At Run of the River we have phenomenal Washington state birdwatching opportunities. We have listed the top 10 feathered friends to visit us, as well as some birding hotspots on our property.
- Canada Goose
Note the black head and neck, or 'stocking,’ that contrasts the pale breast, and the white ‘chin strap’ of the large Canadian Goose, as it grazes on grass, seeds and aquatic plants in the river. Flocks travel in strings or Vs, and they can’t be missed with their loud, deep honking. Ka-ronk! As they fly low overhead, listen for the ratcheting sound
of their wings along with the powerful
swoosh of air displacement.
- Great Blue Heron
Keep your eye on the
river! No, it isn’t a crane. The lean gray bird with the long neck and dagger-like bill is a Great Blue Heron. It may stand 4 feet tall, and when it flies, it folds its neck. Deep harsh croaks are characteristic. Frahnk, frahnk, frahnk! It is blue-gray in color, with white about the head in adults. In winter, it rests in the trees, head tucked, conserving heat. “Grumpy old bird!”
Solitary birds with large heads and heron-like bills, these are fish-eaters that perch above water or hover and plunge headfirst. There’s a good reason for naming one of our suites after this fellow that is right at home in the river setting. The characteristic voice is a sharp clicking, tick tick tick, and a sharp squeak. Watch the bird hover above the water, and dive for dinner. Quite the athlete! Coloring is blue-gray above with a ragged bushy crest and broad gray breastband.
- Steller’s Jay
Here in the Icicle Valley, this is the resident jay with a crest. The jay’s voice is a loud shook-shook-shook, or shack-shack- shack, or wheck-wek-wek-wek-wek, among many other notes. It frequently mimics the call of the Red-tailed Hawk or Golden Eagle. It is a large, dark, black and blue bird with a long crest. Foreparts are blackish, rear parts (wings, tail, belly) are deep blue. You’ll see them often in your jay feeder tray.
These birds will usually be found in patches of weeds, dandelions on the lawn, or on the edge of the woods. They also like the feeders. Their song is clear, light, and canary-like. In flight, each dip is punctuated by ti-dee-di-di or po-ta- to-chip. In summer, the male is a small, bright yellow bird with black wings, tail, and forehead. The female is a dull yellow-olive, darker above, with blackish wings and conspicuous wing bars. In winter, they both resemble the female, but gray-brown. The Goldfinch boasts its distinction as the state bird of Washington!
- Turkey Vulture
Nearly eagle-sized, and second largest bird of prey in the US, this bird soars with wings in a V formation, rocks and tilts unsteadily. It's usually seen soaring the sky. You can also see the vulture on the river bank, wings spread, sunning. We call the turkey vultures “Poor Man’s Eagles.”
The river behind the inn provides a popular spot for these surface-feeders of wetlands. They feed by dabbling and upending, and sometimes feed on land. Mallards take flight directly into the air. While the male has a characteristic yeeb or low kwek, the female is known for her boisterous quacking. The male mallard has an uncrested glossy green head and white neck-ring, chestnut chest, white tail, yellowish bill, orange feet and blue speculum. The female is mottled brown with a whitish tail, her bill patched with orange, and she sports orange feet.
The woodland setting around the inn is a perfect home for these small, plump, grayish, chicken-like birds, characterized by the short black plume curving forward from the crown of the head. A three-syllabled qua-quer-go or Chi-ca-go characterizes the sound they make. Sometimes they make a light clucking sound. Males have a black and white face and throat pattern, while the females are duller. Watch the terrace or the sand bars for mom and dad and their plentiful litter. The baby quail are thumb-sized and scurry chaotically!
Our year-round birding friend is always ready to put on a feeding show. Eating like that, how do they stay so small? Its voice is a clearly enunciated chick-a-dee-dee-dee. The spring song of the male is a fee-bee-ee, with the first note higher. Hearing the spring call on a cold January day is our first sign that spring is in the air and the birds are starting to feel a little feisty. It has a black throat patch and cap, white face, is gray above and creamy below, with buff flanks.
- Evening Grosbeak
Keep your eye on the birdfeeders! It’s likely that these starling-sized creatures will swarm there at some point. They are chunky, short-tailed birds with very large, pale, conical bills. Their sound is a ringing, finch-like clee-ip, or a high, clear thew. The male is yellow with a dark head, yellow eyebrow, and black and white wings. The female is silver-gray with enough yellow, black and white to be recognized.