Birds, Pacific Northwest
Birds are everywhere, on every continent, in every season. There are over 8,000 living species of birds. There are 27 distinct orders in the world and of these, more than 18 orders live just In Canada, involving more than 600 species of birds.
The Pacific Northwest has over 450 bird breeds that either live or visit here. We have some that inhabit the oceans and waterways, there are those that hunt the airways, others that sip the sweet nectar of plants and yet others who feed on carrion, some who feed on fish & others who prefer flies.
We have many varieties here on the coast, and once in a while, we get a rare visitor from some other part of the world to surprise and amaze us. You should see the way birders travel once they hear of a rare bird sighting. It’s almost like a birder migration!
There are common birds here on the coast that are quite awesome to see, one of my favorites is the Steller Jay with its deep blue and black plumage and shaggy crest, is a stunning and attractive, but very noisy. Its front part is black and its rear is deep blue.
The dark shade of the front part of its body extends down its back and down its breast and its wings have a faint dark stripe. One distinguishing trait of the Steller Jay is the vertical blue eyebrows present above each eye of the adult bird. The male and female jays look alike.
The steller jay generally likes to build its nests in dense coniferous forests. Both the male and the female birds help to build the cup-like nest from moss, twigs, weeds, and leaves held together with mud. The linings for the nest are normally provided by rootlets, pine needles, and other fine material.
Typically, the female lays up to 5 eggs which she incubates for up to 18 days. Feeding the young is the responsibility of both the male and the female. After 16 days, these young birds leave the nest to find their own food. They begin making short flights as a fledgling but after 30 days, they are capable of sustained flights. In spite of this, however, the adult birds continue to provide food for the fledglings for about another month.
Steller Jays form monogamous pair bonds that last for a long time. Once mated, the pair always move around their territory together. They help one another build their nest and while the female is incubating the male bird guards the nest and his partner. Once the eggs are hatched, both the male and female provide the young birds with food. The male bird guides his offspring as they learn how to fly.
Their diet is made up of seeds, nuts, berries, fruits, bird eggs, nestlings, invertebrates, suet, small rodents, reptiles, and carrion. Steller jays also eat any leftovers or scraps that humans throw their way.
They are often seen in parks and picnic areas loudly begging for food and scraps in a loud and raspy voice. Extremely vocal outside of the nesting season, these birds can be so extremely quiet when they are in the process of preying on their young. Intelligent and aggressive, the steller jay is very active at feeders especially those full of peanuts which it caches for later consumption.
The steller jay will stash its food all summer long in the crotches of tree branches and then forgets where he put most of it. This is a great benefit to other birds that use these stashes during the Island winter.
Another of our most awesome birds is the Bald Eagle. The Pacific Northwest has a large population of Eagles. Sometimes when the herring spawn begins you can find them in the hundreds in trees that overlook the sea.
The adult bald eagle is easy to identify but the immature birds are easily confused with the golden eagle, both have dark brown bodies but the golden eagle has a much redder color to it and his head is almost golden. It is 5 years before the bald eagle fully matures.
The bald eagle will build huge nests made of sticks and will quite often return to the same nest year after year. Sometimes these nests can get to be over ten feet wide and eight feet tall.
I would tell my guests to get their cameras out and when they were ready to take pics, l would toss the small cod a short distance from the boat.
There is something very calming about walking in a birding area, like an estuary or mountain trail, and looking for birds. My family and I have always enjoyed both bird-watching and hiking in the fresh air.
Head out for a stroll and see what types can be found in your area. You’ll be amazed at the diversity of birds, and you will love the wonderful songs they sing. Birding is good for you, it gets you out for walks and it pleases the soul.
You might see a spotted sandpiper by the ocean, wonderful little birds. During the breeding season, it has dark bars on brown above and heavy round, black spots below, the bill is pink at the base and its legs are pinky orange. It turns pale gray-brown with white underparts in the fall and winter.
It has brownish patches on the sides of the breast and a white eyebrow. The bill turns dark; the legs turn a dull greenish yellow or flesh color. The juveniles look like the adults but have dark edges to the feathers on the back and wings.
The female spotted sandpiper is more aggressive than the male and practices polyandry and mates with more than one male. She may lay up to 5 clutches with various males. Each male incubates the eggs for her while she seeks yet another mate. The males take care of all the parental tasks and the female defends the territories of all of her males.
The spotted sandpiper has a wide range of habitats; it is common in freshwater habitats and can be found at lakes, rivers, and ponds in suburban areas as well as the Alaskan tundra. It can be found singly or in pairs walking near fresh water throughout North and South America. It forms small flocks during migration and winters in Central and South America.
The spotted sandpiper bobs its tail constantly and even when standing teeters obsessively. The teetering will stop when the bird is alarmed, courting or aggressive. When the bird is nervous, the teetering is faster. Only its wing tips flutter when it flies and it will usually go only a few yards and then stop. The head is bowed below the body when it flies.
The female spotted sandpiper will choose a temperate region for breeding; the longer season this allows her to raise more than one brood. The male incubates the eggs for 3 weeks. When the chicks hatch, they have feathers and are ready to find their own food, but the father usually stays with them for the first few weeks and teaches them where to find food. The chicks will teeter soon after they hatch. They are able to fly within 20 days.
With so many species visiting the pacific northwest, it’s easy attracting them to your yard. A basic seed mix will bring a few of the more common ones to your feeders. With a bit of forethought, you can easily attract many other types of birds to your backyard, simply by offering what they need most: food, water, shelter, and nesting sites. Offering a variety of food sources is one of the most effective ways to invite new birds to your backyard. While a basic seed mix is a good start for backyard birding, more specialized foods will entice a wider range of species. Try offering suet to the birds – you will draw woodpeckers, nuthatches & other fat loving birds. You might also consider making your own bird suet recipe, specific to the species in your area.
Installing hummingbird feeders can bring such wonder to your yard! We hang several at the end of every February, and by April, we can have hundreds visiting our feeding stations. We place feeders in front of our windows and then enjoy the show.
Make your yard into a place that birds will want to visit. Plant trees, shrubs, vines & flowers to offer birds food, shelter, and safe nesting areas. Cultivate your gardens in groupings, to provide good cover for a variety of species. Even if you’re unable to plant large areas, a small, bird-friendly garden can attract many to your yard.
They visit our feeders year round, and it brings such life to our yard, even in harsh & bleak, winter storm months!