Best time to visit Seattle

Birdwatching in Seattle

The Seattle area offers plenty of birdwatching spots and trails for both migrating and resident species

Best time: March–May | September–October


The Pacific Northwest is famous for its spectacular scenery and rich wildlife providing impressive bird watching opportunities. Different kinds of landscape, like the ocean coast, inland lakes, mountains, rainforests and deserts, guarantee a variety of bird habitats. Among the most endangered birds that can be found near Seattle are Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Hutton’s Vireos, Laysan Albatross, Hermit Warblers, Spotted Owls, and Marbled Murrelets.

The most popular birding tours of the Seattle area cover the San Juan Islands, the Olympic Peninsula, and western Puget Sound.

The San Juan Islands are located in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains so the temperatures here are very mild. It has a variety of habitats, both freshwater and saltwater. The beaches have a large number of oysters and clams which attract a lot of pelagic birds, like double-crested cormorants and oyster-catchers. The lakes host flocks of migrating ducks in the spring, while in the winter there are many Trumpeter Swans from Alaska.

The best periods to go birdwatching in the Pacific Northwest are shoulder seasons—spring and fall. Quite a few birds also stay here for the winter. By the end of spring, many birds migrate further north.

Practical info

What bird species can be seen near Seattle that are considered endangered?

Seattle is home to many endangered birds including Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Hutton’s Vireos, Laysan Albatross, Hermit Warblers, Spotted Owls, and Marbled Murrelets. These species reside in habitats such as mountains, rainforests, inland lakes, the ocean coast, and deserts. Birdwatching here promises a unique and fascinating experience due to the diverse range of habitats and birds found in this area. Show more

Which areas are the most popular for birdwatching tours in Seattle?

The birdwatching community is drawn to the San Juan Islands, the Olympic Peninsula, and western Puget Sound in Seattle for birding tours. The versatility of these areas’ habitats houses various migrating and native bird species, thus offering excellent birding opportunities. This travel promises to reward the birdwatcher with a diverse range and quantity of birds, ranging from pelagic species to flocks of migratory ducks. Show more

When is the best time to go birdwatching in the Pacific Northwest, and why?

The ideal seasons to plan birdwatching expeditions to the Pacific Northwest are spring and fall shoulder seasons. The mild weather during these parts of the year facilitates bird sightings, attracting numerous bird species as they migrate and nest. During spring, many bird species pass through Seattle to migrate further north while in fall, the same happens in the opposite direction. The shoulder seasons are the best for birdwatching because of the diverse range of species present during these times alongside comfortable weather. Show more

Where are the San Juan Islands located, and what kind of bird habitats can be found there?

The birdwatcher’s paradise, the San Juan Islands, is situated in the Olympic Mountains' rain shadow, a popular Seattle birdwatching destination. Freshwater and saltwater habitats are present in abundance, attracting an extensive range of bird species. Pelagic bird species such as double-crested cormorants and oyster-catchers tend to frequent the beaches with oysters and clams in large numbers. Flocks of migrating ducks nest in the lakes during spring, while Trumpeter Swans from Alaska can be seen during winter. Show more

How does weather influence birdwatching in the Seattle area throughout the year?

Weather has a significant impact on birdwatching in the Seattle area throughout the year. While summers have warm and sunny weather conditions, it may not be the best time for birdwatching because bird species sightings are limited. The shoulder seasons of spring and fall, characterized by mild weather, are perfect for birdwatching. These seasons host numerous migrating and nesting birds. Some bird species remain during winters, though birdwatching is challenging during this time due to the weather condition. Show more

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