Must-See Birds of the Pacific Northwest

October 1, 2013 (Updated July 30, 2014)

If you sprint between windows to watch hummingbirds buzz in the yard, or Google “bird calls” (Was it a thrush or a meadowlark?), congratulations — you’re a budding bird nerd! And have I got a book for you: “Must-See Birds of the Pacific Northwest: 85 Unforgettable Species, Their Fascinating Lives, and How to Find Them” by Sarah Swanson and Max Smith.


Instead of categorizing by species (or some scientific jargon we English majors can’t explain), or simple (slightly insulting) color categories, Swanson and Smith picked a unique method. Their eight categories include “Big Birds: Easy to See and Fun to Watch,” “Marathon Birds: Racking up the Frequent Flyer Miles,” and “Killer Birds: Birds of Prey and Other Meat-eaters.” They said they chose these categories to make the book approachable to beginning birders but still bird-centric.

Devoting two pages to each standout bird in the book, the authors offer a brief introduction to each bird, its eating habits, pairing and parenting, migration, common locations, and a list of other birds you might see nearby.

The photos are gorgeous, and the informative writing is a true pleasure to read — The Short-eared Owl: “Like a feathered, predatory butterfly, they zigzag low across fields in search of small mammals;” and the Belted Kingfisher: “Their head feathers are spiky pompadours, and their long beaks look like comedic props.”

The authors suggest eight birding weekend trips — three for winter and five for spring/summer. Among their winter trips is “Gray Skies and Great Birds: The Northern Oregon Coast in Winter,” which suggests birding stops from Cannon Beach to Netarts Bay. In summer, check out “Red Rocks, Blue Water, and White Headed Woodpeckers: Central Oregon in Summer.” (Do the trips during spring and fall, you’ll see an overlap of winter and summer birds.)

Get to know your local feathered population, or take it on the road and explore Oregon. This book will get you outside, make you slow down, look and listen. Check out the authors’ blog for photos and upcoming events.

About The

Eileen Garvin
Eileen Garvin lives and writes in Hood River. When she’s not hunched over her keyboard or digging in the garden, you can find her mountain biking, kiteboarding, hiking, skiing or camping somewhere in Oregon.