Bird watching is a popular activity for many residents and visitors in the Puget Sound region. More than 500 bird species have been observed in Washington State. It is relatively easy to see and study birds in the wild. Birdwatching is one of the fastest growing recreational activities in the country.
Washington State draws millions of breeding migrating, and resting birds to our natural habitats, including shorelines, estuaries, forests, shrub-steppe, and wetlands. Birds are crucial components of the Pacific Northwest ecosystem. They serve as pollinators, predators, scavengers, seed dispersers, and engineers.
About binoculars for birdwatching
Binoculars suitable for birding include: 6×32, 8×32, 7×35, 8×40, 7×42, 8×42, or 8.5×44. Audubon recommends several in the $120-$180 range. But there are less expensive ways to find a pair of binoculars for birdwatching in the Seattle area:
- REI and Cabela’s retail stores usually have lower-priced models suitable for watching wildlife and beginning birders.
- You can rent binoculars for a modest fee at the following locations: Aurora Rents, Glazer’s Camera rentals, LensRentals (online), and Optics4Rent (online).
- At group birding events, such as Audubon events or Bird Festivals, there are sometimes binocular to share. Find a list of upcoming events in our birding calendar below.
Birdwatching organizations in the Puget Sound region
To get started bird watching, you can attend any of the birding festivals throughout the year. Upcoming festivals, birdwatching, and other birding events are listed below on our event calendar.
You can also join your local Audubon or birdwatching group. Here’s a list of some of the major organizations throughout Washington State:
Audubon Washington is a state field office of the National Audubon Society, which helps protect birds and their habitats throughout the Evergreen State. Audubon has a network of local chapters throughout Washington State.
BirdWeb is a Seattle Audubon online guide to the Birds of Washington State, including a state map of birding eco-regions.
eBird Northwest is a regional portal of Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s international eBird program. Several local organizations make up the Northwest team: Klamath Bird Observatory, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Region 1/Pacific, and Pacific Birds Habitat Joint Venture. A major goal of the team is to engage the birding community in science-driven conservation by providing content and services to Northwest birdwatchers.
Wenatchee River Institute in Leavenworth (120 mi E). Bird Fest every May features a variety of workshops and tours, some free, others for a fee requiring advance registration.
Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife offers a variety of information about wildlife viewing with various guides and maps, including this Western Washington Interstate 5 Wildlife Viewing Map.
Audubon in the Puget Sound region
(Listed roughly north to south throughout the region)
Dungeness River Audubon Center on the Washington peninsula in Sequim, in partnership with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society, and National Audubon Society. Also co-hosts the Olympic Peninsula BirdFest.
Pilchuck Audubon Society in Snohomish County and Camano Island is a grass-roots environmental organization with a focus on conservation and restoration of natural ecosystems. They are a partner for the Puget Sound Bird Fest in September.
Seattle Seward Park Audubon Center in southeast Seattle on Lake Washington offers several bird watching walking tours for a nominal fee. Some are free. Check their calendar to find out what’s coming up.
Eastside Audubon in eastern King County is a community of passionate birders from Bothell south to I-90 and from the eastern shore of Lake Washington to the Cascade Foothills. They offer field trips, classes, work parties, and birding resources on their website.
Tahoma Audubon Society and Adrianna Hess Audubon Center in University Place (south of Tacoma) offers seasonal classes, workshops, speakers, and guided walks, plus birding resources on their website.
Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society (OPAS) promotes birding and habitat conservation in the rich birding environment and migratory paths where the climate ranges from rain forest to semiarid through birder activities, classes, workshops, and the Olympic BirdFest in April, featuring birding trips (some overnight, including meals), guided walks, workshops, and other events.
Getting started with birdwatching
If you decide to strike out on your own, here are some tips for getting started with birdwatching:
- Study the birds you expect to see before you go. Use bird images and birding information on the Audubon sites listed above or from your local library.
- Download the Audubon smartphone app: Great Washington State Birding Trail. It’s not free, but it was developed by Audubon Washington and can be an invaluable resource in the field. Alternatively, there is the FREE Audubon Bird Guide app available for iPhone or Android smartphones.
- Walk softly, move slowly, stop frequently, listen intently, take only photographs and memories, and leave only footprints.
- Sight with your naked eye before you look through your binoculars.
Don’t overlook bird watching opportunities in your own backyard or nearby neighborhood parks. The above organizations also offer plenty of information about creating a bird-friendly yard by planting native species and introducing bird feeders, which brings the bird to you rather than going out on birding trips.
Upcoming bird festivals, birdwatching, and other birding events
Featured Events are list first each day, highlighted by a photo. Featured events are unique or annual events that we or our advertisers don’t want you to overlook.
(If nothing is listed below, there are no bird-related events in our calendar. Theoretically, this shouldn’t happen. We always try to have some birding events on the calendar. Most bird-related activities occur in spring and fall.)
But wait, there’s more!
- Annual bird count events
- Great Blue Herons in the Puget Sound region
- 10 best free outdoor activities year-round.
- 16 Puget Sound lighthouses you can visit for free.
- 13 free park entrance days in Washington State.
- 7 affordable winter sports on ice and snow.
- Popular King County parks for day hikes.
- 30 great park trails for kids in the Puget Sound region.
- And here’s a list of 101+ always free things to do for fun.
- More free and cheap things to do every day: Greater Seattle on the Cheap event calendar.
- Still more ideas for frugal fun: Greater Seattle on the Cheap home page.