The Birds of Bay Center
(Including a Guide to the Gulls of the Northwest)
At the cabin
Throughout the year
In trees, grass, blackberries and shrubbery
- Song Sparrow. This is a darkish sparrow, with heavy streaking and dark central spot on the breast, and a gray head stripe just over the eye. It will most often be found in the blackberries.
- House Finch. A stout thick bill for cracking seeds, bright red on the head and breast, and streaking on the sides of the breast. House finches can be found in the blackberries, grass and trees.
- Black-capped Chickadee and Chestnut-backed chickadee . The names are descriptive of these small birds, which you'll generally find in the trees, but occasionally flitting about the shrubbery. The chestnut-backed chickadee also has chestnut on the sides. Both of these chickadees have black caps and black chins.
- American goldfinch
- Oregon Junco. A black or dark brown hood, light-colored, pinkish bill. When it flies, you'll see conspicuous white outer tail feathers. Can be seen on the ground, in shrubbery or in trees.
- Pine siskin. Brownish bird, heavily streaked on the breast, yellow on rump and in wings. Tends to travel in flocks.
- Varied Thrush Large, Robin-sized somewhat gaudy bird. It's got an orange eye-stripe above a black ear-patch on the side of the head and a black breast band on orange background. This is a forest bird that is often found near the ground and in brush. You'll occasionally see them near our woodpile. A better picture is here.
- Steller's jay This noisy conspicuous bird is typically seen in conifer trees or flying between them. It's a brilliantly colored blue bird with black crest. Most likely to be found at Bush Park woods, but also could be seen in the trees around our cabin.
- White-crowned sparrow. A large sparrow with alternating black and white stripes on the head. White stripe down the center of the head. Pinkish bill, whitish throat, plain breast (no streaking). Will tend to be seen in the blackberries, on the ground or in shrubbery.
- Belted Kingfisher. A very attractive bird that is almost always present within viewing distance of the cabin -- in a tree along the shoreline or on a post in the bay. The kingfisher lives off fish and therefore finds perches that afford a good view of the water. The bird has a prominent long black bill, mussed-up crest, white neck band, slate-blue head and breast band. Females have a rust-colored belly band. Loud raspy, rattle-like call.
- Spotted Towhee. Until recently this bird was known as a Rufous-sided Towhee. Whatever it is called, it is a striking bird. Black hood and bill, red eye. Black back and wings with prominent white markings. Rufous sides, white belly, white outher tail feathers. A ground bird that loves dense thickets and often makes a lot of noise while scratching about in the brush.
- Northern flicker. Very common around the cabin. These woodpeckers, with the spotted breast, black breast band, and conspicuous white rump patch, like to roost up in the eaves of the cabin. For a more frontal view, see Northern Flicker 2
- Downy Woodpecker A small woodpecker. Male has red on the back of the head.
- Red-tailed hawk and bald eagle. If you hear a bunch of crows going nuts, look for an eagle or red-tailed hawk. The large hawk has a dark head, dark belly band, and red tail. Another key fieldmark, seen when the hawk is flying overhead, are the "patagial marks," the dark bars on the leading edge of the wings near the body. You'll occasionally see an eagle or red-tail flying over the bay or perched in one of the taller trees around the cabin, usually toward the top of the tree.
- Sharp-shinned hawk or Cooper's hawk. These hawks are much, much smaller than a red-tail. They've got banded tails, streaked or spotted (in bands) breasts and streaked heads. Long tails. These hawks eat small birds, typically sparrows, juncos or starlings. It's hard to distinguish between a Coopers and sharp-shinned. You'll see them occasionally fly by or perch in a tree.
- Other birds. Of course, you'll see crows, starlings and robins. You might also see a Fox sparrow, which is similar to song sparrow but has no head stripes and is a rich dark choclatey brown. Instead of streaks on the breast there are v-shaped spots. You might also see a passing red-winged blackbird (see below under marshes).
On the shoreline or out in the bay
- Great blue heron. This beautiful distinctive shorebird might be considered the town bird and can reliably found on nearly all Bay Center shores at one time or another.
- Guide to Northwest Gulls. Check out this guide for identifying Northwest gulls. You'll see scads of gulls in Bay Center, most of which will be either Ring-billed gulls or hybrids of Western gulls and Glaucous-winged gulls The dirty, brownish gulls you see are juveniles. The adult ring-billed gull in breeding plumage has a black ring around its bill, has yellow legs, pale eyes and is somewhat smaller than the W-GW hybrid. The hybrid is large, has pink legs and a red spot on its lower mandible (bill). The gray mantle of the ring-billed tends to be lighter in color than that of the hybrid.
- Greater Yellowlegs. Very difficult to tell greater and lesser apart, but almost all ours are Greater. Most yellowlegs go north in the spring to breed, but a few not up to the task stay in Bay Center. Largest numbers can be seen during winter.
- Double-crested Cormorant
- Kildeer This shorebird is much more entwined with human activity than most other shorebirds. It often can be found along roadsides and in the grass, as well as on the mudflats. It is easy to identify by the double black rings around the neck.
In spring and summer
In trees, grass, shrubbery or blackberries
- Orange-crowned warbler. A small yellowish, olive bird. Orange crown is not visible. For a warbler, this is a dull-colored bird. You'll see it in shrubbery (tops of trees over the bank that are at shrub level for us) near the deck -- the willows, alders and berry shrubs.
- Savannah sparrow This sparrow is smaller and lighter in color than the song sparrow. Breast streaking is finer and if there is a spot it is less prominent than with a song sparrow. The distinctive feature is a yellow stripe over the eye, especially in front of the eye. Legs and feet are pink. The savannah sparrow generally likes the grass.
- Cedar waxwing A very exotic bird, notable for its black mask, thin yellow band on tip of tail, and its crest. The bird tends to travel in flocks. For another view, see Cedar waxwing2
- Rufous hummingbird For another view, see Rufous hummingbird 2
- Western flycatcher
- Wilson's warbler Look for the black cap and black beady eyes on this small yellow bird, which you're most likely to see flitting abut in the bushes and occasionally in alder or willow trees.
- Swainson's thrush You'll probably hear this bird rather than see it. It hangs out in the woods, often near the ground. It's got a beautiful flute-like song that it repeats ceaselessly during the summer.
On the shoreline or in the bay
- Cinnamon teal This beautiful duck can sometimes be seen in spring on ponds near Dike Road and 101.
- Caspian tern These at first glance might look like gulls, but they've got pointed wings and bills. This bird has a slender black cap on the top of the head, a bright orange bill with black tip, and black legs. It's exciting to watch it take a sudden, fast vertical dive into the water after its prey.
On the shoreline or in the bay
During migration (late summer, fall and spring)
In the trees, grass, blackberries and shrubbery
On the shoreline or in the bay
- Great egret This is an all-white version of a blue heron. They are seen passing through occasionally in the fall, usually on the mudflats and bars out in the bay.
- Short-billed dowitcher Very difficult to tell long- and short-billed dowitchers apart visually, and both are seen in Bay Center. For a view of a long-billed dowitcher, see Long-billed dowitcher2
- Whimbrel Seen on the mudflats or flying overhead primarily in late summer and fall. Note the downcurving bill and striped head. For another view, see Whimbrel
- Marbled godwit A shorebird notable for the bi-colored bill: black at the tip, orange near the base. Shows up on the shoreline in the fall.
- Brown pelican Look for these gigantic-billed birds on platforms out in the bay in late summer and fall.
- Red knot For another view, see Red knot in breeding plumage Seen sometimes in the spring.
- Heermann's gull Dark grey mantle, white or grey head, black tip on bill, black legs. Slightly larger than a ring-billed gull but somewhat smaller than the glaucous-Western hybrid that we commonly see in Bay Center. Uncommon. Most likely to be seen in July, August or September.
- Mew gull (sub-adult) Smaller than a ring-billed gull. Plain yellow bill (sub-adults have black on bill and dirty heads), yellow legs. Dark grey mantle, white head, large dark eye. Third most common gull in Bay Center behind Western-Glaucous hybrids and Ring Billed Gulls. Another view: Mew gull
In the fields along Dike Road
Tree Swallow Seen in spring continuously gliding and swooping. White breast, dark bluish back.
In local marshes
Marsh wren You'll probably hear this bird before you'll see it pop quickly in and out of marsh reeds.
In Bush Park Woods
Red-breasted nuthatch A pretty bird with short tail; often found walking down tree trunks.
Winter wren Found near the ground in woods. Small dark bird with an elaborate beautiful lengthy song.
At Goose Point or on the west side of the peninsula
Throughout the year
Hooded merganser This striking duck with the "duck tail" haircut is not at all common but has been seen occasionally at Goose Point.
During migration in spring, late summer or fall
Elsewhere in the Bay Center vicinity
Wood Duck This is one of the most beautiful ducks going and can be seen in ditches and on ponds in the Bay Center area in April.
Ring-necked duck We've seen these in winter in ponds on the Rose Ranch (along Dike Road) and along the South Palix River. The bird's name misdescribes its appearance. The ring is not around the neck,but around the bill.
Common yellowthroat Easy to recognize this bird with its yellow throat, black mask with white upper boarder. Hangs out in wetlands.
Red Crossbill Another view: Red Crossbill (male) More commonly heard flying overhead rather than seen, though we once were surprised to find one perched on logs on a Bush Park beach. They can be present any time of year, though their abundance varies from year to year.
Willet A dullish grey bird -- until it flies. Then notice the distinctive white on the underwing: Willet flying.
Ruddy turnstone This is a gaudy shorebird we've seen once or twice on the shoreline during fall migration. For another view, see Ruddy turnstone2
California gull This is a winter adult. California gull is larger than a mew, ring-billed, and Heerman's gull but smaller than the Glaucaus-winged-Western hybrid. Dark eye, yellow legs, bill has red and black spots on it.
Snowy egret We saw one in April 1994 on the mudflat below our deck and one in September 1997 in the mudflats along Dike Road. Not expected this far north. Here's a better view.
Western kingbird We saw this bird sitting on a fencepost along Dike Road near 101.
Northern mockingbird Conspicuous white wing patches make this bird hard to misidentify. We saw one in the cemetary once and the next day along Rhoades Street.
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