and wintering birds have two pale wings bars and have plain gray, buff, and yellowish plumage. This species often occurs in small flocks and has bounding flight.

American Goldfinches feed on seeds. They forage by picking them from grass, thistle, other low plants, Alders, and other trees. Goldfinches are also frequent visitors to bird feeders.

The American Goldfinch uses plant matter and other soft materials to build a small, tightly woven cup nest high in a shrub or a low tree.

American Goldfinches are summer residents in southern Canada, Washington, and the northern half of the USA, and winter in most of the USA and parts of Mexico.

Key Identifications:

  • Small, bright yellow finch with a black cap, wings and tail (summer male), female and winter males are plain brown, buff, and yellowish birds with two pale wing bars.
  • Feeds on seeds in low plants, trees, and at feeders.
  • Makes a tightly woven cup nest high in a shrub or low tree.
  • Often gives a “per chickory” call in flight and sings a short, trilled song, “swit sweet, sipsipsipchichisweetsweet”.

American Goldfinches are small, common finches that frequent weedy and brushy fields, second growth, parks, and backyards. Outside of the breeding season, they occur in small flocks and often visit feeders. Brown-headed Cowbirds that hatch in American Goldfinch nests die after a few days because they can’t survive on a diet of seeds.

 

Bewick’s Wren

Bewick's Wren

Scientific name: Thryomanes bewickii

Length: 5.25 inches
Weight: .35 ounces
Wingspan: 7 inches
Song:
pip up zeee chu ree chiitipitipit

The Bewick’s Wren is a slender, sparrow-sized, pale brown and gray wren with a narrow white eyebrow.

Both sexes look similar and have a sharp beak, pale throat, and mottled gray face. They also have dark barring on their undertail and a long, rounded tail with dark barring and small white tips.

This species feeds on adult insects, insect eggs, caterpillars, and spiders. They forage by inspecting and moving through low vegetation and picking food from crevices, bark, and leaves.

Bewick’s Wrens usually occur in pairs that defend a territory and live in brushy habitats, thickets, and open woodlands. They make cup or domed nests out of grass and other vegetation on ledges and in nest boxes and other crevices.

The Bewick’s Wren occurs in southwestern British Columbia south to Baja California, western Missouri, and southern Wyoming south to Mexico. Some birds also live at scattered sites east to West Virginia.

Key Identifications:

  • Sparrow-sized, slender, pale brown wren with a narrow white eyebrow and long, rounded tail with small white tips.
  • Pairs forage for arthropods in bushes and other low vegetation.
  • Builds a cup or domed nest in cavities, nest boxes, and on ledges and other structures.
  • Makes a loud and raucous laughing call like many other large gulls“pip up zeee chu ree chiitipitipit””.

The Bewick’s Wren is a small, pale brown and gray bird with a long, sharp beak, long narrow eyebrow, and long, rounded tail. It lives in thickets and other brushy habitats in many parts of western and central North America. In the eastern USA, the House Wren has replaced this species and caused it to disappear from many parts of its former range.

 

Common Raven

Common Raven

Scientific name: Corvus corax

Length: 24 inches
Weight: 2.6 pounds
Wingspan: 53 inches
Song: 
Grauk Grauk Grauk Grauk!

The Common Raven is a big, black crow-like bird with long, broad wings and a broad, wedge-shaped tail.

Both sexes look alike and have feathers extending onto the top part of their strong, stout beaks.

This bird is often seen in soaring flight or in direct flight where it gives a few strong flaps between glides.

Common Ravens are omnivores that feed on carrion, small animals, nesting birds, and various other food items. They forage by flying above roads and other places and are always on the lookout for feeding opportunities.

This big Corvid makes a big, bulky nest out of sticks and lines the shallow cup with mud, wool, and other items. It builds its nest on a cliff, tree, bridge, or other structure.

The Common Raven lives in wilderness areas from the Arctic to parts of the northeastern USA and the western USA. In some places, it lives in urban areas. Common Ravens are common in Washington.

Key Identifications:

  • Huge, black, crow-like bird with a strong, stout beak and a wedge-shaped tail.
  • An omnivore that feeds on small animals, carrion, and other food items.
  • Makes a big bulky stick nest in trees, on cliffs, and on human-made structures.
  • Common Ravens are vocal birds. One of their most common calls is a load and croaking, “Grauk Grauk Grauk Grauk!”.

The Common Raven is a large, black, crow-like bird of mountains, forest, tundra, and other wild areas. Some also live near people and, in flight, they can sometimes be mistaken for raptors. However, no hawk species is entirely black with a wedge-shaped tail. The Common Raven can mimic human speech and is one of the most intelligent bird species.

 

Glaucous-winged Gull

Glaucous-winged Gull

Scientific name: Larus glaucescens

Length: 26 inches
Weight: 2.2 pounds
Wingspan: 58 inches
Song:
kea keea keea keea keea

The Glaucous-winged Gull is a big, pale gray and white gull with gray and white wing tips, and pink legs.

Both sexes look similar, and, in winter have pale brown on their neck and head. Young birds in their first year are uniform pale gray-brown (including their wingtips) and have a blackish beak.

At two years of age, they have some pale gray on their back. Three-year-old birds resemble adults but have a dark tip on their pale beak, and more markings on their head and neck.

Glaucous-winged Gulls forage in coastal waters and beaches for fish, crustaceans, carrion, smaller birds, and any other small animals they can catch. We often see these big gulls in flocks, especially in areas with spawning salmon.

This species makes a basic nest on the ground, out of grass, sticks, and other items. They usually nest on rocky islands and occur in coastal waters from Alaska to Baja California.

Key Identifications:

  • Large, pale, gray and white gull with pink legs, and gray and white wing tips.
  • Small flocks roam beaches and coastal waters for fish, sea creatures, carrion, and small animals.
  • They make a basic nest on the ground, usually on a rocky island.
  • Glaucous-winged Gulls sound a lot like other large gulls. They make repeated cawing or honking sounds, “kea keea keea keea keea”.

The Glaucous-winged Gull is a large, white gull with a pale gray back, and gray and white wing tips. This gull species roams coastal areas in search of fish, small animals, and carrion. Most Glaucous-winged Gulls in Washington state are actually “Olympic Gulls”, a hybrid between this species and the Western Gull.

 

Bufflehead

Bufflehead

Scientific name: Bucephala albeola

Length: 13.5 inches
Weight: 13 ounces
Wingspan: 21 inches
Song:
reuh reuh reuh reuh

The Bufflehead is a dainty diving duck with a small gray beak, and a rounded head. Breeding males have glossy purple and green highlights on their black and white head. They also have snow white underside, and a black back.

During their swift, direct flight, male Buffleheads show a big white patch on each of their pointed wings. Non-breeding males, females, and juveniles are like males but are darker brown-gray, have a white belly, and a smaller white patch on their head.

Buffleheads dive in cold lakes, rivers, and coastal waters to forage for crustaceans and other small aquatic creatures. During migration and winter, they usually occur in flocks.

This small duck nests in old woodpecker holes in boreal forests in Alaska, Canada, and parts of northern California and the Rocky Mountains. It winters in coastal areas, and on large bodies of water from Alaska and eastern Canada south to the USA and northern Mexico.

Key Identifications:

  • Very small, black and white diving duck with a prominent white mark on its head.
  • Dives in large, cold bodies of water to forage for small creatures on the bottom.
  • Nests in old woodpecker holes.
  • This duck is usually quiet but makes occasional brief rasping calls, “reuh reuh reuh reuh.

The Bufflehead is a small, common diving duck with a big, rounded, black and white head. In winter, flocks dive for crustaceans on large lakes, bays, and reservoirs. Unlike many other duck species, the Bufflehead can mate for life and relies on holes made by flickers for nesting.

 

Double-crested Cormorant

double-crested cormorant

Scientific name: Nannopterum auritum

Length: 33 inches
Weight: 3.7 pounds
Wingspan: 52 inches
Song: 
groak

The Double-crested Cormorant is a big, glossy black bird with a long, thick neck. Males and females look alike and also have a medium-length beak with a sharp, hooked tip, an orange throat patch, and a bit of orange on the face.

Double-crested Cormorants have a short, wispy crest, green eyes, broad tails, and big webbed feet. They use their long wings to flap and glide with direct flight between feeding and roosting areas.

This highly aquatic species feeds on fish. It catches its food by diving, swimming beneath the water and then snatching a fish with its beak. It eats the fish while perched above the water.

The Double-crested Cormorant breeds in colonies and makes a messy stick nest in a tree on an island or above the water. We see this bird in parts of central and southern Canada, in much of the USA, and parts of Mexico and the Caribbean.

Key Identifications:

  • Big, nearly goose-sized black bird with a long, thick neck, and a medium-length narrow beak with a small, hooked tip. It also has a rectangular, orange throat patch.
  • Forages by floating and then diving beneath the water. Swims underwater to catch fish with its beak.
  • Breeds in colonies and constructs a messy stick nest in trees on islands, or over water.
  • Double-crested Cormorants aren’t very vocal. They make some low, guttural, pig-like sounds at their breeding colonies, “groak”.

The Double-crested Cormorant is a large, black bird with a long, thick neck and an orange throat patch. It often occurs in flocks that frequent lakes, rivers, and other wetlands. When it comes to fish, this species is not a picky eater; it has been documented eating more than 250 species.

 

Red-tailed Hawk

red-tailed-hawk in flight from back

Scientific name: Buteo jamaicensis

Length: 19 inches
Weight: 2.4 pounds
Wingspan: 49 inches
Song: 
Kreeeyahh!

The Red-tailed Hawk is a large and chunky raptor with a broad, orange or reddish tail. Males and females look alike although females are larger.

These raptors are dark brown above and are pale below, with dark markings on their belly. Young birds are more streaked on their underparts, and have brown tails with dark barring.

Red-tailed Hawks often soar and have long, broad wings that can show pale square patches on the bases of their primaries. While soaring, they watch for squirrels and other small animals that they feed on.

When they spot prey, these big birds drop down to catch it with their talons. This hawk also hunts by watching for prey from a perch.

The Red-tailed Hawk builds a large, bulky stick nest high in trees. They thrive in a wide variety of habitats but especially in woodlands near fields and other open habitats.

This raptor lives from Alaska and Canada south to Central America.

Key Identifications:

  • Large, bulky hawk with a broad, reddish tail.
  • Catches squirrels, rats, pigeons, and many other small animals on the ground.
  • Nests in large, bulky nests made of sticks.
  • A vocal raptor, Red-tailed Hawks often call in flight. They usually give a “classic” but quiet sounding raptor scream, “Kreeeyahh!”.

Red-tailed Hawks are large dark brown and pale hawks with broad, reddish tails. The most common raptor in many areas, they often perch on powerline poles along roads. The Red-tailed Hawk’s vision is eight times better than a person’s; they can spot a tiny rodent while soaring 100 feet above it.

 

House Sparrow

House Sparrow Passer domesticus)

Scientific name: Passer domesticus

Length: 6.25 inches
Weight: .98 ounces
Wingspan: 9.5 inches
Song: 
see,chirrup,see,chirrup,see,chirrup”

House Sparrows are small, plump gray and brown birds with conical, finch-like beaks. Males have a gray and rufous head with pale cheeks, and black near their eyes and on their throat.

The rest of their underparts are gray, and they have brown, streaked backs with rufous highlights. They also have a white mark on the shoulder of each wing and a grayish rump and tail.

Females are plainer brown and buff, have paler beaks, and buff eyebrows.

House Sparrows feed on seeds, grain, and insects. They are regular visitors to bird feeders and often dominate other smaller species. They also forage on the ground in farmlands, parks, urban areas, and other open situations.

The House Sparrow nests in cavities. When searching for suitable nesting sites, they can kill and remove the eggs and young of smaller species like Eastern Bluebirds.

House Sparrows usually live near people and occur in most of North America, including Washington.

Key Identifications:

  • Brown and gray sparrow with a bold pattern on its head.
  • Feeds on seeds, grain, and insects at feeders and on the ground in urban areas and farmlands.
  • Nests in tree cavities, including nest boxes.
  • This species is vocal and often makes short chirping calls. Its song is a friendly series of chirping sounds, “see,chirrup,see,chirrup,see,chirrup”.

In many places, the House Sparrow is the common urban sparrow. It occurs in pairs and small groups that forage on sidewalks, in parking lots, farm fields, and other familiar places. This species is one of the very few birds that has evolved to live with people and digest the same grains that we eat.

 

Yellow-rumped Warbler

yellow-rumped-warbler - Lora render

Scientific name: Setophaga coronata

Length: 5.5 inches
Weight: .42 ounces
Wingspan: 9.25 inches
Song: 
si,sit,sit,sit,sit,sue,sue,sue

The Yellow-rumped Warbler is a small, blue-gray songbird with a yellow rump, crown, and yellow patches on each side of its breast. It also has two white wing bars, dark marks on the back, and white underparts with blackish markings on its breast and sides.

In summer, this species has a blackish face and white markings above and below the eyes. Females are like males but duller. In winter, both sexes of Yellow-rumped Warblers are duller and have more brownish plumage.

The western subspecies has a yellow throat and more white in the wings.

This species feeds on insects and small berries. It picks food from vegetation and briefly flies into the air to catch bugs in flight.

Yellow-rumped Warbler builds small cup nests in conifers in Canada and the northeastern and western USA. They spend the winter in semi-open habitats from the southern USA to Central America.

Key Identifications:

  • Small songbird with two pale wing bars and yellow patches on the rump, each side of its breast, and crown.
  • Feeds on insects and small berries.
  • Builds cup nests in conifers in northern and montane forests.
  • The Yellow-rumped Warbler makes a sharp call note, “chup!”, and sings a brief and easy-going warbling song, “si,sit,sit,sit,sit,sue,sue,sue”.

Yellow-rumped Warblers are small, blue-gray or brownish songbirds with two pale wing bars, and yellow patches on the crown, sides of the breast, and rump. In winter, they occur in small flocks that feed on insects and berries in parks and other semi-open habitats.

 

Killdeer

Killdeer

Scientific name: Charadrius vociferus

Length: 10.5 inches
Weight: 3.3 ounces
Wingspan: 24 inches
Song: 
tideer, tideer, tideer, tideer”

The Killdeer is a fair-sized, slender plover that is dark brown above and white below. They have two black bands on their breast, a patterned, black, white, and dark brown face, and a longish, orange tail.

Both sexes look alike and also have a slender, black bill, narrow, red-orange eyerings, and long, pale legs. In flight, we can see a white stripe in each of their long, dark wings, and a black tip on their long, wedge-shaped, orange tail.

Killdeers often fly high overhead in fast, direct flight but we usually see them foraging on the ground. They pick insects, other small creatures, and seeds from the edges of wetlands and other, open grassy areas.

This species lays its camouflaged eggs on the ground, in gravel and open fields. When people and pets approach too close, they give loud calls and pretend to have a broken wing.

The Killdeer lives in large parts of Canada, the USA, Mexico, and also Washington.

Key Identifications:

  • Fair-sized plover with two black breast bands and a wedge-shaped orange tail with a black tip.
  • Picks seeds and small creatures from open ground.
  • Lays camouflaged eggs on the ground, in gravel and open fields.
  • Very vocal and sounds like it says its name, “tideer, tideer, tideer, tideer”.

The Killdeer is the most common and familiar shorebird in much of its range and occurs in many open habitats. It is the only plover in North America with two black breast bands and a longish, orange tail with a black tip. To scare cows near their nests, Killdeers fluff themselves to look bigger, raise their tail over their head, and run at the large animal.

 

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Scientific name: Regulus satrapa

Length: 4 inches
Weight: .21 ounces
Wingspan: 7 inches
Song:
see see see see see see seet sipah chipuhdibidit

The Golden-crowned Kinglet is a tiny olive-gray songbird with pale gray underparts, a narrow golden stripe on its crown, and a black and white pattern on its face.

The heads of male birds have a bright orange and yellow patch with a black border, a black line through their eye, and two, short white wing bars.

Female Golden-crowned Kinglets look like males, but their crown is pale yellow. Both sexes also have dingy yellow edging on the feathers of their rounded wings, and on their forked tail.

Golden-crowned Kinglets are active birds that forage for small arthropods and insect eggs in the foliage of conifers and other vegetation.

This species makes a deep cup nest high in a conifer. It breeds in forests from southern Alaska to California, in the Rockies, Canada, and in parts of the northern USA and the Appalachians.

It winters in parks and other wooded habitats in much of the lower 48 states.

Key Identifications:

  • Tiny olive and pale gray bird with a bright yellow patch on its head, two wing bars, and a dark line through its eye.
  • Forages for small arthropods the foliage of trees and bushes.
  • Makes a deep cup nest high in an evergreen.
  • This tiny bird makes very high-pitched calls and has a high-pitched chattering song, “see see see see see see seet sipah chipuhdibidit.

This species can be very common in parks during migration and winter. During the breeding season, this little bird can raise two broods with ten babies in each nest!

 

Birds of Washington – Frequently Asked Questions

What is Washington state bird?

The Washington state bird is the American Goldfinch. This beautiful bird is common in most parts of the state.

How many birds are in Washington state?

In total,  522 species are in Washington state. This is the number of bird species that have been accepted on the Washington state list.

What is the spotted bird in Washington state?

The spotted bird in Washington state could be a European Starling, or a Spotted Owl. The starling is a common black bird in Washington with small white spots. The Spotted Owl is a rare owl of old growth forests with white and dark spots in its plumage.

Does Washington have crows?

Yes, Washington has crows. American Crows are common throughout the state.

Does Washington have pigeons?

Yes, Washington has pigeons. There are Rock Pigeons in urban areas and on farms, and Band-tailed Pigeons are summer residents of coastal and montane forests.

Does Washington have doves?

Yes, Washington has doves. Mourning Doves are a common bird in the state.

About the Author

Patrick O'Donnell

Patrick O'Donnell has been focused on all things avian since the age of 7. Since then, he has helped with ornithological field work in the USA and Peru, and has guided many birding tours, especially in Costa Rica. He develops birding apps for BirdingFieldGuides and loves to write about birds, especially in his adopted country of Costa Rica.

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