Washington state is known for its diverse and abundant bird population. Some of the most commonly spotted Washington birds are American robins, Steller’s jays, Barn swallows, Cedar waxwings, and Northwestern crows
With pictures and key data, we’ll introduce the Washington State birds you’re most likely to encounter. Rest assured knowing that this information comes from only reliable sources and has been verified by an Ornithologist.
Common Backyard Birds in Washington State
(Carduelis tristis) can be identified by their bright yellow body, black forehead and wings with white stripes. They primarily feed on seeds, but also eat insects during breeding season. They are small birds, measuring around 4-5 inches in length.
In Washington State, they can be found in open fields and meadows, as well as in backyard bird feeders. American Goldfinches are social birds and can often be seen in flocks outside of breeding season.
During breeding season, they construct cup-shaped nests made of plant material and lay 4-6 eggs. They are also known for their undulating flight patterns and beautiful singing abilities.
Black-capped Chickadee is a small, compact bird with a black cap and bib, white cheeks, gray back and wings, and white underparts. They are commonly found in coniferous or mixed forests in Washington State.
Their diet consists mainly of insects, seeds, and suet from backyard feeders.
They have the ability to cache food for later and have even been known to hide food in snow for winter feeding.
In the winter, they often form large flocks and can be seen acrobatically hanging upside down while foraging. They are also known for their distinctive “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” call.
Chickadees typically build their nests in cavities or nest boxes and will use the same nesting spot year after year. They are also cooperative breeders, meaning they will help raise young from other pairs in addition to their own offspring.
(Turdus migratorius) is a common sight in Washington State, with its distinct orange breast and gray back. This bird primarily eats worms and insects, but will also eat fruits and berries. The average size of an American Robin is about 10 inches in length and weighs around 1.5 ounces.
American Robins can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, parks, and even urban areas. They are highly adaptable and can also be seen on lawns while foraging for food.
American Robins are often seen alone or in small flocks, but will gather in large flocks during the winter months.
Their behavior includes hopping along the ground in search of food, and they are also skilled aerialists, diving and swooping through the air to catch insects. They are also known for their melodious song, often heard during dawn and dusk.
(Corvus brachyrhynchos) can be identified by their all black feathers, fan-shaped tail, and loud cawing call. In Washington State, they can be found in a variety of habitats including forests, fields, and urban areas.
Their diet consists mainly of insects, grains, nuts, fruits, and small animals. They have also been known to scavenge food from garbage and roadkill.
They typically measure around 17-21 inches in length with a wingspan of about 37 inches.
In terms of behavior, American Crows often live in large flocks and can be seen flying or foraging together.
They are also very intelligent, with the ability to use tools and even solve problems. However, they can also cause damage to crops and may harass smaller bird species.
Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus)
Pine Siskin is a small songbird with a yellow-tinged breast, brown streaked back, and forked tail. They primarily eat seeds from conifer trees and thistle, although they will also eat suet from the bird feeder.
They measure about 4-5 inches in length and can be found in coniferous forests as well as open woodlands in Washington State. These acrobatic birds can often be seen hanging upside down on tree branches while feeding, and they also form large flocks during migration.
Additionally, they have a distinctive high-pitched trill call that can often be heard in their habitat. Pine Siskins will also occasionally join mixed species flocks with other small birds such as goldfinches and chickadees during the winter months.
Steller’s jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)
Steller’s jay can be easily identified by its bright blue feathers and black crests on their heads. These jays can be found in coniferous forests, often near the tops of trees where they build their nests. Their diet consists mainly of nuts and seeds, supplemented with insects and other small animals.
On average, they measure about 11-12 inches in length and can live up to 14 years in the wild.
In terms of behavior, Steller’s jays are known to be highly intelligent and curious birds.
They have been observed using tools, such as sticks, to obtain food and have even been known to mimic the calls of hawks in order to steal their prey. These jays are also known to be highly territorial and will defend their territory vocally and physically against other birds.
Rusty Blackbird – Euphagus carolinus
The Rusty Blackbird is a medium-sized bird, measuring about 9-11 inches in length with a wingspan of 15-18 inches. It has black plumage with a slightly rusty tint on its head and shoulders, and yellow eyes.
This bird primarily eats insects, seeds, and berries. In winter months, it may also feed on waste grain from agricultural fields.
In Washington State, the Rusty Blackbird can be found in wetland areas and coniferous forests. It typically stays in flocks during migration and winter, but pairs off for breeding season in spring.
The Rusty Blackbird is known for its loud and repetitive calls, and also for its acrobatic aerial displays during breeding season. It builds cup-shaped nests made of grass and twigs, typically placed in shrubs or trees near water. Both parents take part in incubating the eggs and feeding the young.
The Rusty Blackbird population has declined drastically in recent years, with some estimates showing a decrease of 90% since the 1960s. Conservation efforts are currently underway to help protect this species.
Tricolored Blackbird – Agelaius tricolor
The Tricolored Blackbird is a large black bird with distinct red and white patches on its wings and tail. It can be found in open grassland habitats, particularly those with cattail marshes or wet meadows.
These birds primarily feed on insects and seeds, foraging on the ground or in low vegetation. They also form large foraging flocks with other blackbird species, such as Red-winged Blackbirds.
During breeding season, Tricolored Blackbirds form huge colonies, sometimes containing thousands of individuals. The male builds a cup-shaped nest and aggressively defends his territory from intruders.
In Washington State, the Tricolored Blackbird is listed as a Species of Concern due to declining populations. Conservation efforts are focused on preserving suitable habitat and reducing threats from agricultural practices.
Gray Jay – Perisoreus canadensis
The Gray Jay, also known as the Canadian Jay or Whiskey Jack, can be identified by its gray feathers, white chest and throat, and black cap and bib.
These birds are omnivores and can be found eating insects, berries, nuts, and even scavenging for food from campers and picnickers.
They are small to medium sized birds, measuring around 11-12 inches in length with a wingspan of 16-18 inches.
In Washington State, Gray Jays can be found in coniferous forests and subalpine habitats.
Gray Jays are known for their behavior of caching or storing food for later consumption, and have even been observed hiding food in caribou fur for safekeeping. They are also social birds, often seen in small groups or family units.
Brown Creeper – Certhia americana
In Washington State, the Brown Creeper can be identified by its brown and white striped body, long downward curved bill, and long tail feathers. Their diet consists mainly of insects and spiders found on tree trunks, which they search for by climbing up the trunk in a spiral motion.
Brown Creepers are small birds, measuring around 5 inches in length with a wingspan of 8-9 inches. They can be found in coniferous and mixed wood forests, often near streams or wetlands.
In terms of behavior, Brown Creepers are solitary birds except during mating season when they may form pairs. They are also known for their mimicry abilities, imitating the songs of other bird species.
Anna’s Hummingbird – Calypte Anna
In Washington State, Anna’s Hummingbirds can be identified by their green backs and crowns, grey throats, and pinkish-red heads and chests.
These birds primarily feed on nectar from flowers, but also eat small insects for protein.
Anna’s Hummingbirds are relatively small, measuring only 3 to 3.5 inches in length.
They can be found in a variety of habitats, including gardens, parks, and open woodlands.
During mating season, male Anna’s Hummingbirds perform impressive aerial displays to attract mates and defend their territory. They are also known for their aggressive protection of food sources, sometimes chasing away much larger birds.
Violet-green Swallow – Tachycineta thalassina
The Violet-green Swallow can be identified by its glossy green upperparts and white underparts, with violet coloring on its sides and throat. It has a dark forked tail and pointed wings.
This bird primarily feeds on insects, catching them in flight or picking them off vegetation. They also eat berries and seeds occasionally.
The Violet-green Swallow averages about 5 inches in length and has a wingspan of 9 inches.
In Washington State, the Violet-green Swallow can be found near open woodlands and meadows, often near water sources. They also inhabit human-made structures such as buildings and bridges.
During breeding season, the male Violet-green Swallow will perform aerial displays to attract a mate. These displays include diving and twirling through the air. The pair will build their nest in a tree or on man-made structures, made from mud and grasses.
Both parents take part in feeding and caring for the young. Outside of breeding season, they will often form small flocks with other swallows.
Summer Tanager – Piranga rubra
The Summer Tanager can be identified by its bright red plumage and black wings. In Washington State, this bird primarily eats insects and fruit.
On average, the Summer Tanager measures about 6-7 inches in length with a wing span of 9-10 inches.
This bird can typically be found in open woodlands, forests, and orchards.
In terms of behavior, the Summer Tanager is known to be rather shy and solitary, except during breeding season when they form pairs. They are also known for their loud, clear songs.
Cedar Waxwing – Bombycilla cedrorum
The Cedar Waxwing is a medium-sized bird with brown and gray plumage, a black mask on its face, and yellow tips on its wing feathers. Its most recognizable feature is the bright red waxy tip on its tail feathers.
In Washington State, the Cedar Waxwing primarily eats fruits and berries, but will also consume insects and flower nectar.
The average size of a Cedar Waxwing is about 7 inches in length with a wingspan of 12 inches.
In Washington State, the Cedar Waxwing can be found in open woodlands and forest edges, as well as urban parks and gardens.
During breeding season, they can often be seen in large flocks, but during winter months they may gather in smaller groups or form mixed-species flocks with other birds.
They have a habit of swooping down to catch insects in flight and are also known for their acrobatic abilities while feeding on fruits, often hanging upside down from branches.
Black-headed Grosbeak – Pheucticus melanocephalus
The Black-headed Grosbeak can be identified by its black head, wings, and tail, contrasting with a chestnut body and yellow underparts. Its diet consists primarily of insects and seeds. It typically reaches sizes of 7-9 inches in length with a wingspan of 11-12 inches.
In Washington State, the Black-headed Grosbeak can be found in open woodlands and habitats near water sources. It is known for its beautiful song and tendency to perch at the top of trees.
During breeding season, the male will often fan out his tail and spread his wings to attract a mate. However, outside of mating season, these birds are typically found in small flocks.
This species is classified as a Least Concern by the IUCN Red List due to its large overall population and stable trend. However, habitat loss remains a threat to this bird’s survival.
(Pipilo maculatus) can be identified by their black head, back, and tail with white throat and belly. They have a distinctive red eye patch and white spots on their wings and tail.
In Washington State, Spotted Towhees primarily eat insects, seeds, berries, and fruits.
They typically measure about 8-10 inches in length and have a wingspan of 11-13 inches.
Spotted Towhees can be found in brushy thickets, woodland edges, and gardens.
Their behavior includes scratching on the ground to uncover food as well as hopping along branches and bushes. They also engage in quick wing flicking and tail pumping while foraging. They are known to be shy and solitary, except during the breeding season when they can be found in pairs.
Yellow-rumped Warbler is a small bird with yellow patches on its sides and rump, as well as a streaky gray-brown body. It can be found in a variety of habitats, including coniferous and deciduous forests, shrublands, and even urban parks. Its diet consists primarily of insects and berries.
In terms of behavior, Yellow-rumped Warblers are often seen foraging in mixed flocks, and they have a characteristic habit of bouncing up and down while on tree branches. They also have the unique ability to digest wax-coated berries, unlike many other bird species.
This bird is commonly found in Washington State during migration, as well as in winter when they often gather in large flocks along the coast. They are also a common breeding bird in the state, with their numbers peaking during summer months.
Barn Swallows, the bird pictured above, can be identified by their pointed wings and forked tails. They have a blue-black back and forehead, chestnut throat, and rust-colored underbelly.
Their diet consists primarily of insects, which they catch in flight using their agile flying skills.
Barn Swallows typically grow to be 5-7 inches in length with a wingspan of 11-13 inches.
In Washington State, they can be found near open fields and barns, as well as near water sources where they can easily access their insect prey.
During the breeding season, Barn Swallows build cup-shaped nests made of mud on walls or other structures. They are social birds and often nest and hunt in groups. Outside of breeding season, they may migrate to warmer climates.
The Brown-headed Cowbird is a small black bird with a distinct brown head. They typically feed on insects, seeds, and grains.
In Washington State, they can be found in open habitats such as grasslands, agricultural fields, and urban parks.
During breeding season, these birds are known for their parasitic behavior, laying their eggs in the nests of other bird species and leaving the incubation and care of their young to them. However, they will also construct their own nests and actively care for their young.
European Starlings are small birds with glossy black feathers and a long, pointed bill. They can often be seen foraging on the ground or in large flocks, eating insects, fruits, and grains.
In Washington State, they can be found in a variety of habitats including open fields, urban areas, and woodlands.
They are known for their loud and varied vocalizations and their ability to mimic other bird sounds. They are also known for their aggressive behavior, often driving away native birds from feeding and nesting areas.
European Starlings were introduced to the United States in the late 1800s, and have since spread across North America. They are considered invasive species due to their negative impact on native bird populations.
Despite their negative impact on local ecosystems, European Starlings are commonly considered to be beneficial for agriculture due to their consumption of insect pests. They are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
(Agelaius phoeniceus) can be identified by their black body and red shoulder patches. In Washington State, they can typically be found in wetlands and marshes where they feed on insects, seeds, and grains. They measure about 9-11 inches in length with a wingspan of 13-17 inches.
In terms of behavior, red-winged blackbirds are known for their loud, distinctive songs and territorial nature. They often establish and defend nesting territories, sometimes aggressively chasing away other birds or potential predators. During mating season, males can often be seen displaying their red shoulder patches to attract a mate.
Black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
The black-capped chickadee is a small bird, measuring approximately 5-6 inches in length and weighing only 0.5 ounces. They have a black cap and bib, white cheeks, and gray back and wings.
In Washington State, they can be found in coniferous or mixed forests, as well as suburban areas with trees. These adaptable birds forage for insects, seeds, and suet from both trees and shrubs. They have the unique ability to hide food by “cacheing” it in bark crevices to be eaten later during times of scarcity.
Black-capped chickadees are very social birds, typically living and foraging in small flocks. Their recognizable “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” call serves as a way for them to keep track of each other and communicate with their flock. They are also known for their acrobatic abilities, easily hanging upside down or sideways while searching for food.
Northern flicker (Colaptes auratus)
Northern flicker is a medium-sized member of the woodpecker family. It has a brown back with black barring, a white belly, and a red “mustache” on its face. Its diet consists primarily of insects, which it finds by digging in the ground with its long bill.
In Washington State, northern flickers can be found in open woodlands and forests, often near clearings or edges. They also frequent residential areas with large trees for foraging and nesting.
During the breeding season, northern flickers engage in courtship displays such as aerial dives and drumming on objects to attract a mate. They construct nests by digging out cavities in dead trees or wood siding on buildings. Both male and female flickers take turns incubating the eggs and feeding the young. These birds are known to migrate during the winter, often traveling as far south as Mexico.
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
Dark-eyed Junco is a small songbird with gray plumage and distinct white outer tail feathers. They are often seen foraging on the ground, eating mostly seeds and insects.
In Washington State, Dark-eyed Juncos can be found in coniferous forests, as well as scrubland and suburban areas. They typically form large flocks during the winter, and can often be seen at bird feeders.
Dark-eyed Juncos have a habit of bobbing their heads, as well as hopping or jumping along the ground while foraging. They are also known to engage in dust bathing, where they use their wings and feet to kick up dust and then roll around in it. This behavior helps remove parasites and keep their feathers clean.
Song Sparrows are small, brown birds with streaks on their chests and a single white eyebrow. They can be found in a variety of habitats in Washington State including marshes, meadows, forests, and urban areas. Their diet consists primarily of seeds and insects.
In terms of behavior, Song Sparrows typically forage alone or in small groups on the ground. They are also known for their vocal abilities, with a repertoire of over 20 distinct songs. They build cup-shaped nests made of grass and other plant materials, typically placed low to the ground in shrubs or trees.
Song Sparrows can also be identified by their long tails and short, rounded wings. Males tend to have a darker, more distinct coloration than females.
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
White-crowned Sparrow can be identified by their distinctive white and black striped head and yellow spot in the middle of their crown. They primarily eat seeds, insects, and berries. These sparrows typically reach a length of 6-7 inches and have a wingspan of 9-11 inches.
In Washington State, White-crowned Sparrows can be found in open woodlands, brushy fields, and along the edges of forests. They tend to forage on the ground and will often form large flocks with other sparrow species. During the breeding season, they establish territories through singing and displays such as wing-flicking and bowing.
White-crowned Sparrows are year-round residents in Washington State, but some northern populations migrate south for the winter. These birds have also adapted well to human development and can be found in urban and suburban areas.
Downy Woodpecker can be identified by its black and white plumage, with a white patch on its back, and a short black bill. It has a diet primarily consisting of insects and their larvae, as well as nuts, berries, and seeds. They are small in size, measuring around 6-7 inches in length.
In Washington State, Downy Woodpeckers can be found in wooded areas, including parks and forests. They are known for their behavior of tapping or drumming on trees with their bills, often to search for food or create a nesting cavity. These birds are also capable of hanging upside down while foraging on tree trunks.
They typically form monogamous pairs and are known to be vocal, with a distinct high-pitched sound. Downy Woodpeckers can also be seen flying with jerky wing movements and landing on tree trunks or branches. They may also visit bird feeders in residential areas.
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)
House Finch can be easily identified by its red head and breast, brown back, and streaky sides. They are mainly seed eaters but also consume insects and berries. They range in size from 5-6 inches in length with a wingspan of 8-10 inches.
In Washington State, they can be found in open woodlands, suburban yards, and farmlands. They often gather in flocks and can be seen visiting bird feeders. Their behavior includes singing, wing flicking, and mate feeding. They build cup-shaped nests made of grasses, twigs, and feathers, usually found in shrubs or small trees.
During the winter months, they may migrate to lower elevations or form large flocks with other finch species. Their populations have increased since the 1960s due to the widespread availability of bird feeders and nesting sites in urban areas.
House Finches are common throughout Washington State and can be seen year-round in most habitats, making them a favorite backyard bird for many.
Red-breasted nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)
Red-breasted nuthatches can be identified by their reddish-brown upperparts and white underparts, black crown, and a white stripe above the eye. These birds primarily feed on insects and seeds, using their sharp bills to crack open seeds or dig for insects in tree bark. They also occasionally eat suet or peanuts from bird feeders.
Red-breasted nuthatches are small in size, measuring about 4-5 inches in length with a wingspan of 7-9 inches.
In Washington State, red-breasted nuthatches can be found inhabiting coniferous forests or mixed woodlands during the breeding season. They may also appear in residential areas or parks with tall trees.
Red-breasted nuthatches are known for their acrobatic behavior, typically clinging upside down while foraging on tree trunks and branches. They often move around in small flocks and have a loud, whistled call. These birds also engage in an interesting mating behavior called “mate-copying,” where a female may leave her current mate and join a different paired male.
American Goldfinch, also known as the Eastern Goldfinch or “lightning bird,” can be easily identified by its bright yellow feathers and black wings with white markings. They mainly eat seeds, but will also feed on insects and nectar.
In Washington State, they can often be found in open woodlands and grasslands near sources of food, such as bird feeders and thistle plants. They form large flocks and have a playful behavior, often hanging upside down while feeding or flying in acrobatic formations.
Adult American Goldfinches typically measure around 4 to 5 inches in length and have a wingspan of 7 to 9 inches. They are small but lively birds that are a joy to spot in the wild.
House Sparrows, also known as English Sparrows, can be identified by their small size (about 5-6 inches long), brown back and wings with white undersides, black throat and white cheek patches. They can often be found in urban and agricultural areas, near human settlements where they feed on black oil sunflower seeds and grains.
In terms of behavior, House Sparrows are highly social birds, often seen in large flocks and aggressively defending their territory. They are also known to be pests, particularly for farmers as they can cause damage to crops.
In Washington State, the House Sparrow is a common sight year-round, although some populations may migrate during winter months to areas with more available food sources.
Winter Birds in Washington State
Some other birds that may be spotted in Washington State during the winter months include Bohemian Waxwings, Pine Siskins, and Dark-eyed Juncos. These birds primarily inhabit coniferous forests and feed on berries and seeds. They are also known to visit bird feeders in residential areas during the colder season.
Bird Watching in Washington State
Washington State offers a wide variety of habitats for bird watching, from the coastal regions to mountain ranges and everything in between. Some popular locations for bird watching include Deception Pass State Park, Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, and Mount Rainier National Park.
Bird watching can be a fun and educational outdoor activity for all ages. Be sure to bring along a field guide and binoculars, and dress appropriately for the weather. Remember to also follow Leave No Trace principles to protect bird habitats and ensure future sightings for others.