City dwelling poses challenges for our bird friends, and they could use our help.
Helping birds starts with awareness and that’s the point behind Mayor Bruce Harrell proclaiming next week Bird-Safe Seattle Week. It runs Oct. 2-8.
Light pollution, window collisions, a shrinking urban canopy and other human-caused hazards can be mitigated, according to the Seattle chapter of the National Audubon Society, which in July, pointing to the racist actions and beliefs of its namesake, John James Audubon, announced it will change its name.
Some things that help birds — such as drawing on the outside of a window with bar soap or providing a pan of fresh, clean water in a cat-free environment daily — are cheap and easy.
Other solutions require time, money and the will of people and policymakers, according to the chapter.
Free bird activities in the Seattle area
To celebrate, the local chapter is offering a week of activities, including bird outings, bird sits at three local parks and numerous online activities and classes.
All but a few activities are free and many are accessible to people of all physical abilities, said Wendy Walker, Seattle Audubon’s community engagement manager.
Birding is for everyone, Walker said. “You don’t need to be an expert, you don’t have to go anywhere, you can tap into it from where you are,” she said, citing a blog post by Seattle chapter member Monique McClure. McClure takes pictures from her doorstep and posts them on Instagram.
“I’ve joined remote watch parties with other disabled birders and thoroughly enjoyed the companionship and birds! There’s a thriving community of disabled birders on Instagram, too. We love to support each other,” she wrote.
Being a bird person can be as simple as watching a hummingbird from the deck or listening to birdsong through an open window.
A lot of people have told Walker they started birding during the pandemic. It helped with the isolation, she said.
“Now they have a relationship with birds and they want to do something for them,” she said.
Local birds to listen for during Safe-Bird Seattle Week
Whitney Neufeld-Kaiser, a birder who records birdsong and will be teaching an online course called 10 Gateway Birds of Puget Sound and How to Find Them on Oct. 12, spoke of five species she likes to listen for this time of year.
Varied thrushes breed up in the mountains, and are returning to the Western Washington lowlands for the winter. “I heard one in Seward Park on Sunday morning!” Neufeld-Kaiser said.
This sparrow also breeds in cooler climates up north in Alaska and Canada and, like the varied thrushes, is returning to the Seattle area for winter, said Neufeld-Kaiser.
These tiny brown natives with a spring canticle that’s been described as a “pinnacle of song complexity” hold their tail upright and shake with sound when they sing. Like the other fall notables, they are now returning to the lowlands for the winter and can be found in parks with mature trees and plenty of undergrowth, Neufeld-Kaiser said.
Bewick’s wrens are here year-round, but they tend to do a bit more singing in the fall, said Neufeld-Kaiser. You may here a truncated song, their “brzzz brzzz” alarm calls or a rapid series of short “jik” calls, she said.
Barred owl (Strix varia)
Barred owls are a “gateway owl,” wildlife photographer Paul Bannick said in a 2017 University of Washington Magazine article. In the Pacific Northwest, they compete with the threatened spotted owl in old-growth coniferous forest.
“It’s an owl that people can see in a local park and fall in love with, and become curious about the environment,” he said. “So in that sense, I kind of like them.”
Neufeld-Kaiser thinks they make particularly “cool sounds” but be aware: Barred owls can be territorial, and this is the time of year people start to report being “attacked” by them, she said.
Below are some of the free bird activities planned for next week:
Attend a bird sit: Stay in one place and let the birds come to you! People can drop in anytime during these stationary events and stay however long they want, Walker said.
- Sunday, Oct. 2, 9-11 a.m. at Carkeek Park
- Sunday, Oct. 2, 5-6:30 p.m. at Magnuson Park
- Saturday, Oct. 8, 2-3:30 p.m. at Roxhill Park
Check out one of these family events:
- Twilight Owl Prowl at Discovery Park, south parking lot on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 5-7 p.m.
- Raptors for the Family at Seward Park (in partnership with Seward Park Audubon Center) on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 5:30 – 7 p.m.
- Neighborhood bird outing at Volunteer Park, led by members of the NextGen Council on Saturday, Oct. 8, 10 a.m.-noon.
- Urban Birding at Union Bay Natural Area in partnership with QPOC Hikers on Saturday, Oct. 8, 10 a.m.-noon.
Online presentations and classes:
- Tuesday, Oct. 4, 6-7 p.m.: Bird-Safe Neighborhoods: Understanding and Preventing Bird-Window Collisions
- Thursday, Oct. 6, noon-1 p.m.: Indoor Cats Are Happy Cats. Learn from an animal behaviorist how to keep a cat happy — and safe — indoors
- Tuesday, Oct. 11, 7-8:30 p.m.: Learn how artificial light impacts wildlife and how we can be better neighbors.
For the full list of Bird-Safe Seattle Week activities, visit seattleaudubon.org/bird-safe-seattle-week/