Tips for Beginner Bird Watchers

Take part in the longest-running public bird count in the nation.

By Caroline Craighead December 18, 2017


This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of Seattle Magazine.

An annual tradition since 1928, Seattle Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count—part of the society’s international count—brings volunteer novice and expert bird watchers together to count the area’s birds. The data compiled helps the National Audubon Society and other bird conservation groups understand the impacts of climate change and to help target conservation efforts to specific species and habitats.

Toby Ross, science manager at the Seattle Audubon Society, offers these strategies on how to optimize bird viewing and counting for the Seattle count taking place December 30.

Dress right
Wear layers of clothing and comfortable walking shoes: You’ll be scouring a route within a 15-mile-diameter area. Select earth-toned or neutral-colored clothing; bright colors can detract birds.

Binoculars make it more fun
They’re not necessary for bird watching, but they make it easier to observe them at a distance.

Become familiar with species
Spotting a bird is only half of the job; the breed also needs to be identified. Guidebooks on birds in the Northwest are widely available, or you can download Cornell University’s helpful Merlin Bird ID app.

Listen up
Listening to songs and calls can help guide you in the right direction or identify a species. If your ear is especially attuned, you can join the owling group to listen for these nocturnal birds in the predawn hours.

Count your backyard birds
You don’t need to head into the field to participate in the count. Sign up for the Feeder Watch program to count the birds you see from your window; you can submit your findings electronically.

Wedgwood, 8050 35th Ave. NE; 206.523.4483;


Follow Us

Running in a Wetsuit, Swimming in Shoes

Running in a Wetsuit, Swimming in Shoes

Swimrun has become a popular endurance sport

Four friends are sitting around a bar in Sweden, sharing a few drinks and catching up. One turns to another and says, “Do you think we can swim and run 75 kilometers up the coastline of Stockholm?” After a few more drinks and perhaps a little chest puffing, a plan was set in motion. The…

Missoula’s Moment

Missoula’s Moment

The city is full of amazing wilderness and a sense of adventure

The wagon trail leading from Seattle to Missoula, Mont., is well-traveled. When Missoulians crave the city slicker vibe, they pony up and head west. When Seattleites want to slow things down, they head over the pass to Zootown, as Missoula is affectionately known. There is a kinship between Seattleites and Missoulians; we love our communities…

Hidden Washington: Snohomish is Hiding in Plain Sight

Hidden Washington: Snohomish is Hiding in Plain Sight

A friendly, quaint, and engaging small town

As Scottish novelist and essayist Robert Louis Stevenson said, “I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this featherbed of civilization and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.” What the great Stevenson might…

Beautiful British Columbia

Beautiful British Columbia

Loop your way around these natural wonders

In road trips, as in wheels, the circle is the perfect shape. Why retrace your steps when you have the wind in your hair and you’re off in search of new adventures? Mixed tapes are similar — carefully selected songs to be experienced in a certain order, over and over again. Pop in this Canadian…