Birds of the North Olympic Peninsula

The North Olympic Peninsula offers exceptional year-round bird watching. Our mild winter supports large numbers of ocean birds, including waterfowl. Spring and fall are migration times and offer great diversity in species. Summer residents are numerous and varied due to the diversity of habitat – from rainforest to tidelands.

The numbers on the map refer to the site descriptions below. Note that some of these sites are adjacent to private property — please respect our privilege of viewing birds in these locations and be a quiet, polite viewer. Please do not let pets on the beach at sites 1,2,3 and 4. Enjoy your birding experience on the Olympic Peninsula.

Please join us on our FREE weekly guided bird walk in Railroad Bridge Park.  Click here for information.

Where to find birds on the North Olympic Peninsula

1. South Sequim Bay/Blyn

Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

From the parking area next to the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal offices on the southeast corner of the bay you can look across the tide flats and see a variety of shorebirds, ducks, gulls and terns. Fall, winter and spring. offer a rich variety including: Black-bellied Plover, dowitchers, sandpipers, Whimbrels, Common Terns, Bonaparte’s and Ring-billed Gulls. Unusual birds include the Bar-tailed Godwit. Check across the bay near the log yard as a good roosting place for White-winged and Surf Scoters, Common Loon and Hooded and Red-breasted Merganser, Green-winged Teal, and American Wigeon. in the uplands are four species of swallows and a number of passerines.

2. John Wayne Marina and Washington Harbor.

Alan D. Wilson via Wikimedia Commons

A variety of shore and sea birds and winter waterfowl can be seen. Search the extensive mud flats near Washington Harbor ( north of the Marina) for sandpipers, plovers, and dowitchers. Gulls roost in abundance where the freshwater flows into the bay. Marbled Murrelets, Guillemots, Murres, and Rhino Auklets can be seen in the bay during the proper season. Keep an eye open for Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons. Harlequin Ducks concentrate near the mouth of the bay.

3. Dungeness Bay at Three Crabs

Laitche via Wikimedia Creative Commons

Many diving ducks, shorebirds, and gulls frequent Dungeness Bay. On the beach at low tide can be seen a variety of sandpipers and plovers. This is one of the most reliable places to see Eurasian Wigeon, within the huge flocks of American Wigeon during fall and winter. Sand and gravel islands within the bay provide roosting sites for gulls, terns, cormorants, ducks, geese, and, in the fall, watch for occasional Brown Pelicans.

4. East of Three Crabs

By Don DeBold via Wikimedia Commons

In winter, a series of ponds offer shelter for dabbling ducks such as Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Wigeon, and Gadwall. Bald Eagles and an assortment of hawks such as Northern Harrier, Red-tailed and Sharp-shinned Hawks, and Peregrine Falcon appear throughout the year. Many other birds associated with wetlands frequent the area, such as blackbirds, Marsh Wrens, Virginia Rails, Harriers and Bitterns. Sparrows of several species inhabit the adjacent grasslands and shrubs during spring and fall.

5. Dungeness Recreation Area

Steve Hillebrand, USFWS [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This Clallam County Park is ideal habitat with open, dry grass, fresh water wetlands and shrub covered hills, Look for Savannah Sparrows, Mourning Doves, quail, and a variety of raptors. Short-eared Owls are seen here, at dusk, in the fall/winter. Use CAUTION from October to January as this area is a WDFW pheasant release and waterfowl hunting area on Wednesdays, weekends and holidays. The brush lands and forests of the Park support large populations of songbirds, such as warblers, vireos, flycatchers, chickadees, kinglets, finches, and sparrows.

6. Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, on the Dungeness Spit

Josue Hermoza via Wikimedia Commons

Observe large numbers of wintering Scoters and Brant Geese, migrant shorebirds, and less common species such as Harlequin Ducks, Oldsquaw, auklets, and murrelets. Feeding flocks of subbreeds in the Strait of Juan de Fuca may contain several species of gulls, Jaeger, and alcids, with additional concentrations of loons, grebes, and sea ducks, During Snowy Owl invasions, the outer spit is their preferred roosting area.

7. Railroad Bridge Park

Mick Thompson via Wikimedia Commons

In this riparian habitat woodpeckers, kinglets, finches, wrens, warblers, creepers, nuthatches, sparrows, and towhees can be found. Look along the river for wintering American Dippers. Spring and summer bring neotropical migrants such as Olive-sided Flycatcher, Western Wood-Pewee, Swainson’s Thrush, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Bullock’s Oriole. [In 1997 this Park was designated an Audubon Center.

8. Olympic National Forest, Dungeness and Greywolf River areas.

By DickDaniels ( via Wikimedia Commons

This forest location provides an opportunity to observe crossbills, dippers, warblers, chickadees, nuthatches and thrushes, to name a few.

9. Olympic National Park at Hurricane Ridge

Photographer: Michael Sulis via Wikimedia Commons

Besides the above mentioned birds, one may see Ravens, Steller’s and Gray Jays, several of the thrushes and other species. A visitor is well advised to stop by the Park Visitor Center first and for a minimal price obtain a bird checklist, which is also available at Rainshadow Books in Sequim.

10. Ediz Hook in Port Angeles

By Deines, F – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The protected water and log storage area attract large numbers and species of shorebirds including plovers, Whimbrels, oystercatchers, turnstones and Sanderlings. These waters also provide one of the Peninsula’s best areas for gull species. Pilings serve as a roost for cormorants, The oceanside waters may yield auklets, puffin and in the winter, flocks of Common Murres.

11. Elwha River

By Yellowstone National Park from Yellowstone NP, USA (Harlequin ducks) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is the major water entrance to the heart of the Olympic National Park. Along the river you can see, in season, American Dippers, Harlequin Ducks, American Wigeon, other waterfowl, 2-3 species of swallows, as well as an array of raptors. The lakes behind the dams are also wintering places for waterfowl and Trumpeter Swans.

12. Salt Creek County Park

Dick Daniels via Wikimedia Commons


Includes Highway 112 to Neah Bay: the rocky coastline

Many birds not seen in other locations such as Black Oystercatchers, phalaropes, Marbled Murrelets, and various gulls may be observed from shore. This is also a site used for counting migrating Turkey Vultures in September/October. It has the narrowest water gap between the Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island. Numerous Bald Eagles reside beside the coastal estuaries along Highway 112. These coves and inlets also provide essential habitat for shorebirds and roosting gulls. As you near Neah Bay look for Tufted Puffins nesting (spring to early summer) on the sea stacks off shore. On offshore rocks are Common Murres. Look in the water for Sooty Shearwaters. During the Spring thousands of migrating hawks (mostly Red-tails) kettle over Cape Flattery before flying across the Strait to Vancouver island. Occasionally formations of 200-300 of loudly calling, Sandhill Cranes also pass through.