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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to getting photos of every bird. Keep additional observations coming, to email@example.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
These lovely small diving ducks occasionally grace our shores during winter months; more of them can be seen on Union Bay.
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.
Great Blue Heron
Hawks, Eagles, Falcons:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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-bills are our most common medium-sized gulls in winter.
This is our most common large gull, the only one to nest here on Lake Union or Eastlake rooftops.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Starlings and Waxwings:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
This is our common, local finch, which sings all over the neighborhood in spring and summer and is a regular at local feeders.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org .
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Red-winged Blackbird (needs marsh or some kinds of reeds; unlikely to be found in Eastlake unless along the shore during migration)
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
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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. 🙂