Birds

Find content specifically related to birds of the Puget Sound and Salish Sea ecosystems. For checklists and descriptive accounts of individual species, visit our species library.

Species Lists

Additional resources

Birdweb

Brandt's cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus). Photo by Finley and Bohlman, courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

OVERVIEW

Marine birds

More than 70 bird species regularly utilize Puget Sound during some or all stages of their life histories, but only a portion of these are actively being investigated.

RELATED ARTICLES

Peter Hodum, conservation biologist from the University of Puget Sound counts rhinoceros auklets and tufted puffins around Protection Island, WA (in the background). Photo: Scott Pearson, WDFW
7/11/2016

Marine bird science in Puget Sound

Birds serve as useful indicators of ecosystem change and ecosystem health, biodiversity, condition of habitats, and climate change. Many people and organizations have their eyes on marine birds in Puget Sound.

Studies suggest that western sandpipers depend on biofilm for close to 60% of their diet. Storey's Beach, Port Hardy, BC. Photo:  Nicole Beaulac (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/nicolebeaulac/26579296150
6/1/2016

Salish Sea 'slime' vital for shorebirds

It turns out that a gooey substance known as biofilm is a big deal for Salish Sea shorebirds, providing critical food for some species. But could a proposed port expansion in Vancouver threaten this slimy resource?

The Tufted Puffin is among 125 species of concern found in the Salish Sea. Photo: Peter Hodum.
4/20/2016

The growing number of species of concern in the Salish Sea suggests ecosystem decay is outpacing recovery

The number of species of concern in the Salish Sea is growing at an average annual rate of 2.6%, according to a report published in the proceedings of the 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver, B.C.

Black Scoter (Melanitta negra), one of seven new birds added to a Salish Sea-wide list of species of concern. Photo courtesy of USGS.
4/16/2016

Conference snapshot: The number of species of concern in the Salish Sea is growing steadily

The number of species of concern in the Salish Sea is growing at an average annual rate of 2.6%, according to a report published in the proceedings of the 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver, B.C.

Early morning meal. Photo: jdegenhardt (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdegenhardt/2771107305
2/24/2016

Food web connections beyond the marine areas of Puget Sound

Food webs are natural interconnections of food chains and depict what-eats-what in an ecological community. While Puget Sound represents a specific food web, the organisms that reside within that web often travel outside the region. In this way, one community's food web can be drastically affected by a change in a neighboring ecosystem.

A graph shows an increase in published papers related to anthropogenic noise
2/11/2016

Impacts of anthropogenic noise on marine life: Publication patterns, new discoveries, and future directions in research and management

A 2015 review in Ocean & Coastal Management looks at trends in research related to anthropogenic noise and its affect on a wide variety of marine organisms, from whales and fish to invertebrates. The review includes case studies from the Salish Sea. 

Puget Sound marine waters 2014 report cover
9/13/2015

2014 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

A report from NOAA and the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program provides an overview of 2014 marine water quality and conditions in Puget Sound from comprehensive monitoring and observing programs.

Glaucus-winged gull. Image courtesy of USGS.
9/2/2015

Evidence shows that gulls are shifting their diets from marine to terrestrial sources

A 2015 article in the journal Environmental Science and Technology presents additional isotopic evidence that glaucus-winged gulls in the Salish Sea are shifting their diets from marine to terrestrial sources due to human impacts. Scientists hypothesize that declining forage fish may be the cause. 

Figure 1. Tufted puffin (photo by Peter Hodum).
6/22/2015

Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its status report on Tufted Puffins: Washington State Status Report for the Tufted Puffin (2015)

Report cover
5/7/2015

State of Washington status report for the tufted puffin

A 2015 report from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife reviews information relevant to the status of the tufted puffin in Washington and addresses factors affecting this status. 

A great blue heron catching a fish in an estuary. Photo courtesy of NOAA
3/11/2015

Top–down control by great blue herons regulates seagrass-associated epifauna

A 2015 paper in Oikos Journal examines the impacts of great blue heron predation on species diversity in eelgrass meadows in British Columbia. 

Beringmöwe - Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens). Photo: Von B. Walker CC-BY-2.0 http://www.fotocommunity.de/pc/pc/display/14742443
1/30/2015

A century of change in Glaucous-winged Gull populations in a dynamic coastal environment

A 2015 paper in the journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications describes century-long trends in Glaucous-winged Gull populations in British Columbia.

Report cover photo by Victor Mesny.
1/29/2015

Climate change vulnerability and adaptation in the North Cascades Region, Washington

A 2014 report by the North Cascadia Adaptation Partnership identifies climate change issues relevant to resource management in the North Cascades, and recommends solutions that will facilitate the transition of the diverse ecosystems of this region into a warmer climate.

Birds that dive and forage for fish in the Salish Sea, including this western grebe, are 11 times more likely to experience population declines than other birds in the area, a UC Davis study found. Photo courtesy of UC Davis. All rights reserved.
10/16/2014

Assessing ecological correlates of marine bird declines to inform marine conservation

Birds that dive for fish while wintering in the Salish Sea are more likely to be in decline than nondiving birds with less specialized diets, according to a 2014 study led by the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis. The study, published in the journal Conservation Biology proposes that long-term changes in the availability of forage fish are pushing the declines.

Stormwater flowing into catch basin carries contaminants to our waterways. Photo: Ben McLeod (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/benmcleod/420158390
10/7/2014

Citizens now the leading cause of toxics in Puget Sound

New research presented at the 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference shows that some of the greatest dangers to Puget Sound marine life come from our common, everyday activities. These pervasive sources of pollution are so woven into our lives that they are almost invisible to us, but it’s becoming impossible to ignore their effects.

2013 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview
9/11/2014

2013 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

A report from the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program provides an overview of 2013 marine water quality and conditions in Puget Sound from comprehensive monitoring and observing programs.

Western grebe. Public Pier, Blaine, WA. Photo: Andrew Reding https://www.flickr.com/photos/seaotter/10298390254
7/22/2014

Declines in marine birds trouble scientists

Why did all the grebes leave? Where did they go? And what does their disappearance say about the health of the Salish Sea? Seasonal declines among some regional bird species could hold important clues to the overall health of the ecosystem.

Pigeon Guillemots at Zangle Cove. Photo by Bobbie Moody.
7/17/2014

Pigeon Guillemot Foraging and Breeding Survey in and Near the Nisqually Reach Aquatic Reserve

A 2014 report describes a research and monitoring study of Pigeon Guillemot conducted in and near the Nisqually Reach Aquatic Reserve. 

The Canary Rockfish is one of the 119 species listed in a new paper from the SeaDoc Society as "at risk." Photo by Tippy Jackson, courtesy of NOAA.
5/22/2014

Species of Concern within the Salish Sea nearly double between 2002 and 2013

Approximately every two years, the SeaDoc Society prepares a list of species of concern within the Salish Sea ecosystem. The following paper found 119 species at risk and was presented as part of the proceedings of the 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference, April 30 – May 2, 2014, Seattle, Washington. 

Black Scoter (Melanitta nigra). Photo by Dave Menke, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
1/28/2014

Marine and terrestrial bird indicators for Puget Sound

A December 2013 report identifies marine and terrestrial bird species for use as indicators within the Puget Sound Partnership's "Vital Signs" for ecosystem health. 

Oregon Vesper Sparrow (photo by Rod Gilbert).
11/10/2013

Oregon Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus affinis)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

. Slender-billed white-breasted nuthatch (photo by Rod Gilbert).
11/10/2013

Slender-billed White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis aculeata)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

Loggerhead Shrike in Grant County, Washington (photo by Joe Higbee).
11/10/2013

Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

 

Black-backed woodpecker (photo by Joe Higbee).
11/10/2013

Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

Male white-headed woodpecker in Yakima County (photo by Joe Higbee).
11/10/2013

White-headed Woodpecker (Picoides albolarvatus)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

Vaux’s swift (photo by Curt Young).
11/10/2013

Vaux's Swift (Chaetura vauxi)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

Flammulated owl (photo from Greg Lasley, USGS).
11/8/2013

Flammulated Owl (Otus flammeolus)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

Figure 1. Yellow-billed cuckoo (© David Speiser, www.lilibirds.com).
11/8/2013

Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

Bald eagle at Blue Lake, Sinlahekin WLA (photo by Justin Haug).
11/8/2013

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens). Photo courtesy of USGS.
11/5/2013

Glaucous-winged gulls as sentinels for ecosystem change

This thesis discusses the Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens) as an indicator of ecosystem change in the Salish Sea region.

White-winged Scoter (Melanitta fusca). Image courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
11/5/2013

Geographic and temporal variation in diet of wintering White-winged scoters

White-winged scoters (Melanitta fusca) are a species of sea duck that spend much of their time in northern marine environments. This paper investigates how dietary changes occur in response to changing availability of prey and the effect of those dietary changes on scoter condition and reproductive success, among other variables.

Surf scoters in Padilla bay, seen through a spotting scope. Photo from the Washington Department of Ecology.
10/30/2013

Surf scoter (Melanitta perspicillata) and prey size

This paper examines the importance of prey size to shifting scoter populations in two bays in north Puget Sound.

Peregrine falcon. Photo by Brian Caven.
10/23/2013

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington

Streaked horned lark. Photo by Rod Gilbert.
10/22/2013

Streaked Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris strigata)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

Northern spotted owl in the Olympic Mountains. Photo by Rod Gilbert.
10/22/2013

Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

8/13/2013

2012 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

The Puget Sound Marine Waters 2012 Overview from the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program synthesizes conditions measured in 2012 and has been expanded to include observations on seabirds that rely on marine waters. Read an excerpt below, or download the full report.

Western Grebe; image by mikebaird, courtesy of Encyclopedia of Life
6/26/2013

Paper: Citizen science reveals an extensive shift in the winter distribution of migratory Western Grebes

A June 19, 2013 paper in the journal PLoS ONE hypothesizes that regional declines in Western Grebe populations may be related to decreasing numbers of forage fish. Using citizen science data from 36 years of bird counts, researchers were able to look at population trends up and down the entire West Coast, finding that abundance of grebes decreased in the Salish Sea but increased in southern California. North American population declined by 52% overall.

Greater scaup (Aythya marila). Photo by Donna Dewhurst, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
5/23/2013

Paper: The incidental catch of seabirds in gillnet fisheries— A global review

Seabird populations are declining worldwide. This paper looks at the impact of gillnets on bird populations.

Rhinoceros Auklet carrying sand lance. Photo by Peter Hodum.
5/22/2013

Paper: A model approach for estimating colony size, trends and habitat associations of burrow-nesting seabirds

A paper in the May 2013 issue of The Condor [115(2):356–365, 2013] describes a repeatable and statistically robust approach to monitoring burrow nesting seabirds in the Salish Sea and the California Current that can be applied at single- or multi-island scales. The approach can be applied to both relatively common and important members of the seabird community like the Rhinoceros Auklet and to species of conservation concern like the Tufted Puffin.

Golden eagle. Photo by Jim Watson.
3/16/2013

Golden Eagle (Aquila chryseatos)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

Upland sandpiper. Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
3/14/2013

Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

Sandhill Crane. Photo by Joseph V. Higbee.
3/14/2013

Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

Adult marbled murrelet in breeding plumage. Pacific Southwest Research Station, U.S. Forest Service.
3/14/2013

Marbled Murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

Adult male common loon and chick on North Twin Lake, Ferry County, Washington. Photo by Dan Poleschook.
3/14/2013

Common Loon (Gavia immer)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

Brown pelican. Photo by D. Stinson.
3/13/2013

Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

American White Pelican, Grant County. Photo by Joe Higbee.
3/13/2013

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

 

Northern Sea Otter. Photo: Alaska Department of Fish and Game
3/1/2013

Species of concern in the Salish Sea

The Encyclopedia of Puget Sound species library now includes a list of species of concern in the Salish Sea watershed. The list was created by Joe Gaydos and Nicholas Brown of the SeaDoc Society, and was released as a paper presented as part of the Proceedings of the 2011 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver, BC.

Bald eagle (Haliaetus leucocephalus). Image courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
12/11/2012

Bald eagles

The Puget Sound region has the highest densities of bald eagles in Washington. Breeding pairs initiate nesting activities in January or February. 

Protection Island. Image courtesy of NOAA.
9/21/2012

Protection Island

Protection Island, a National Wildlife Refuge in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, provides important habitat for seabirds and marine mammals.