If you live in the Pacific Northwest, the odds are high that you are a nature enthusiast! Whether it’s exploring tide pools, kayaking, hiking, or fishing, there are plenty of activities along the entire state of Washington, thanks to the landscape’s diverse climates, from the scablands to the sub-alpine areas.

Birdwatching in Yakima
Pines and Cottonwoods are the best spots for nesting among local bird species. Photo credit: Seb Hutchinson

Along with a range of fun outdoor activities, thanks to the amazing geology and ecology found here, one nature activity in Washington seems to have one of the most diverse catalogs of species, perhaps even more than fish or insects — of course, we’re talking about birds!

Birds in the Yakima Valley and its neighboring areas are abundant, from raptor birds that scream in the sky to the little robin that sits outside your window while you drink your morning coffee. So, where are some of the best spots for birdwatching in the Yakima area?

Yakima Arboretum Birdwatching

If you’re looking to start birdwatching but don’t feel like driving up the hills, Yakima has a spot in town that is easy to find and access. The Yakima Arboretum is an excellent spot for multiple activities, but perhaps one of the most popular activities that park-goers visit is birdwatching.

The park is a safe haven for multiple bird species, including but not limited to:

  • Canadian geese

    Birdwatching in Yakima
    A special spot to observe birds in comfort is the Northwest Trek in Eatonville. Multiple bird species are on display, and all proceeds go to conservation. Photo credit: Seb Hutchinson
  • Ducks, such as wood ducks and mallards
  • Raptors, such as hawks, falcons, ospreys, and kestrels
  • Swallows
  • Finches
  • Owls
  • Woodpeckers
  • Great blue herons

The natural area along the park’s east side offers a secluded and quiet location for observation. A bird feeder installed inside the area gives viewers a perfect spot to aim their binoculars as they search for activity. Along the area where you can view the Yakima River, you will have an easier time spotting waterfowl such as geese, multiple duck species, and the occasional great blue heron.

The arboretum offers a printable pamphlet for those looking to start birdwatching in the area, which has a list of species and hot spots where birdwatchers will have the best luck trying to view as many types of birds as possible. This pamphlet also has a list of recommended tools that will help you kickstart your birdwatching journey.

Birds in the Yakima River Canyon

Birdwatching in Yakima
Birds of prey are common around the Yakima River Canyon. Photo courtesy: Vecteezy Photos

The Yakima River Canyon stretches between Pomona in eastern Selah all the way out towards Ellensburg. Between the two cities, following the winding Yakima River, is an abundance of notable species of birds unique to this area alone.

Lined with a cottonwood forest and stacked with basalt cliffs, this area is a perfect playground for ornithological species such as:

  • Golden eagles
  • Bald eagles
  • Prairie falcons
  • Cliff swallows
  • Rock wrens and canyon wrens
  • White-throated swifts

These birds, along with many more common species, prefer the dry atmosphere and high cliffs, choosing these cliffs for nesting in their rocky crevices and laying their eggs, protecting their young from high winds.

Birds of prey, such as eagles and falcons, find fantastic hunting with the species of snakes, mice, and smaller birds that thrive in these lands. The best canyon bird viewing spots are along the hiking trails, including Umtanum Creek Canyon, Rattlesnake Dance Ridge Trail, and Manastash Ridge.

Birds in Your Own Backyard

Birdwatching in Yakima
If you must take your cat outside, putting them on a leash is a fantastic way to monitor your cat and prevent unwanted hunting. Pippin loves visiting the outdoors! Photo credit: Seb Hutchinson

One of the best places you can go for birdwatching is your very own backyard! Often, most species of birds are found outside your windows. Wrens, Robins, Starlings, Blackbirds, and more, are so common around the county that you may see these species every day without even realizing it.

The best way to birdwatch in your backyard is to make it a space that is bird friendly and invites birds to visit your backyard space.

This includes things such as:

  • Provide a bird feeder
  • Offer water
    • Small backyard ponds and water fixtures such as fountains and bird baths provide a perfect resting spot for birds to visit your backyard and find a place to take a sip or clean their feathers. Large ponds can even attract waterfowl.
  • Native tree and plant species
    • Planting native species of plants and trees in your backyard is a fantastic way to promote your space as a spot for birds. The birds know these trees and plants as reliable food sources and shelters, and they will draw in many species to enjoy.
  • Give them shelter
    • Birdhouses, wood piles, and tall plants keep birds hidden from predators, such as cats and other larger birds. Having shelter will invite more birds into your space for your birdwatching enjoyment.
  • Keep Mittens indoors
    • Face it — we love our cats. And our cats love birds. Keeping your cat inside is a great way to provide a safe space for birds and your own cat safe. Outdoor venturing cats and strays account for a large majority of the declining bird population, and cats generally have longer and happier lives when protected inside. It’s a win-win!

For more tips on making your backyard a bird sanctuary, visit 6 Ways to Create a Backyard Bird Paradise.

Birdwatching in Yakima
The American Robin is one of the most common species across Yakima County. Photo courtesy: Vecteezy Photos

Remember that with all things in nature, we have a duty to preserve and protect. Mind your local area’s rules, purchase a Discover Pass if necessary, and put out all fires! Purchasing a Discovery Pass helps the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife preserve our forests for generations of future enjoyment, so you can feel good about where the money goes.

Yakima is fortunate enough to be right in the middle of a state with an extremely diverse climate, meaning that just a few hours away, even more bird species are accessible to birdwatching enthusiasts. However, Yakima has some of the most unique birds in the state, making for excellent viewing for ornithological enthusiasts.

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