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Olympic National Park Guided Birding Tours

Wildlife Guide Carolyn looks through binoculars at the Elwha River in Olympic National Park

Take your Birding in Olympic National Park to the Next Level on a Guided Tour with Carolyn

Join us to explore summer breeding bird diversity, winter seabirds, and spring and fall bird migration on a guided bird watching tour. All abilities are welcome! Over 300 bird species have been identified in Clallam County alone in one year. Check out Carolyn's eBird profile. She started leading bird walks as a teacher in 2003 and has been studying birds as a student, scientist, and nature lover since 1996. She participates in Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) as well as USGS North American Breeding Bird Surveys (BBS). Join Carolyn to not only identify birds, but to study bird behavior, enjoy songs and calls, and appreciate habitat complexity.

Hiring Independent Local Bird Guides and Bring Birds Back

Experienced birding guides know the birds, the destinations, migration patterns, possible safety concerns, support sustainable use, and advocate for the rural communities where we live. If you have the time, consider join us in July for a week-long very small group birding tour package. We look forward to sharing stories and information about enhancing wildlife habitat at home and bringing birds back. Consider getting rid of lawn, planting more native plants, avoiding toxins, keeping cats indoors, protecting birds from windows, reducing light pollution, buying shade-grown, fair trade, and organic Bird Friendly coffee, and so much more.

Hiker looks through spotting scope with the Pacific Ocean and Destruction Island in the background
One adult and two young birds look through various optics at birds on the beach estuary at Salt Creek County Park on the Olympic Peninsula
Olympic National Park Has Outstanding Birds and Scenery

We can have it all - birds and amazing scenery! Although we don't typically visit the Dungeness River on our Olympic National Park guided tours, there is still scenic beauty in the Dungeness pastoral landscape and mountain vistas. Most of the scenic must-see Olympic National Park tour destinations also have great birds, like the Hoh Rainforest and Olympic Coast. Organizing a guided birding tour to Hurricane Ridge is usually a great decision for everyone. In the subalpine meadows at Hurricane Ridge itself, there are paved trails and we can walk as far as you are willing and able. Birding from the parking lot can be very productive, especially when birds are in migration, during courtship, and when feeding young.

Our Private Customized Tours Focus on the Birds and Habitats You Want

You might be interested in just seeing whatever birds are present in the Olympic National Park tour destinations that interest you or you might want to structure your guided birding tour to focus on trying to see certain bird species. For example, you might choose to focus on Pacific Northwest specialty birds that have a limited geographical range, birds you have never seen before - Life Birds, breeding birds like Tufted Puffin, songbirds that are best heard in May and June, and so forth. eBird shows the frequency of species observations for Clallam County compiled from January to December to help in your decision-making, and we're connected into the local birding community so reach out to us today at tours@experienceolympic.com and tell us what birds you want to to observe on a guided birding tour.

A head and shoulder shot of a birder looking through binoculars with the Olympic Mountains and Mount Olympus in the background
A couple looks at birds in the spotting scope from the Hurricane Ridge parking lot with the Olympic Mountains in the background
Primary Birding Tour Options

Hurricane Ridge. Half or Full Day. Add in Ediz Hook for a full day tour. Spectacular alpine meadows and Subalpine Fir provide summer breeding habitat for Sooty Grouse, Canada Jay, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Townsend's Solitaire, Hermit Thrush, American Pipit, Horned Lark, Red Crossbill, Pine Grosbeak, and Evening Grosbeak. Ancient and managed forests on or near the Hurricane Ridge road are good places to look and listen for Red-breasted Sapsucker, Western and Hammond's Flycatcher, Steller's Jay, Pacific Wren, Swainson's Thrush, Wilson's and MacGillivray's Warbler, and many more. We commonly view Olympic Marmot and Chipmunk, Black-tailed Deer, and less often Snowshoe Hare and Black Bear at Hurricane Ridge.

Ediz Hook. Half Day. Can be combined with Hurricane Ridge or Salt Creek County Park and the Elwha River Mouth. Ediz Hook is an industrialized sandspit that forms the Port Angeles harbor. This natural sandspit is one of the best sites on the Olympic Peninsula for year-round observations of Harlequin Duck and Marbled Murrelet. Ediz Hook also provides summer habitat for Brandt's and Pelagic Cormorant, Common Loon, Rhinocerous Auklet, Pigeon Guillemot, California and Olympic Gull, Black Oystercatcher, Peregrine Falcon, Brewer's Blackbird, and many more. A diversity of waterfowl, loons, grebes, alcids, gulls, and shorebirds can be seen from Ediz Hook in the fall, winter, and spring. We commonly observe Harbor Seals and California Sea Lions, less frequently view River Otters, and rarely view Orcas.

A birder looks through a spotting scope at birds in the Port Angeles harbor on Ediz Hook with the mountains clouded over in the background
Two birders looking through binoculars at the mouth of the Elwha River

Dungeness. Half or Full Day. We will visit Dungeness ebird hotspots that encompass a national wildlife refuge and river estuary. These are not places we normally visit for guided tours but the former-prairie landscape dotted with wetlands is great for Olympic bird diversity. These sites provide good summer habitat for Short-billed and Ring-billed Gull, Caspian Tern, Black-bellied Plover, Western Sandpiper, Virginia Rail, California Quail, Violet-Green Swallow, Purple Martin, Western Wood-Pewee, American Dipper, Spotted Towhee, Purple Finch, Black-headed Grosbeak, Western Tanager, and many more. We have a good chance of viewing Black-tailed Deer and the wild Sequim Roosevelt Elk herd.

Cape Flattery. Full Day Tour. Neah Bay, Cape Flattery, and Hobuck Beach encompass some of the best ebirding hotspots on the Olympic Peninsula. The Makah Nation is one of your guide's favorite places in the world. Birds we have a good chance of seeing or hearing in or around Neah Bay over the summer include Greater Scaup, Surf and White-winged Scoter, Hooded and Common Merganser, Red-throated and Pacific Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Tufted Puffin, Common Murre, Black Turnstone, Least Sandpiper, Band-tailed Pigeon, Bald Eagle, Rufous Hummingbird, Vaux's and Black Swift, Cliff and Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Varied Thrush, Hutton's and Warbling Vireo, Black-throated Gray and Townsend's Warbler, and many more species including crazy rare birds like Painted Redstart. We commonly view Steller and California Sea Lion and Sea Otters at Cape Flattery.

A birder looks through binoculars on one of the Cape Flattery platforms with sea caves and emerald bays in the background
A birder looks through a spotting scope into the Salish Sea on a guided bird tour on the Olympic Peninsula

Olympic National Park Bird Diversity

Below we list general information about the birds of the Olympic Peninsula that we are likely to see on our tours to help savor the diversity of birds and bird habitats.

 

A family including young birders looks at birds from one of the Cape Flattery platforms towards the Pacific Ocean
The Greater White-fronted Goose is the smaller goose pictured with the Snow and Canda Goose at the base of Ediz Hook on pavement

Snow Goose: The common Canada Goose is so highly adaptable that it can breed on small engineered ponds in someone's backyard. Unlike the ubiquitous Canada Goose, large flocks of migrating Snow Geese and Cackling Geese migrate through the Pacific flyway on their way to or from breeding in the Arctic and can be identified by their aerial contact calls. 

A Snow Goose that is a mostly all dingy white stands in a grass lot at the base of Ediz Hook
 A Juvenile Greater White-fronted Goose grazes the grass next to a significantly larger Canada Goose at the base of the Ediz Hook

Greater White-fronted Goose: Like Brant, this is another arctic breeding goose that winters on the Olympic Peninsula. Geese imprint on their parent so it is not uncommon to find a odd goose that has imprinted on a different species. Observing large flocks of Cackling, Snow, and Greater White-fronted during migration in May and September is a memorable sight and sound. 

A flock of Greater White-fronted Geese rest and forage at the tip of Ediz Hook during the Port Angeles Christmas Bird Count
A Brandt's Goose is a small beautiful goose with a white necklace that contrasts with its black body

Brant: The beautiful small geese with white necklaces on contrasting black bodies winter exclusively in coastal habitat and in the Salish Sea. Although they can be viewed from roughly October to February, they are in highest numbers during spring migration. As you can see in the photo, they will come close to shore in order to graze green sea lettuce algae (seaweed).

Three Brandt's Cormorants are swimming and one has green sea lettuce algae hanging from its beak
A regal looking Trumpeter Swan rests on the edge of ice on a partially frozen wetland

Trumpeter Swan: The largest of native North American waterfowl, the Trumpeter Swan can be found largely near Dungeness grazing in rapidly decreasing farm habitat. An occasional Tundra Swan can also be observed from roughly November to April. Before farms, Dungeness/Sequim was a Garry Oak Savannah and native prairie grassland.

Two large white Trumpeter Swans are grazing in a field dotted with yellow flowers of plants in the mustard family
A colorful male wood duck in breeding plumage swims in a wetland in Neah Bay

Wood Duck:  The breeding male Wood Duck is a sight to behold with his green helmet and all the colors in the rainbow in his elaborate plumage. They are found in our wetlands year-round and have distinctive facial markings around the eye as well as a colorful speculum. A female is shown on the left preening one of her immature offspring on a log in the Hoh Rainforest.

An adult female on the left is preening one of her offspring ont he right on a log in the Hoh Rainforest
A colorful male and drab female Northern Shoveler Pair are shown swimming together on the Olympic Peninsula

Dabbling Ducks: Northern Shoveler breed north into Alaska and are largely absent from about June to August. The large spoon-like bill make this species easy to identify. Gadwall males have a black rear ends that are easy to identify but the female alone is quite similar to a female Mallard with a plainer face and different bill. Areas like Dungeness and Neah Bay are rich in shallow wetlands and thus good places to find these species.

A pair of gadwalls in fall plumage are swimming and the male has a black tail end and beautiful pink feathers that overlay his gray back
An eclipse male Eurasian Wigeon is swimming with chocolate brown head and gray blotchy back and side

Wigeons: Although the Eurasian Wigeon is rare, when you have flocks of hundreds of American Wigeons during breeding there are often a few Eurasian Wigeons mixed in. Females are hard to decipher but the male American has a green head and male Eurasian has a brick red head. Shown flying are a Northern Shoveler (top) and American Wigeon (bottom).

A Northern Shoveler is shown flying at about 11 o'clock and an American Wigeon is flying at about 5 o'clock
Adult Bald Eagle flying with a male Northern Pintail in its talons

Dabbling Ducks Continued: Birds of Prey like the Bald Eagle prey on dabbling ducks like the Northern Pintail seen here. Pintails are regal-looking ducks due to their long slender necks which help with identification of the female. Both have slender dark bills unlike Mallards. Green-winged Teal are the most common of the Teal species and are small ducks and size alone helps to identify them.

A male green-winged teal is shown on a mudflat at low tide showing green and reddish brown head and white stripe on side of body
A male Greater Scaup is is shown on sand next to water with its gray back facing us, dark head and yellow eye

Greater Scaup: Usually found in saltwater over fresh water, unlike the Lesser Scaup. The Aythya ducks are all very similar looking with the Greater Scaup being fairly common. They breed in the tundra regions in North America including Alaska. They are not as common here in the summer as during the rest of the year. 

A raft of Greater Scaup with a possible Lesser Scaup mixed in
A pair of harlequin ducks, the males are colorful red while blck and blue and the females are brown, are swimming next to intertidal rocks

Harlequin Duck: We are fortunate to have this remarkable diving duck year-round in the Port Angeles harbor. Mated pairs like the colorful male and comparatively drab female are shown here swimming next to intertidal rocks in the Salish Sea, they will breed up our wild and scenic rivers. However, we can still view them year-round because non-breeding individuals will remain in the Salish Sea. 

A small group of male and female harlequin ducks swimming around intertidal rocks on the Olympic Peninsula
Two male harlequin ducks whoing their red sides and head stripe, white markings on the head and body, and r
Two female-looking harlequin ducks dive underwater
Side view of a male harlequin duck in good light that shows the blue color in the plumage as well as the red sides and head and white and black markings
A large raft of surf scoters are shown, which are black seaducks

Surf Scoter: Scoters are Seaducks that hold their tails in a manner similar to Ruddy Duck. Adult male Surf Scoter have a colorful bulbous bill as well as contrasting white patches. Bufflehead are pictured with an adult and immature male Surf Scoters. Surf Scoter is the most common Scoter species observed, followed by White-winged and Black Scoters.

Three adult Surf Scoter males with white foreheads and large bulbous red and orange bills and one brown female in front
Male black and white Bufflehead is standing on a floating log in the water

Bufflehead: Buffleheads or Bubbleheads are small diving ducks with a large head and small grey bill. Female Bufflehead are about the same size as female Harlequins but have more of a single white stripe on the head. Female Harlequin Duck has a white spot and white near the bill that looks like separate white spots. Although numerous in winter, Bufflehead are hard to find in the summer.

One adult and three immature males surf scoters or seaducks along with two male and one female buffehead and pictured swimming together on Ediz Hook
A non-breeding male Long-tailed Duck is mostly white with black and gray and turns darker when in breeding plumage

Long-tailed Duck: These beautiful social diving ducks are found on Ediz Hook from roughly October to May.  Both sexes are colorful black, white, gray, and brown and as the name describes, the males have a long tail. They breed in the Arctic and are often Life Birds due to their northern range.  

A male Long-tailed Duck, a mostly white non-breeding duck with a black chest and ring around the body, takes off from the water
Barrow's Goldeneye males have a white crescent on their face and a row of white contrasting bars unlike the females that have a plain brown head and gray backs

Barrow's Goldeneye: Although Common Goldeneye are far more abundant in the winter here on the Olympic Peninsula, the less common Barrow's Goldeneye breeds on Olympic Peninsula lakes. This photo of the Barrow's Goldeneye with the chicks was taken in an Olympic National Park mountain lake.

 A line of Barrow's Goldeneye include an adult female and ducklings on an alpine lake in Olympic National Park
A female Common Merganser stands on a rock and you can see the red feet and long slender red bill, brown head, and gray body

Common Merganser: Although an adult male is not pictured here, the male has a white and black body and striking green head. Adult female Common Merganser has a brown head and gray body. Both sexes have long thin sharp red bills. They breed up our wild and scenic rivers and can be found here year-round. Sometimes you see large numbers of young as the female can lay up to 17 eggs.

A female Common Merganser and her 7 ducklings swim behind her in formation in the Dungeness River during the summer
A male Red-breasted Merganser has a long thin dagger-like red bill, green head, white collar, and red breast

Red-breasted Merganser: This diving duck breeds in the northern U.S. and Canada and can be observed commonly on the Olympic Peninsula from roughly October to May. They have more punk rock-looking head feathers when compared to the Common Merganser.

A pair of male red-breasted mergansers wtih white collars, dark heads, and punk-rocker feathers swim together
An adult female Hooded Merganser with chicks swims in a wetland in the Hoh Rainforest

Hooded Merganser: This small diving duck breeds in similar pond habitats as the Wood Duck, sometimes even trying to breed in the same nesting cavity (whether natural or a nestbox). These Hooded Merganser chicks were photographed in the Hoh Rainforest.

Three young Hooded Merganser chicks snuggle together and nod off on a grassy knoll in a wetland in the Hoh Rainforest
Four smaller Pelagic Cormorants and one larger Brandt's Cormorant stand on Pilings in the Port Angeles harbor

Cormorants: Cormorants are highly adaptive and amazing underwater predators. The Port Angeles harbor has a large breeding colony of Pelagic Cormorants that breed on abandoned human infrastructure and are the only species that breed here. Non-breeding Brandt's Cormorants and Double-crested Cormorants are found here year-round.

 A Double-crested Cormorant starts running on the water flapping its wings in order to gain lift for flight off water
Close-up of an adult Common Loon in breeding plumage showing the irredescent green collar, speckled black and white back, black head, and red eye

LoonsCommon Loon generally do not breed here but can commonly be found year-round. One individual is in breeding (alternative) plumage and the two swimming together are shown in winter (basic) plumage. They can be heard yodeling in the spring and fall. They are a large bird with bills that are usually held at a 90 degree angle.

Two Common Loons are shown nex to eachother facing opposite directions in winter (basic) plumage
A red-throated loon in basic plumage has an upturned narrow bill, finely speckled back, and a light gray neck

Loons (Continued): Unlike the Common Loon, the Pacific and Red-throated Loons are less common. Pacific Loons often are more gregarious compared to the other loon species found here. Red-throated loons often swim close to shore, have thin upturned-looking bills (often held at a <90 degree angle) and are a easier to observe. Yellow-billed and Arctic Loons are rare. 

Red-throated Loon has a long speckled black with with poka dot body, black mask, red eye, and thin yellow bill that appears to be upturned
Horned Grebe has a short neck, compact body, red eye, and short yellow bill

Grebes: Grebes are difficult to find in the summer and relatively numerous from roughly October to April. Non-breeding Eared and Horned Grebes are very similar with a different head shape and size. The lovely Red-necked Grebe has a long yellow bill which is a good identifying feature year-round, especially because non-breeding birds lack a red neck.

Red-necked Grebe with red neck, compact body, black cap, contrasting white cheek, and long yellow bill
Two Pied-billed Grebes are preening their small compact bodies

Grebes (Continued): Pied-billed Grebe breed here on small ponds. The two Pied-billed Grebes pictured are preening, an important activity for aquatic birds like loons and grebes that can not walk on land. Western Grebes are generally not as numerous when compared Horned and Red-necked Grebe and when present can be in large numbers. 

Western Grebe is shown with a thin long yellow bill, long curved-looking neck, red eyes, and speckled back
A non-breeding Rhinocerous Auklet, which is closely related to puffins, is all gray with a lighter belly, and bulbous orange bill

Rhinoceros Auklet: This Alcid that uses its wings as propellers underwater are closely related to Puffins. We think of them as "poor man's puffin" since they are so much easier to observe here year-round. Olympic Peninsula's Protection Island provides critical habitat for one of the largest nesting colonies of Rhinoceros Auklets in the world.

Two adults pictured in breeding plumage with white eyebrow and mustache as well as the striking white protrusion at the base of the bill that looks like a horn
Tufted Puffin in breeding plumage showing the bulbous bright orange bill, white clown face, and tuft of yellow feathers

Tufted Puffin: Tufted Puffins breed on Tatoosh Island and can be observed from Cape Flattery. During the winter, Tufted Puffins move offshore so this is one of our seabirds that can only be viewed in the summer from roughly June to August. Horned Puffins are a species that occur further north but rarely drop down into our neck of the woods.

Two Tufted Puffins are shown swimming together during the breeding season as seen from Cape Flattery
A Marbled Murrelet shown in non-breeding plumage swimming has a black cap, contrasting with a white neck, and black and white on its small compact body

Marbled Murrelet: This is likely the rarest bird that we are likely to see (with a spotting scope) thanks to Olympic National Park. Unlike other Alcids in our area, the Marbled Murrelet nests in the tops of ancient conifer trees and these trees largely only exist within the protected confines of the park. Ancient Murrelet can be found here in good numbers in the winter only.

Two Marbled Murrelet seen at a distance that look like footballs on teh water with no neck
Pigeon Guillemot resting on a rock ledge in its summer mostly all black plumage with white wings as seen from Cape Flattery

Pigeon Guillemot: If you think of "Pigeons" as common birds, during the summer this is our easiest Alcid to observe since it is adaptable enough to nest on human infrastructure. It also nests in nearshore cliff cavities and is very vocal and colonial. Non-breeding plumage is much less striking and the birds are often farther away from shore.

Two breeding plumage Pigeon Guillemots interact with each other almost creating a heart with their bills, necks, and bodies
Two Common Murres swimming close together, their black and white plumage and long bills make them look similar to penguins

Common Murre: Unlike Puffins, these Alcids are relatively easy to find year-round close to shore. However, during the breeding season, you do need to visit their breeding colony at Tatoosh Island off Cape Flattery. Alcids can also be described as "Penguins of Northern latitudes" and the long bill of this species and coloration resembles a Penguin.

Two non-breeding Common Murres are swimming together in the Port Angeles harbor and resemble penguins
Closeup of a Brown Pelican flying overhead showing the large bill, brown body, long wings, and white head

Brown Pelican: Brown Pelicans breed in the Gulf of California and then migrate as far north as British Columbia.  Usually we see them on the Pacific Ocean but they do enter the Salish Sea as well. We don't usually see them from roughly February to April but we often see them at other times of year, especially in September.

A group of Brown Pelicans are roosting and preening on some seaweed covered rocks
A mixed flock of darker and smaller Heermann's gulls are roosting on mussel-covered rocks

Gulls: Like Brown Pelicans, Heermann's Gull also breeds in Mexico's Gulf of California and then migrates north to the Olympic Peninsula after breeding. They are here from roughly June to November and are easy to identify thanks to their bright red bill and coloration. Short-billed Gull is with us year-round, though in smaller numbers when they are breeding up North.

A small Short-billed Gull swims on the water like a wind-up toy, with black wing tips and a small petite yellow bill
An adult Ring-billed Gull stands in front of a larger California gull on an old dock

Gulls: Ring-billed Gull range and habitat are why we should not call Gulls "Seagulls" as they are the most common Gull that you will see inland. On the Olympic Peninsula, the range of the Western Gull and Glaucous-winged Gull overlap, giving us a hybrid gull that we will call the Olympic Gull. We are at the northernmost part of the Western Gulls range.

A large pink-legged banded Western Gull stands on a retaining wall with blue water in the background
A large pink-legged Herring Gull stands in the sand with waves lapping in the background

Gulls:  Herring Gull is a large pink-legged gull and is here from roughly August to May, breeding further north, and more commonly observed on the outer coast. Like Ring-billed Gull, California Gull is also an inland gull that breeds in colonies on islands and human infrastructure in lakes and rivers.

California Gull have black wing tips and is a bit larger than ring-billed gull
A Glaucous-winged Gull yawns as it roosts with other gulls on a rocky shore near the water

Glaucous-winged Gull: The Glaucous-winged Gull hybridizes with mostly Western Gulls on the Olympic Peninsula. We call the hybrid Glaucous-winged and Western, the Olympic Gull and these are the gulls that breed on human infrastructure as well as on islands and in natural habitat.

An Olympic Gull is a hybrid Glaucous-winged and Western that shows characteristics of both species
A Glaucous-winged Gull sits with a sea star sticking out of its mouth waiting to digest it whole
A Glaucous-winged Gull holds a large Red Rock Crab in its bill
A hybrid Olympic Gull sits on a nest on an old abandoned dock
The Iceland Gull (formerly Thayer's Gull) is sitting on a beach littered with seaweed

Gulls and Terns: Iceland Gull (formerly Thayer's Gull) breeds in the Arctic and winters on the Olympic Peninsula from roughly September to May. Capian Tern are here from April to September with small numbers later in the year as well and are best observed in the bay formed by Dungeness Spit and near the mouth of the Dungeness River.

A small flock of Caspian Terns, that look like gulls but with long slimmer wings, fly along a beach
A pair of Oystercatchers showing their long red bill, colorful eyes, and black body with surf in the background

Black Oystercatcher: These shorebirds are year-round residents and are among some of the most entertaining birds that are active during low tides. Named for the long bright bill that can pry shellfish off rocks, they are gregarious and vocal in their activities in nearshore environments. 

A Black Oystercatcher pauses for a moment after prying a limpet off a rock with its long red orange bill
Black-bellied Plover is a plump shorebird with long legsa and a short bill, also pictured is a Black Turnstone that is smaller and all black

Plovers: Plovers can be identified by their short bills and slower motion habits. A Black Turnstone is also shown with the non-breeding Black-bellied Plover. A breeding Pacific Golden Plover (rare) is a slender taller bird. Other plovers on the Olympic Peninsula are American Golden Plover (rare), Killdeer, and Semipalmated Plover.

An adult breeding Pacific Golden Plover has long legs, slender bill, and golden flecks in plumage
Whimbrel is a tall shorebird with a long downcurved bill but not as large as curlew

Whimbrel and Marbled Godwit: Whimbrel are seen from roughly the end of April to early October in associate with the Dungeness Spit, Neah Bay, and the outer coast. A small number of Godwit are possible in similar habitats year-round but can be found in flocks in April and September - October. Bar-tailed and Hudsonian Godwit are both rare.

A pait of Marbled Godwits stand close together facing eachother with long upturned bills overlaping at the water's edge standing on one foot
A breeding Spotted Sandpiper with spots on the chest and an orange bill standing on a log in the Elwha River Valley

Spotted Sandpiper: Only a few shorebirds breed in Olympic National Park and the Spotted Sandpiper is one of those. Harlequin Ducks, Common Merganser, and American Dipper also depend on these clear cool wild rivers. Spotted Sandpiper are here from roughly May to September.  

Two transitional plumage Spotted Sandpiper are foraging on a log over water
Closeup of a Black Turnstone standing on barnacles and foraging on a floating log

Black Turnstone: Black Turntone are almost always in flocks that can include other less common shorebirds species like Ruddy Turnstone, Surfbird, or Rock Sandpiper. In flight, they have a distinct V-shape pattern on their wings. The photo shows Black Turnstone (all black), Dunlin (long bill), and Sanderling (lightest color).

Black Turnstone, Dunlin, and Sanderling all forage on a floating log as seen from Ediz Hook in Port Angeles
A small light colored shorebird, the Sanderling is Dunlin sized and has a shoulder patch on the wing

Calidris sp.: Sanderling and Dunlin are two common shorebird species that are only absent from the Olympic Peninsula during the summer, mostly in June when they are breeding in the Arctic. These species are roughly the same size. Sanderling has comparatively short stout bill.

A flock of Dunlin and possibly other shorebirds are flying and many have a dark belly and are in breeding plumage
A Least Sandpiper walks on a floating log in a wetland and its clear shadow is in the water

Calidris sp.: Least Sandpiper and Western Sandpiper are both peeps, the name given to the five smallest shorebird species that can be easily confused if you do not have a close enough view. Least have yellow legs and darker brown overall color. Western have black legs and a long droopy bill.

Closeup of two Western Sandpipers at the tide line on green seaweed
Male California Quai standing on a fencepost in with the sky in the background as photographed on a birding tour

California Quail: Both male and female quail are pictured. The male has a large dark head plume, reddish cap and dark face outlined in white, streaky more colorful body. The female is much plainer. Quail are more common in Sequim/Dungeness and are generally not found in the park though there have been sightings at Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent.

A much plainer female California Quail is pictured on the same fence as the male as photographed on a birding tour
Closeup of a richly patterned rufous-colored Ruffed Grouse showing the crown

Grouse: Both the reddish-colored Ruffed Grouse and Sooty Grouse (which lacks a crown) are resident here on the Olympic Peninsula with the Sooty being more associated with higher elevations and the Ruffed being more common in the river valleys. Ruffed almost always flushes whereas Sooty tends to stand their ground and can even be aggressive. 

Close up of the head of a Sooty Grose that lacks a crown and is patchy brown in color
A female grouse stands on top of an RV in the parking lot at Hurricane Ridge watching over and cooing to her offspring down below
An immature richly patterned Sooty Grouse pauses and cocks its head to one side
A male Sooty Grouse is calling showing his circular yellow bare patch of skin and spreading his tail
Closeup of Band-tailed Pigeon showing white collar and yellow feet and bill

Pigeons and Doves: The Band-tailed Pigeon and smaller Eurasian Collared-Dove both have "collars" on the back of the their head/neck and can be found at bird feeders together along with Rock Pigeon. Most wild pigeon sightings in the park are Band-tailed Pigeon. The Olympic Peninsula Mourning Doves are mostly centered around Sequim/Dungeness.

A pair of Eurasian Collared-Dove are shown with their black collar in Port Angeles
Male Northern Harrier Soaring shown from below so you can see white belly and wings with contrasting black wing tips

Raptors: The Olympic Peninsula hosts a decent number of raptors with more diversity during migration including Turkey Vulture, Osprey, and Golden Eagle. The Sequim/Dungeness area has more open spaces for species like the Northern Goshawk. Forest hawks or accipiters like the Cooper's Hawk are adapted to hunting in forested habitat. All three accipiter species breed here.

Closeup head and shoulder shot of an immature Cooper's Hawk that has a proportionately smaller looking eye on a larger head
Adult Bald Eagle flying near the marina in Neah Bay

Bald Eagle: It takes around five years for immature Bald Eagles to become adults showing their diagnostic all white head and tail and black body with no white showing on the wings. The all dark raptor pictured is a juvenile Bald Eagle and an immature Bald Eagle is pictured with a spattering of white in the plumage. A Bald Eagle nest is also pictured.

An adult Bald Eagle with all white head and tail sits in a conifer tree
An immature Bald Eagle has a partially white head with mask of brown through the eye and some white speckling on the body
A Bald Eagle nest is shown in a conifer with immature bird sitting on the right side
An all dark juvenile Bald Eagle sits perched in a tree
Red-tailed hawk flying showing the dark patagial mark on the leading edge of the wing

Red-tailed Hawk: This is our most common Buteo species. Red-tailed hawk do not always have a red tail like the juvenile bird pictured. They do have a dark patagial mark on the leading edge of the wing (but it is not always visible if the plumage is also dark) seen in flight. Rough-legged Hawk will overwinter here. 

Juvenile red-tailed hawk showing a barred black and white tail but still showing the dark patagial mark on the leading edge of the wing
Male American Kestral Closeup showing the beautiful red and blue plumage with black spots, black and white facial markings, and blue head

Falcons: The American Kestrel and Merlin are small acrobatic falcons that can be found here year-round. Kestrels hover when flying whereas Merlins can fly close to the ground and will catch prey by surprise. Merlins reuse the nests of other birds. Kestrels nest in cavities, prefer open habitat, and can be found nesting in the Olympic Mountains. 

A Black Merlin is perched on a confier branch with the Olympic Mountains in the background
A Peregrine Falcon perches on a communication tower and has a black mask

Peregrine Falcon: Peregrines nest on cliffs and will adapt to nest on human infrastructure. They are found near open water and I have seent them hunting and eating gulls. In the photo, one of the pair of Peregrines just captured a shorebird possibly a Black Turnstone.

A Peregrine Falcon sits on communication tower with shorebird prey in talons
A Northern Pygmy Owl sits perched on a Subalpine Fir Cone

Owls: Northern Pygmy Owl is so small, it is easy to overlook. Barred Owl has mostly replaced Spotted Owl on the Olympic Peninsula. Barred Owl is more aggressive and a generalist. We also have Barn Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Great Horned Owl, Western Screech-Owl, Short-eared Owl and rarely Snowy Owl.

A Barred Owl sits on a branch and shows the barring on its chest that differentiates its appearance
TWo Vaux's Swifts are flying showing their short wings and tail

Swifts and Nighthawk: Vaux's Swift usually make their presence known through their distinct flight calls and nest in open-top dead tree or man-made chimneys. During migration, Vaux's Swift will roost in large numbers in chimneys if not predated on by American Crows. Black Swifts nest in sea caves near Cape Flattery. Common Nighthawk nest on the ground.

Hundreds of Vaux's Swift descend into a Port Angeles chimney to roost for the night during spring migration
Male Annas Hummingbird caught with light reflecting bright red on his throat and head as he takes off into flight

Anna's Hummingbird: The range of the Anna's hummingbird has been expanding north and this is now the dominant resident species at least around human infrastructure. Although the Anna's are largely reliant on sugar water during the winter, they are quite resilient and can catch insects and will consume sap from sapsucker holes.

A female Anna's is shown hovering in flight with her beak in a flower feeding on nectar
A male rufous hummingbird is shown perched on a wire fence and he is almost all rufous with an orange throat

Rufous Hummingbird: These migratory hummingbirds are smaller than the Anna's and more wild in their preferred habits. That being said, Rufous will still dwell close to human habitation, especially if some of their favorite flowers like Salvia or Croscomia are in bloom. The sound of the male's wings in flight is a musical sound that is one of the best identification features.

A female Rufous Hummingbird is shown in flight next to a native Blue Aster flower
A pair of tree swallows cling to the side of a dead standing tree near a tree cavity

Swallows: A pair of Tree Swallows cling to the side of a Red Alder snag (dead standing tree) and the male is over a cavity hole that is presumably where the pair planning to build a nest. The male Violet-green Swallow pictured is also a cavity nesting bird. Tree Swallows tends to select nesting sites adjacent to wetlands.

The back of a male Violet-green Swallow is shown perched on a branch with its head turns so you can see its white face
Male Purple Martin perched on the top of a stick showing his lovely purple color in the sun

Martin and Swallow:  The birding community on the Olympic Peninsula has been working to reestablish Purple Martin colonies. Starlings are nest competitors so Martin nest boxes are designed and placed to try to exclude Starlings. The Northern Rough-winged Swallow nests in burrows that are made by other species. 

the Northern Rough-winged Swallow is the drabbest of the swallow and martin specises and is shown perched on a line
A pair of Barn Swallows shown perched showing off their reddish brown belly and face, blue backs, and long tail

Swallows: The Barn Swallow and the Cliff Swallow both build their nests on made-made structures like barns and bridges. Although similarly colored, the Barn Swallow has long forked tail whereas the Cliff Swallow has a buffy rump and white forehead spot. Both forage over similar habitat. 

A Cliff Swalllow peeks its head out of its gourd-shaped nest made out of mud under of eave of a small building
A male Belted Kingfisher is smaller than a female and lacks rufous color on the breast and sides

Belted Kingfisher: This is the only Kingfisher species in most of the United States and Canada. Habitat on the Olympic Peninsula is good for Kingfishers as there is ample clear water, fish, and exposed banks for their nest burrows. The female has reddish brown coloring on the sides and belly that is lacking in the male.

A Belted Kingfisher and a gull perch on separate pilings with the Dungeness Spit in the background
Close up head shot of a Red-breasted Sapsucker showing the white shoulder mark, red head, and red neck and upper chest

Red-breasted Sapsucker: Like other sapsuckers, the Red-breasted Sapsucker drills rows of horizontal holes into live trees in order to extract sap. When fruit trees or other non-native trees are available, older trees can become so riddled with holes that it is amazing the tree survives. Red-breasted Sapsucker is present year-round.

A Red-breasted Sapsucker is shown on a tree showing a a red head, white wing streak mark, and yellow tinged marked belly
A Red-Breasted Sapsucker is shown in winter on a Magnolia tree next to the holes it has already drilled into the trunk
A Red-breasted Sapsucker is shown with a view of its patterned white and black back
A distant view of the Red-breasted Sapsucker in good light showing the white shoulder slash and bright red head
Close up of a Hairy Woodpecker foraging on the side of a tree showing its long break

Woodpeckers: Hairy Woodpecker are about twice as large as Downy Woodpecker with a relatively larger bill. Pileated Woodpeckers are generally shy and easier to hear drumming than to view. The American Three-toed can be found in recently burned sites usually in the mountains.

A Female Pileated Woodpecker clings to the side of a dead standing tree next to what might be the start of a future nesting cavity
A Male Red-Shafted Woodpecker sticks his head out from a tree cavity at Hurricane Ridge

Northern Flicker: The male sticking his head out of a tree cavity is a Red-shafted Northern Flicker. The other male pictured has a red crescent mark on the back of the head which is a feature of the Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker. He is an intergrade or cross between the two subspecies.  

An Intergrade Northern Flicker shows features of both Red-shafted and Yellow-shafted

Olympic National Park Songbirds

Olympic National Park songbird photos. The vocal organ of songbirds (Passeriformes) generally produces complex bird song that delight us all. 

A habituated Canada Jay takes a moment to beg for food in winter with the Olympic Mountains in the background
A habituated Stellers Jay poses on a branch hoping for a handout next to the Sol Duc River
Closeup of California Scrub Jay foraging on the ground showing mask, gray back, and white belly
American Crow sitting on a Sitka Spruce Branch looking for food opportunities at Rialto Beach
Closeup of a Common Raven with its beak slight open and a rodent foot and tail sticking out of its beak
An Olive-sided Flycatcher with a dark cap and lighter cheek and neck is pictured perched on a branch against a blue sky
A front-view of a Western Wood-Pewee is shown with a bicolored stubby bill with long wings and upright posture
A Willow Flycatcher is an empid that barely shows an eyering and white wingbars
A Hammond's Flycatcher is a more typical Empid with breeding habitat and voice being the best identification feature
The Western Flycatcher used to be named the Pacific-slope but was lumped recently and is an empid with a teardrop shaped eyering and peaked crown
Closeup of a male Western Bluebird who is bright blue and perched on a fence post
A male sky blue Mountain Bluebird is perched on the sand in the Dungeness with a flock during spring migration
An adult Townsend's Solitaire is perched on a juniper with the blue berries in the background
A male Varied Thrush is perched on a conifer branch with its back turned to the camera
A Swainson's Thrush with food in its beak on its way to feed its young is a spotted thrush in the Catharus genus
A side view of a Hermit Thrush is shown perched on a branch and this Catharus species has a contrasting reddish tail
A juvenile American Robin is pictured here and will loose all the spots on its breast
A juvenile American Dipper with a yellow bill raises its tail and flaps its wings in anticipation of being fed by its parent
Two Cedar Waxwings sit in a native Serviceberry eating the small dark fruits
A Bushtit is shown perched in a shrub showing its long tail with blue sky in the background
An adult Black-capped Chickadee is facing the camera showing its buffy flanks
A Chestnut-backed Chickadee is shown with its back facing the camera and showing off its reddish brown back color
Adult Red-breasted Nuthatch shown perched facing the camera
A Brown Creeper is shown creeping up a large conifer branch
A Pacific Wren is shown out in the open on some branches with its short tail in the air
A male Marsh Wren is pictured singing on a cattail with its bill open and tail straight in the air
A Bewick's Wren has a strong white eye stripe and is shown on the ground
Ruby-crowned Kinglet shown perched with white eyering, small bill, and yellow feet
A Golden-crowned Kinglet is pictured on a conifer branch actively foraging
A Hutton's Vireo is shown perched with its stouter vireo-like bill but otherwise very similar to RC kinglet
Cassin's Vireo foraging on a branch showing a gray head, white spectacle, and wing bars
Warbling Vireo shows a white eyebrow and is a common breeding bird to hear in Olympic National Park riparian areas
Orange Crowned Warbler feeding on the nectar of Red-flowering Currant flowers
MacGillvray's Warbler skulking behind vegetation
A male Common Yellowthroat is shown on wetland vegetation before disappearing and vocalizing
A male Yellow Warbler sits in a tree showing some of the red stripes on the chest of the all yellow bird
A male Yellow-rumped Warbler "Audubon's" is shown in a conifer in the mountains during breeding season with a yellow chin and lacking a face mask of "Myrtle" type
An immature Black-throated Gray Warbler shows a yellow wash that is absent on the adult
Profile shot of a female-looking Townsend's Warbler with a black barring but lacking a black chin
An adult male Wilson's Warbler is a brilliant yellow bird with a black cap
An American Pipit is shown at Hurricane Ridge with food that it will take its young
An adult male Horned Lark is shown with his horn-like featers and dark face mask in a meadow at Hurricane Ridge during the breeding season
A nonbreeding adult Chipping Sparrow is shown perched without a bright red cap
A plump-looking "Sooty" Fox Sparrow sits on a rhododendrun showing off its spotted chest and yellow base of bill
An "Oregon" adult male Dark-eyed Junco shows its all dark head, pink bill, white belly and tan sides
An immature White-crowned Sparrow is shown with its brown and tan head stripes instead of black and white as in the adult
A nonbreeding adult Golden-crowned Sparrow is shown in good light
Two Savannah Sparrows are perched near eachother during migration at Hurricane Ridge with blue sky in the background
An adult Song Sparrow sits in a rhododendrun showing its streaky breast, gray and brown lined head, and gray bill
A Lincon's Sparrow is similar to Song but smaller with a buffy breast and fine streaks overtop
A male Spotted Towhee has a black instead of brown head and is overall brighter colored than the female
A flying adult male Evening Grosbeak is shown so you can see his black and white wings and yellow eyebrow on head
An immature male Pine Grosbeak is shown perched on a small conifer possibly molting into his adult all red plumage
A male adult House Finch is shown on the right and an adult male Purple Finch is shown on the left on a bird feeder
A female Purple Finch is shown on a birdfeeder showing a more patterned face with a white line above the eye
A closeup of a female Red Crossbill that is all yellow with a bill where the tip is crossed
An adult Pine Siskins is shown with its plain face, streaky breast, sharp bill, and yellow in the wing
An adult male American Goldfinch is pictured with a yellow body, black forehead and black and white wings
A female Western Tanager is shown perched on a suet feeder, she is duller yellow than the male with no red in the head
A feamle Black-headed Grosbeak is pictured with a striped instead of solid black head and duller orange chest with some fine streaking
Western Meadowlark is pictured which is not a common bird but used to breed here when there was more prairie habitat
A Stunning adult male Bullock's Oriole is pictured perched against blue sky who is brilliantly orange with black and white wings and a black head
A female Red-winged Blackbird is very different than the male with a streaky breast, a eye line, and hints of pink in the plumage
A female Brown-headed Cowbird is shown in front of a black and white cow