in

Dave’s Eastlake Bird List — 65 species and counting

Editor’s Note: This is a community list of all bird species observed within the Eastlake neighborhood. We’re looking to add photos of all the birds listed here and seen in Eastlake. If you have a photo of one of the birds not pictured here and taken in Eastlake (or Portage Bay), please send to info@eastlakeseattle.org. If you’re not sure what type of bird it is, send to Dave Galvin, Eastlake resident and Seattle Audubon Master Birder, for identification at galvind53@gmail.com. We look forward to getting photos of every bird. Keep additional observations coming, to galvind53@gmail.com . Most recently updated 3/19/2022.

Feature photo of an Anna’s Hummingbird by Larry Hubbell, used with permission. Visit Larry’s incredible weekly blog (and all the back-issues) at UnionBayWatch.blogspot.com for regular updates on nature in the city, with a focus on nearby Union Bay and the Washington Park Arboretum.

Waterfowl:

Greater White -Fronted Goose

These geese who nest far north in Alaska fly over us during migrations. I happened to be outside on September 22, 2021, and heard their distinctive call. Looking up, I saw three Vs flying south directly over Lake Union. These are a variety of waterfowl unlikely to be seen locally but we have the opportunity to hear them passing overhead on their migrations. A “fly-over” species.

Snow Goose

Two Snow Geese amongst friendly Canada Geese at Portage Bay in late March. 2021. These transitory migrants occasionally show up as stragglers in March and October, during their migrations. Look for them among our resident Canadas. (Photo by David Jones.)

Canada Goose

Canada Geese are permanent residents all around Lake Union, one of our most common waterfowl.  They usually keep their pair bonds over multiple years and stay together to raise their young, often in multi-family groups. (Photo by Dave Galvin)

Trumpeter Swan

Swans visit Washington state during winter, mostly hanging out in the Skagit Flats north of us, a few of them hanging out in Union Bay near Husky Stadium. Trumpeters are the most common swan to winter in western Washington, so I was not surprised when I heard a jazz riff in the sky above on March 16, 2022, over my houseboat and looked up to see 22 Trumpeter Swans flying in a V northeast toward Union Bay. We don’t usually have swans wintering on Lake Union, but a fly-over of nearby birds is an unexpected, possible occurrence.

Gadwall

The Gadwall is a less flashy dabbling duck than our local Mallard, but look closely and you’ll see wonderfully intricate brown feather patterns, like a Harris tweed jacket. Note the white wing patch (called a speculum), which distinguishes this species from the blue wing patch on the Mallard. (Photo by Dave Galvin)
Male and female Gadwalls – note the white wing patch. (Photo by Dave Galvin)

American Wigeon

Wigeons are dabbling ducks that join us for the winter, in huge flocks on Union Bay and in small numbers around Portage Bay and Lake Union from October to March. The male’s whistle-like call sounds like a child’s squeeze toy.

Mallard

Mallards are our most common dabbling ducks, found all around Eastlake’s shores year-round. They pair up in early winter, and often have two broods of young through spring and early summer.  (Photo by Dave Galvin)

Ring-necked Duck

These diving ducks of the Scaup genus have noticeable white marks on their bills and a bright crescent on their shoulders. Their “ring-necks” are so subtle they are only visible on museum specimens — they should have been called “ring-billed” ducks. (Photos by Dave Galvin.)

Greater Scaup

Lesser Scaup

Scaups are diving ducks that spend the winter on our waters. It is very hard to tell Greater from Lesser. Lesser is more common on fresh water, but both are often seen together, as in this mixed flock of 6 Lessers on the left and 1 Greater on the right. (Photo by Dave Galvin)

Bufflehead

These cute little diving ducks spend the winter on our waters before heading north and into the mountains to nest. Note how round their heads are compared with dabblers like the Mallard. (Photo by Dave Galvin)

Common Goldeneye

Goldeneyes are another of our diving ducks that spend the winter along Eastlake’s shores. Not common, but we usually have a few each winter. They head north to nest in tree cavities in Canada.

Common Merganser

Here is a flotilla of Common Mergansers seen off the back deck of an Eastlake houseboat. These diving ducks spend winters on Lake Union then head north to nest in Canada. We often see flocks of 50-100 individuals on Lake Union in January. They are consummate fishers, with their long, serrated bills.  (Photo by Dave Galvin)

Hooded Merganser

These lovely small diving ducks occasionally grace our shores during winter months; more of them can be seen on Union Bay.

Grebes:

Pied-billed Grebe

These cute, small grebes dive for fish around our shores. A few stay to nest locally over on Portage and Union Bays, but most disappear for the summer. (Photo by Dave Galvin)

Western Grebe

We used to have big rafts of these elegant birds on Lake Union in the early 1980s, but their winter locations have moved south over many decades such that we no longer see any Western Grebes.  Sorry to lose these lovely, swan-like birds from the lake.

Cormorants:

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorants are common here on fresh water through the winter months, diving for fish under the houseboats and hanging their wings out to dry when perched on pilings. They disperse over the summer to nest on rocky islands in Puget Sound, in tree colonies on larger rivers, or in Eastern Washington on the Potholes. (Photo by Dave Galvin.)
Here is a tree full of D-c Cormorants on Portage Bay in the spring before they head off to breed. (Photo by David Jones)

Herons:

Great Blue Heron

Photo of Blue Heron at Terry Pettus Park dock
A Great Blue Heron huddles against the cold, standing on one leg and then the other to stay warm. Herons do this a lot — pretty amazing how they can hide one long leg up in their feathers for warmth. This Great Blue Heron is an adult, since it has a white crown to its head.  Immature birds wear a dark gray hat for the first year or so. THeir nearest nesting site is on the south side of the Ballard Locks. (Photo by Judy Smith)

Great Egret

The Great Egret that hung out for a few days along the Eastlake shore in late 2020 is probably the rarest bird on this neighborhood list.  (Photo was taken November 14, 2020 at E. Boston Street-end.) This one individual has been hanging out along the ship canal for the past five years, usually found hanging out in Portage Bay. (Photo by anonymous Eastlake neighbor)

Hawks, Eagles, Falcons:

Osprey

Ospreys regularly fish along Eastlake’s shores, and roost on one of the tall light poles along the lake. Their nearest nests as of late 2021 are at Union Bay near Husky Stadium. They spend winters in Mexico.

Bald Eagle

This third- or forth-year Bald Eagle was seen January 17, 2021 at the top of a utility pole near the northwest corner of Fairview Ave. and Newton St.  It takes Bald Eagles five years to reach full maturity with their iconic white head and tail; the previous-year birds look a little scruffy.  Eastlake is frequently visited by local Bald Eagles — there are three nesting pairs on nearby Union Bay. (Photo by Nick Touran)

Cooper’s Hawk

Coopers Hawks are small, bird-eating raptors that are seldom seen but lurking in the neighborhood. They often nest in old crow’s nests. These photos are at Yale Place E. above the stair-climb from the Hart-Crowser Building on Fairview, taken 3/15/2021. Note the long tail, with white at the bottom, on the first photo. (Photos by Dave Galvin.)

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tails are our common Buteo, or wide-winged hawk, typically seen soaring along I-5 looking for rabbits or rodents from high overhead, or perching on a freeway light-pole. No nests known within the neighborhood, but possible.

Merlin

These small falcons are quite secretive, only seen a few times in the neighborhood. They are bird-eaters, so watch for one at your feeders.

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrines are our large, urban falcon, nesting sometimes under the I-5, University or Aurora bridges. A new pair might take up residence in 2022 on the AGC Building in the SW corner of Lake Union, with the possibility for regular sightings in Eastlake. Always a treat to see these consummate raptors.

Rails and Coots:

Sora

The Sora is a very secretive rail that usually hides in tall grass along Union or Portage Bays. One sighting has been documented of a Sora walking along the logs of an Eastlake houseboat, so we know they are around but very rarely seen.

American Coot

These gangly swimming rails spend the winter on our waters, diving to pick up underwater milfoil and other plants from the lake bottom. A few stay to nest, but most head to the Potholes of Eastern Washington for the spring and summer. (Photo by Dave Galvin)
A tight flock of American Coots on Lake Union, known as a “cover” or “raft,” swim south to hang out at Lake Union Park. (Photo by Sharon Ranney). In general, a group of American Coots is known as a ”commotion.”hn

Rubber Duckies:

Yellow Rubber Duckies are regularly found on Lake Union and Portage Bay, often in association with Mallards. They bob around, but don’t move much and are not known to nest locally. Invasive. (Photo by Dave Galvin.)

Gulls and Terns:

Short-billed Gull (used to be called Mew Gull)

These small gulls with a faint ring on their bills are common in winter on Lake Union.

California Gull

This is a medium-sized gull that passes through mostly in mid to late summer. If you see a gull smaller than the Glaucous-winged, with black wing-tips, in mid summer on Lake Union, it is most likely a California.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-bills are our most common medium-sized gulls in winter.

Glaucous-winged Gull

This is our most common large gull, the only one to nest here on Lake Union or Eastlake rooftops.

Caspian Tern

Our largest tern, this is the one most likely to be seen fishing on Lake Union or passing overhead between its nesting spot on the lower Duwamish RIver and Union Bay during summer months. It’s heron-like squawk is often all you get as these elegant birds fly high overhead.

Pigeons and Doves:

Rock Pigeon

Our common urban pigeon is not a native bird — it was introduced from Europe more than a century ago and basically took over North America.  It’s plumage varies a lot, but you recognize the basic form. (Photo by Dave Galvin)

Hummingbirds:

Anna’s Hummingbird

Two baby Anna’s Hummingbirds share a tight nest as they perch precariously on an extension cord plug! (Photo by Dave Galvin). Anna’s moved north from California over the past 30 years and are now our common, resident hummer.
A male Anna’s Hummingbird flashes his bright “gorget” feathers to either attract a mate or ward off an intruder. (Photo by Henry Draper, Jr.)

Rufous Hummingbird

Spring-time hummers with copper-brown color are our native hummers, who typically pass through only in the spring on their way to nesting sites in the Cascades. They winter in southwest Mexico. Think about that — a bird that weighs one-tenth of an ounce flies to south of Puerta Vallarta and back every year! (Photo by Henry Draper Jr.)

Kingfishers and Woodpeckers:

Belted Kingfisher

We hear these fishers regularly as they rattle by along Eastlake’s shores looking for small fish at the surface. They are one of the only local birds that hover, then dive head-first into the lake for food. A bird with attitude.

Downy Woodpecker

Our small, local woodpecker will often travel in mixed flocks with chickadees and other birds through the winter, and can be attracted to suet feeders for up-close views.

Northern Flicker

Flickers are our resident large woodpeckers, who sometimes drill holes in telephone poles hoping to attract a mate. Males will go on-and-on with their yak-yak-yak-yak… call, a sure sign of spring.

Crows and Jays:

Steller’s Jay

Our Northwest “blue” jay is a loud and sassy resident, definitely a bird with attitude. They love peanuts-in-the-shell if you want to enjoy them up close at your feeder.

California Scrub-Jay

This relative new-comer is a jay without a crest, and with a lovely light blue head and back and elegant long tail. A few have been seen in Eastlake, but not yet common.

American Crow

Crows are everywhere, no need to introduce them. They build stick nests in our local street trees, but are usually very secretive while doing so. The rest of the year they travel in flocks called murders. They roost at night in enormous numbers at U.W. Bothell.

Swallows:

Violet-green Swallow

These lovely insect eaters skim the air along Eastlake’s shore eating midges all summer, then head for southern Mexico to Costa Rica for the winter.

Barn Swallow

Our gorgeous swallow with long, forked tail also skims for flying insects and is the one more likely to be seen throughout the neighborhood, often skimming the air inches above grassy lawns or down-wind of large cottonwoods. These graceful fliers go all the way to Columbia for the winter!

Chickadees, Nuthatches and Tits:

Black-capped Chickadee

These cheery little birds are common through the neighborhood and will frequent seed or suet feeders. Their “chick-a-dee-dee” call is a regular pleasure to hear along our sidewalks. If you hear more than three “-dee-dee-dees,” the tiny bird is signaling danger to other local birds.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Much less-common in the neighborhood than their Blacked-capped cousins, these cute little birds sport a rufous vest. They prefer coniferous trees — look for them there or occasionally at your feeders.

Bushtit

These tiny, mousy-colored relatives of chickadees often twitter through local trees and bushes in large flocks. In spring, they pair up and construct a sock-like nest. They are so small they only weigh one gram (0.04 oz) more than the Anna’s Hummingbird. (Photo by Henry Draper, Jr.)

Red-breasted Nuthatch

These upside-down little birds usually navigate down tree trunks looking for tiny insects. In the winter they often join the mixed flocks of chickadees and kinglets, and will show up for suet at your feeder.

Wrens and Kinglets:

Bewick’s Wren

These are tiny birds with big vocal chords, a wide song repertoire and attitude. They are found throughout the neighborhood, more often heard than seen.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

These tiny birds (half the weight of a chickadee!) sport boldly-striped heads with a flaming crest when agitated. They’ll often join the small-bird mixed flocks in winter.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Slightly larger than their golden-crowned cousins, these greenish-yellow birds spend winters with us before heading uphill to nest in the Cascades. They hang out in the winter mixed flocks, flitting from tree to tree looking for spider eggs and insect larvae.

Thrushes:

American Robin

A familiar songbird, the American Robin is seen year-round in Eastlake, although we’re not sure how many of the wintering birds are the same ones who nest here, versus migrants from Canada, probably a mix. This one is all fluffed up to ward off January’s cold snap. Their territorial song from local treetops is a sure sign of spring. (Photo by Tom Allan)

Starlings and Waxwings:

European Starling

Starlings are ubiquitous, yet their numbers are falling after their invasion of North America in the last century. In the spring, look for their colorful yellow beak and sparkling plumage, as well as their constant attempts to mimic other sounds in their gurgling vocalizations. (Photo by Dave Galvin.)

Cedar Waxwing

We get random visits from these wide-ranging, gorgeous birds with sleek feathers, black masks, jaunty crests and colorful “waxy” tips to wings and tails. A flock will come through, gobble up local berries, and then we won’t see them again for a year. They are so elegant, their silky feathers look like they all blend together. Lovely apparitions to enjoy whenever they show up.

Wood Warblers:

Orange-crowned Warbler

Orange-crowns are one of the first of the spring warblers to arrive here, although we do have a few that over-winter and will show up at feeders. Rather blandly colored overall, they are still a sign of spring and might nest locally.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warblers spend summers here, more commonly in the marshy areas by Union Bay but occasionally along Eastlake’s shore. This migrating juvenile visited an Eastlake houseboat in September 2021. (Photo by Michael Smith)

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Our most common warbler, these “butter-butts” show up en-mass in spring and fall migrations. A few over-winter, often joining the mixed flocks with chickadees and kinglets.

Townsend’s Warbler

More common in the Cascades where they nest, these brightly-colored gems pass through Eastlake in spring and fall, and quite a few over-winter and will show up at local feeders.

Towhees, Sparrows, Tanagers and Grosbeaks:

Song Sparrow

Aptly named, these brown-striped sparrows sing loudly throughout the neighborhood. They are also one of the only birds that sings all year long. Our most common native sparrow. (Photo by Dave Galvin)

White-crowned Sparrow

Bold black-and-white stripes on the head give this one away. A few over-winter, but most are migratory. Their monotonous song is a harbinger of spring and a constant through the summer at local parking lots.

Dark-eyed Junco

Juncos are small, sparrow-like birds with white outer tail feathers and a dark gray-black hood. They usually hang out on or close to the ground, where they nest and are thus easy prey for outdoor cats. (Photo by Dave Galvin)

Western Tanager

One of the most beautiful birds in North America, our tanagers pass through Eastlake all too quickly around mid May. We hear their raspy song (like a Robin with a sore-throat), rush out to get a glimpse of their bright yellow, red, black and white costumes often high up in the treetops, and then, poof, they’re gone in a matter of days to the Cascades and Eastern Washington ponderosas where they nest.

Finches:

House Finch

This is our common, local finch, which sings all over the neighborhood in spring and summer and is a regular at local feeders.

Pine Siskin

These little striped finches are ephemeral, like the Cedar Waxwings — they’ll show up in large flocks, and then disappear as they search for the best tree seeds. Their buzzy “zeee-up” calls are quite distinctive.

American Goldfinch

The Washington state bird. These lovely finches are always a treat to see and hear, especially in spring when the male’s bright yellow and black make for quite a bright statement. They tend to move around and not stay put, but will often show up in large flocks, including at local feeders.

House Sparrow

Our common “urban” sparrow is, like the Starling, an import from Europe that took over North America. They tend to hang out in flocks in neighborhood bushes, and are quite common at seed feeders.

________________________________________________

WISH LIST!

In addition to the above 65 documented bird species within the Eastlake neighborhood and adjacent Lake Union and Portage Bay, keep your eyes peeled for anything not on the list, including the following 46 possible additional species. Take a photo and send new findings to Dave Galvin at galvind53@gmail.com .

Cackling Goose

Wood Duck (seen in Portage Bay, but not verified within Eastlake neighborhood)

Northern Pintail (common on Union Bay, but not yet seen in Eastlake)

Eurasian Wigeon ( “ )

Northern Shoveler ( “ )

Canvasback ( “ )

California quail (used to be more common locally, now rare in Seattle)

American Bittern

Green Heron

Turkey Vulture (might be a ”fly-over” bird during migrations)

Sharp-shinned Hawk (more common in suburbs and rural areas, but possible locally)

Virginia Rail (very hard to see, but might be around local shorelands)

Killdeer

Bonaparte’s Gull

Band-tailed Pigeon (our native pigeon enjoys more forested habitats, might be seen in connection with Interlacken Park or the St. Mark’s Greenbelts)

Eurasian Collared Dove (this invasive species is finally arriving in Seattle after being introduced in Florida in the 1980s)

Barn Owl (loves rats, could be a local, not-easily-seen resident)

Great Horned Owl (unlikely, but these big owls live in some neighborhoods within the city, so one never knows)

Barred Owl (now found in the Arboretum and Interlacken Park, might in the future move into territory within our neighborhood)

Red-breasted Sapsucker

Hairy Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker (nests in Interlacken Park, so might be a colonizer into our neighborhood)

Canada Jay (potential winter visitor from the mountains, but not likely)

Common Raven (now nesting in the Arboretum; we might get some spill-over of the adults or potentially some of the young)

Purple Martin (more common at Shilshole, but also seen in Union Bay; this might be one of the swallow species to encourage here in Eastlake)

Tree Swallow (found locally, just not officially distinguished in the neighborhood)

Cliff Swallow (nests under local bridges, I have not yet seen one within the neighborhood)

Brown Creeper

Pacific Wren (likes more concentrated forest and native vegetation than we have in Eastlake, but possible, as I have heard them singing along the Westlake greenbelt)

Marsh Wren

Hermit Thrush

Swainson’s Thrush

Varied Thrush

American Pipit

Common Yellowthroat

Wilson’s Warbler

Spotted Towhee

Savannah Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Black-headed Grosbeak

Red-winged Blackbird (needs marsh or some kinds of reeds; unlikely to be found in Eastlake unless along the shore during migration)

Brown-headed Cowbird

Evening Grosbeak

Purple Finch (possible, but prefers more suburban or rural treed areas)

And then there are true rarities, fly-overs and ones-of-a-kind! Keep eyes and ears alert. Let’s break 100 species for our neighborhood. Thanks for your interest and care for urban nature. — Dave Galvin

What do you think?

Written by Dave Galvin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings

One Comment

  1. As a fellow bird nerd, albeit someone who is nowhere near Dave’s level of birding, I just wanted to say THANK YOU! This is such great information and it doesn’t get more local. 🙂

Reflections on a Seattle Snow

Celebrate spring birds in Eastlake — two free events — a zoom presentation and a bird walk!