Ocean Blue News Blog
Trying to figure out which bird you spotted while visiting the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington? By Karisa Boyce
Beach goers come to the Long Beach Peninsula for many reasons, one of those being the abundance of wildlife. Many species of coastal birds live, work, and play on Long Beach. This guide will help you identify the wonderful winged creatures you may see while you visit the peninsula.
Western Gull - Larus occidentalis
One bird that we see prevalently on the Long Beach Peninsula year round is the Western Gull. You can see them feeding on crabs and fish that have washed up on shore. These birds live all along the west coast from Baja, Mexico to British Columbia in Canada. Western Gulls can be seen inland as well.
Adults have large white heads with gray wings while first winter juveniles are muddled with mostly dark brown and gray coloration. It takes approximately four years for Western Gulls to gain their full plumage of feathers.
Caspian Tern - Hydroprogne caspia
Here is a bird that from a distance could be easily mistaken for the Western Gull because Caspian Terns can also be found in large groups with the gulls. Western Gulls are predators of Caspian Tern chicks. There are major differences in coloration as they have large reddish-orange beaks that sometimes have black tips. Full grown adults have black caps with shallow forked tails. Juvenile Caspian Terns are also camouflaged with gray and brown.
The large population of Caspian Terns on the Long Beach Peninsula may be attributed to their largest breeding grounds being located on an artificial island on the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington. There are more than 6,000 breeding pairs that meet annually on the island and have been known to live for as long as 29 years.
Tufted Puffin - Fratercula cirrhata
Tufted Puffins can be uncommonly seen in April through September as they spend the winter at sea. These endangered birds nest on island cliffs along Alaska to Southern California coast lines and can dig burrows up to 6 feet deep.
You know you have spotted a Tufted Puffin when you see a crow-sized bird with a stocky large head on a black body and a white face with long golden plumes around the head and neck. A non-breeding adult has a dark gray face with no head plumes or bill plate.
Bald Eagle - Haliaeetus leucocoephalus
Young Bald Eagles have distinctly different color patterns than a full grown adult eagle. The Juveniles are brown with brown and white muddled wings. The large adult birds have a dark brown body with a white head, hence its name the Bald Eagle. It takes 4 to 5 years for the transition from birth to sexually mature adult.
Bald Eagles are present on the beach. You may see them perched on a pole, a high branch, or on the beach itself, and they appreciate space. While Bald Eagles are scavengers they will eat anything from garbage to mammals, waterfowl, and gulls with fish being their main course.
Brown Pelican - Pelecanus occidentalis
The Brown Pelican is endangered in the state of Washington. These majestic creatures can be seen diving into the ocean from heights of 65 feet in the air. The Brown Pelican is a very large bird similar in size to that of a goose. They use their long bills and expanding throats to catch fish. Their broad wings are bowed while in flight as they glide through the air.
An immature Brown Pelican is brown and grey in color with pale or white breast and belly. The sexually mature adult will present with a yellow head and white neck. When they are breeding, Brown Pelicans have a dark reddish-brown coloration present on the back and sides of their necks.
Killdeers or Little Ringed Plover - Charadrius vociferus
You are most likely to spot this bird because Killdeers nest in places where people frequent. The small birds have a short, black bill with distinctive black double neck rings with coloration that is consistent year round. Juveniles have only one ring around their necks.
Common Murre - Uria aalge
While the Common Murre can be found in Washington state year round, the bird breeds in island off the Oregon and Washington coast. They look similar to penguins, with black and white coloration along with a long black pointed beak.
The Ocean Blue team found over 100 birds washed up on shore on the Long Beach Peninsula during July and August in 2019. University of Washington is doing an ongoing investigation into the high number of deaths that Common Murre populations are experiencing in recent years.
Have you seen any birds in southwest Washington that did not make it on this list? Let us know so we can add it to the list! Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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