Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Scientific Name: Accipiter Striatus
Diet: Sharp-shinned Hawks eat mainly small birds such as sparrows, warblers, and thrushes.They also sometimes capture larger birds such as quail.  They also eat small rodents and reptiles. Some commonly eaten animals are mice, voles, bats, frogs, and snakes. The young Sharp-shinned Hawks are often fed nestlings of other birds.
Habitat: Sharp-shinned Hawks live in forests. They prefer conifer forests, but also sometimes can be found in deciduous forest. During the winter, they are most common around forest edges, thickets, parks, and woodlots. They breed in denser forest, ideally with a closed canopy, and even during the winter, they are almost never found in open areas.
Range: Sharp-shinned Hawks live throughout Washington state and most of North America. However, they are not present in the mid-U.S. and the far northern parts of North America in Canada.
Sound: The call of the Sharp-shinned Hawk is a repetitive, high-pitched ki-ki-ki-ki! It is used for almost every purpose–courtship, an alarm call, and a begging call for nesting females and young.
Nesting: Sharp-shinned Hawks breed from April to May in mixed deciduous-coniferous, dense forest. The nest is placed 30-35 feet up near the trunk of a tree; it is often placed on top of an old crow or squirrel nest, and it is usually well hidden. The female does most the building.Their nests are placed in the same area each year, but each pair makes a new nest every year. The nest is built of sticks or twigs, pine needles, and grass, and it is lined with strips of bark. When finished, the nest is about two feet wide and 4-6 inches deep. The female lays 4-5 white eggs with brown patches and both the male and the female incubate them for 30 to 35 days. When the young hatch, their eyes are open and they are covered in a light down. At the 3-4 weeks, the young go outside their nest, and a couple of weeks later they learn to fly.
Behavior: Sharp-shinned Hawks are highly agile fliers, and can chase prey through dense thickets. They catch birds on the ground and in the air, and catch insects on the wing. Sometimes, these hawks get close to their prey using nearby cover, and then they attack, surprising their prey. Before eating, Sharp-shinned Hawks take their prey to a feeding perch. During the breeding season, Sharp-shinned Hawks become reclusive and more solitary, but during migration they often travel in small groups.
Description/Field Marks: Sharp-shinned Hawks are the smallest accipiters in North America, at about 9-14 inches long, about the same size as a jay or pigeon. Females are about 1/3 larger than the males. They have a wingspan of 16-22 inches. Sharp-shinned Hawks are barred with white and dull orange stripes on the throat, breast, underside, and the inner part of the wings, which shows in flight. The outer part of the wings, including the primary and secondary feathers, is barred with black and white stripes. Their tails, backs, napes, and crowns are slate grey.
How to Attract: Seed feeders, suet feeders, or bird bathes all work to attract Sharp-shinned Hawks, but not because they want the food or water. These attractants attract song birds which Sharp-shinned Hawks hunt. If there is a large number of small birds in your yard, there is likely to also be a hunting Sharp-shinned hawk.
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Surf Scoter

Scientific Name: Malanitta Perspicillata

Diet: Surf Scoters mainly eat a variety of aquatic food including aquatic worms, crustaceans, small fish, aquatic insects, and aquatic plants. During the breeding season Surf Scoters eat mainly aquatic insect larvae, but in the non-breeding season their diets change to mollusks and crustaceans.

Habitat: Surf Scoters breed on lakes in somewhat-open areas in the arctic. During the winter they live on open bays, inlets, and estuaries, and prefers rocky substrate.

Range: Surf Scoters breed in Alaska and northern Canada, and during the winter they live down the eastern and western U.S. coasts down to Mexico. In Washington, Surf Scoters can be found in the Puget Sound and all along the coast.

Sound: Although Surf Scoters are mostly silent, the male has a low whistle, and the female’s call is a croak.

Nesting: Surf Scoters arrive in the breeding areas in May and June. The nest is a small depression in the ground, usually near water, well hidden by shrubs, bushes, and low tree branches, and it is lined with plants and down. The female lays 6 to 9 eggs, and she incubates them for 28 to 30 days. The male leaves her when incubation starts. When the young hatch they are downy and can feed themselves immediately, but they stay with the female for a while after hatching.

Behavior: Surf Scoters dive from the surface of the water to catch prey at or near the bottom of the water. They also take mussels from man-made structures. They need a running start to take off and fly.

Description/Field Marks: Surf Scoters are about 19 to 24 inches long, with a wingspan of about 30 inches. The males are black all over except for the head, nape, and bill. There is a white spot between the eyes (which are white), and a rectangle of white goes from the back of the head down the nape. The bill is bright orange, with a large white spot at the base and a smaller black spot on the white spot. The female is duller, with a grey body, instead of the jet black of the males, and a black bill. There is a white blotch on their cheeks.



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Pied-Billed Grebe

Scientific Name: Podilymbus Podiceps

Diet: Pied-Billed Grebes eat a wide variety of aquatic animals. The majority is aquatic invertebrates, insects, and crustaceans, but they also occasionally eat fish, reptiles, amphibians, and aquatic plants.

Habitat: Pied-Billed Grebes have different habitats throughout the year. During the breeding season they live in marshes, swamps, and ponds with emergent vegetation for anchoring their nests. Then, during the winter, they move to more open water such as coastal bays and inlets, but can also be found in most types of wetlands. They are sometimes found in salt water, but are more common in freshwater. During migration they move to higher elevations and can sometimes be found in mountain lakes.

Range: Pied-Billed Grebes can be found in the western and south-eastern U.S. all year long, but only during the breeding season in south-eastern Canada and  the north-eastern U.S. They are common in most of Washington.

Sound: The Pied-Billed Grebe has a distinctive ko-ko-ko-ko song, in which a single, staccato note is repeated several times.

Nesting: Pied-Billed Grebe nests are constructed by both the male  and the female. The nest is a floating heap of vegetation anchored to emergent vegetation. They lay 3 to 10 eggs, which are incubated for 23 to 27 days by both the male and the female. If the parents are gone from the nest for a long period of time they cover the nest with nesting material for protection. When the young hatch, they are downy. They leave the nest within a day of hatching, but they stay near the nest. The parents sometimes carry their young on their backs. When the young are about 1 to 2 months old, they leave their parents.

Behavior: Pied-Billed Grebes are such skilled divers and swimmers that they have been called hell-divers. They dive from the surface of the water to catch their food both in open water and among vegetation. They are not as social as other grebes, and they are usually found by themselves.

Description/Field Marks: Pied-billed Grebes are fairly plain birds. They are only about 12-15 inches long, and they have wingspans of about 18-24 inches. They are greyish brown all over, with lighter feathers under the tail. During the the breeding season there is a black ring around the white bill (hence pied-billed), but during the winter the ring disappears.


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Acorn Woodpecker

Scientific Name: Melanerpes formicivorus

Diet: Acorn Woodpeckers eat insects, sap, fruit, seeds, oak catkins, and acorns. About 50% of an Acorn Woodpecker’s diet is acorns. They store the acorns in summer and fall, and during the winter those caches are critical to survival.

Habitat: These woodpeckers are most common in oak woodlands or oak-pine woodlands, especially where there are several kinds of oak. They are also common in suburbs and parks where oaks are present.

Range: The Acorn Woodpecker is a year-round resident through-out its range. It can be found in only a tiny portion of Washington in the southern mid-west, and its range continues down the U.S to Mexico. It lives through-out central Mexico.

Sound: Acorn Woodpecker calls include a rolling rattle, and a clear RAW! note repeated

Nesting: Acorn Woodpeckers are cavity nesters, and they nest in tree trunks, or in main branches. The whole flock helps with breeding. All the woodpeckers help excavate the nest hole, which is bare except for wood chips in the bottom. Only some of the woodpeckers in a flock breed, and the others help out. Each breeding female lays 2-8 eggs in the cavity, which are incubated for 11 days. At first only the breeding females incubate, and then later helpers incubate as well. The whole flock helps take care of the nestlings. Acorn Woodpeckers lay 1-2 broods in a season.

Behavior: Acorn Woodpeckers travel in flocks of about 16 birds, which usually includes breeding pairs, their grown nestlings, and other relatives. They all help defend acorn graneries. These graneries hold up to 50,000 acorns, and each acorn is stored in an individually drilled hole or a crevice in the tree. These caches help them survive through the winter. Acorn Woodpeckers catch insects by fly-catching.

Description/Field Marks: Acorn Woodpeckers are about 7-9 inches long and they have wingspans of about 14-17 inches. Acorn Woodpeckers have black backs and wings, and black breasts with black streaking going down their white undersides. Their faces look like clown faces. They have red crowns and white foreheads, cheeks, and throats. On males the red on the crown extends down to the forehead, and on females there is a black strip between the white forehead and the red crown. Their eyes are bright white, in contrast to the black feathers surrounding them. Their bills are black.


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Cliff Swallow

Scientific Name: Petrochelidon Pyrrhonota

Diet: Cliff Swallows feed almost exclusively on flying insects, which they catch on the wing.

Habitat: Cliff Swallows inhabit open areas with cliffs or buildings nearby. These places include farmlands, parks, prairies, and wetlands. On migration they are found on shores of lakes and in marshland.

Range: Cliff Swallows breed in almost all of North America, but in the South East  and in parts of Mexico, they are only present during migration. They can be found in Washington during the breeding season.

Sound: Cliff Swallow’s call is a chatter consisting of chirps, twitters, and many various other sounds.

Nesting: Cliff Swallows nest in colonies. The nests are placed on vertical walls, usually right under an overhang. The nest is made of mud which is collected by both the male and the female. They form it into a domed cup with an entrance hole on the side. The nest is lined with grass. These swallows lay 4-6 eggs, which they incubate for 14-16 days. When the chicks hatch, they are helpless and have no down.

Behavior: Like many swallows, Cliff Swallows catch insects in flight, and are often seen flying high in the air catching flying insects.

Description/Field Marks: Cliff Swallows are about 5 inches long, and they have wingspans of about 11 inches. They weigh about 1 ounce.  Cliff Swallows look very similar to Barn Swallows, but there are a few differences. One is that Cliff Swallows have square tails, whereas Barn Swallows have deeply forked tails, and another is that Cliff Swallows have more whiteish-beige undersides, and barn swallows have more brown undersides. Also, Cliff Swallows have white foreheads. Their backs and wings are blueish or greyish, and their rumps are orangish brown.

Cliff Swallow Nests

Cliff Swallow Nests


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Great Blue Heron

Scientific Name:Ardea Herodias

Diet: Great Blue Heron’s eat a large variety of foods including fish, invertebrates, small mammals, reptiles, and small birds.

Habitat: Great Blue Heron’s are wetland birds, and they live in practically any place near water. These places include rivers, lakes, swamps, ponds, and marshes. They mainly inhabit slow-moving and calm water.

Range: The Great Blue Heron can be found all year in most of Washington and the southern U.S., but during the breeding season they live in the northern U.S. and southern Canada.

Sound: The Great Blue Heron’s call is a deep, gruff croak.

Nesting: Great Blue Herons nest in colonies in trees, usually near the water. The nest is a platform of sticks lined with moss, dry grass, twigs, and pine needles. They lay 2-7 eggs, which both the male and female incubate for 26 to 30 days. When the chicks hatch they are covered in down, and their eyes are open.

Behavior: Great Blue Herons  fly with slow, deliberate wing beats, and are often seen flying over or around wetlands. They hunt by standing very still in the water and waiting for prey. When prey comes they grab it with their bills. Great Blue Herons travel alone or in small groups of 2 or 3 birds.

Description/Field Marks: The Great Blue Heron is a very big bird, at about 3-4 feet long, and a wingspan of about 6 feet. They weigh up to 5 pounds. Great Blue Herons are a grayish blue color all over their bodies. They have white faces and crowns with dark superciliums. These birds have dark-colored head plumes, and the feathers on the bases of their necks are small feathers sticking out pointing downward. They have long orangey-yellow bills, and their legs are a muddy yellow color.

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Golden-Crowned Sparrow

Scientific Name: Zonotrichia Atricapilla

Diet: Golden-Crowned Sparrows forage in lawns, gardens, and fields, where they find grasses, flowers, buds, seeds, shoots, and insects. They eat more insects during the breeding season, and feed insects to their young.

Habitat: Golden-Crowned Sparrows live in forest clearings, chaparral, meadows, brush, and thickets, and are also fairly common backyard birds.

Range: During the winter Golden-Crowned Sparrows can be found in western Washington, and down to the bottom of the U.S. In the summertime they live in most of Alaska, and the western third of Canada.

Sound: The song of the Golden-Crowned Sparrow is three notes clearly whistled, sounding like seee co seee.

Nesting: Male Golden-Crowned Sparrows attract their mates by singing. The female builds the nest on the ground, unless there is still snow cover, in which case she places it in a shrub or bush. The nest is made of bark, moss, leaves, grass, and twigs, and it is lined with feathers, grass, or hair. When the nest is finished it is a thick, bulky bowl. Golden Crowned Sparrows lay 3-5 eggs and incubate them for 11-13 days.

Behavior: Golden-Crowned Sparrows forage on the ground in open areas, often in mixed-species flocks. If it is frightened, a Golden-Crowned Sparrow will fly into nearby shrubs.

Description/Field Marks: These Sparrows are about 6-7 inches long, and of course they have golden-yellow crowns. on either side of the gold are thick, black superciliums. Their throats, napes, breasts, and undersides are grey, and their backs and tails are light brown. Their wings are streaked dark brown, light brown, and white. Females are duller and have barely any gold on their crowns.

How To Attract: To attract Golden-Crowned Sparrows put out a seed feeder.

Golden-Crowned Sparrow

Golden-Crowned Sparrow



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European Starling

Scientific Name: Sturnus Vulgaris

Diet: European Starlings are omnivores. They eat a wide variety of invertebrates, fruits, and bugs, and they also eat grains, worms, snails, and human garbage.

Habitat: European Starlings live in many suburban areas including towns, cities, backyards, pastures, open woods, and fields.

Range: The European Starling can be found throughout the US year round, and during the summer it can be found across northern Canada.

Sound: The European Starling’s song is a mixture of warbles, whistles, check!s, and rattles, seemingly jumbled together. A buzzy purrn! is given in flight.

Nesting: European Starlings are cavity nesters. They place their nests in old woodpecker holes, man-made structures, and nest boxes, and the nest is usually 10 to 25 feet above ground. The male Starlings pick out the nest site and use it to attract a female. The nest is made of twigs, trash, and grass, and it’s lined with feathers or soft plants. European Starlings lay 4 to 6 eggs and both the male and female incubate them for about 12 days. When the chicks hatch they are helpless, and their eyes are shut.

Behavior: European Starlings flock all year, but during fall and winter the flocks are larger. While foraging they walk, hop, and run along the ground using their bills to look for bugs and other food.

Description/Field Marks: European Starlings are about 8-9 inches long, and they have wingspans of about  12 to 16 inches. Their backs and breasts are shimmery green, and their heads are a mixture of shimmery green and purple. Their wings are brown. They have pink legs, and their bills are yellow. Juvenile Starlings are brown all over, with black bills and eyes.

How to Attract: To attract European Starlings, put a suet or seed feeder in your backyard. Starlings will also use nest boxes.

European Starlings

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Glaucous-Winged Gull

Scientific Name: Larus Glaucescens

Diet: Glaucous-Winged Gulls are omnivores, and they eat almost anything they can get at. This includes carrion, fish, seaweed, mussels, barnacles, sea urchins, limpets, marine invertebrates, eggs, and chicks. They also eat human trash.

Habitat: The Glaucous-Winged Gull can be found on coasts, beaches, and rocky islands, but it is also fairly common in cities and dumps. Glaucous-Winged Gulls roost in fields and on roofs.

Range: Glaucous-Winged Gulls can be found all year round along Washington’s coast and in the puget sound, and also North along Canada’s coast. During the non-breeding season they live on the coast south of Washington down to the bottom of the US.

Sound: The Glaucous-Winged Gull’s call is a loud kow! kow! kow! or keow! keow! keow!.

Nesting: Glaucous-Winged Gulls nest in colonies on low islands or rocky ledges. They start breeding when the are 4 years old, and lay their eggs from late May to July. The nest is a depression in the ground filled with grass, moss, string, seaweed, twigs, and roots. Glaucous-Winged Gulls lay 2-3 eggs, and they incubate them for about 4 weeks. After hatching the chicks stay in the nest for only about 2 days, but they stay near the nest for a while longer.

Behavior: Glaucous-Winged Gulls can often be found scavenging in garbage dumps, on beaches,  in intertidal zones, and out at sea. They also steal food from other seabirds. If one finds a shellfish it can’t pry open it will fly over a rock and drop the shellfish to crack open the shell.

Description/Field Marks: Glaucous-Winged Gulls have white heads and necks with black eyes and yellow bills. On the ends of their bills they have red dots. Their wings are grey, and their outer primary feathers are striped grey and white (more prominent when wings are folded). They have white tails and pink legs.

Glaucous-Winged Gull

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Scientific Name: Anas Platyrhynchos

Diet: Mallards are omnivores. They eat a variety of vegetation, including grass and sedge seeds, roots, stems, and grains, but they also eat aquatic invertebrates, mollusks, insects, worms, and larvae.

Habitat: These ducks prefer freshwater marshes, but they can sometimes be found in saltwater as well. Mallards live in practically any wetland habitat, but are most often found in marshes, drainage ponds, parks, and lakes.

Range: Mallards live in most of the U.S. all year, but in the south they can only be found in winter. In Canada, they are only present during the breeding season.

Sound: Female Mallards make a deep, gruff quack! repeated several times, but the courtship calls of the male are higher pitched and shorter than the female’s regular quack.

Nesting: Mallards usually place their nests near water, but occasionally nests are found fairly far from any water. The nest is put on the ground, hidden by shrubs, but is sometimes placed in a tree. Mallard nests are shallow cups made of vegetation and lined with down feathers. Mallards lay 7-10 eggs, and they incubate them for 26-30 days.

Behavior: Mallards are dabblers. As they forage in shallow water, these ducks up-end often, looking for food near the bottom of the water.

Description/Field Marks: Mallards are medium sized ducks, with a wingspan of about 32-37 inches and a length of about 20-26 inches. Male Mallards have bright yellow bills and orange feet. Their heads are a dark, shiny green, and a dark brown breast contrasts with a white neck ring. Males have a mixture of grays, silvers, whites, and browns on their backs and wings, and their tails are black. Female Mallards are much more drab, with a duller yellow for the bills, and mottled dark and light brown on their backs, wings, tails, and necks. Females have a dark brown eye line and crown, and their faces are light brown. Both male and female Mallards have dark blue speculums.

Male Mallard

Male Mallard

Female Mallard

Female Mallard

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