Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
The Yakima Canyon is one of Washington State's most scenic areas, through which the Yakima River winds amidst basalt cliffs from just south of Ellensburg down to Selah, Washington.
The Yakima River here meanders through three anticlines, or upwarped ridges. There is evidence that the river predated the rise of these ridges. A slow uplifting allowed the ancient Yakima River to maintain its course by cutting down into the rising basalt at a rate equal to uplifting. Magnificent basalt cliffs result from this immense down-cutting, forming one of the scenic wonders of the Pacific Northwest.
This area receives approximately 10 inches of precipitation annually, most of which falls during the winter months. The summers are usually warm and dry, resulting in a vegetation mosaic comprised mainly of shrub-steppe species. The Yakima River and its major feeder streams, such as Umtanum Creek, also have significant tracts of riparian vegetation. The basalt cliffs and adjacent jumbled slopes and their talus aprons harbor another unique vegetation zone.
A few kilometers to the west is the forest-steppe margin where the eastern foothills of the Cascade Mountains become sufficiently moist for forest development.
The birdlife of the canyon consists of a diverse array of species, some ranging widely through the area, others localized in their distribution to certain habitats.
The area is perhaps best known for its nesting birds of prey. No fewer than 21 species of raptors, as birds of prey are known, have been recorded in the Yakima Canyon. Ten of these raptor species breed locally. Spring brings the courtship cries of Red-tailed Hawks, Golden Eagles, Prairie Falcons and American Kestrels about their nesting cliffs as they commence breeding. August and September bring migrant Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks from the north, as well as an influx of other species. Winter brings the magnificent and endangered Bald Eagle to patrol the river banks for spawned chinook salmon, a species hopefully being augmented as a result of intense fish enhancement projects.
The riparian habitats along the Yakima River and feeder streams are host to many songbirds dependent on this habitat. The river itself is important for birds which prey on fish such as Common Mergansers, eagles and Belted Kingfishers.
No less important is the surrounding shrub-steppe, a vanishing habitat in Washington, which is home to some species becoming rare in the state, such as the Sage Thrasher, Long-billed Curlew and Sage Sparrow.
Various loons, grebes and many waterfowl along with shorebirds occur in greater numbers and species diversity in south-central Washington than the following list implies. As the canyon contains little still water, habitat for a number of these species is limited. It is believed many individuals of these groups simply overfly the Yakima Canyon on their migrations. As time goes on, other species will obviously be added to the list of confirmed species present in the Yakima Canyon.
As this report is a preliminary effort, your input and help is welcomed. Write the BLM with your sightings or additional information on species.
The area considered in the following checklist includes the Yakima Canyon from south of Ellensburg to north of Selah, including 10 kilometers on either side of the river.
Thanks go to Neal Hedges and Phil Mattocks for their careful editing of the manuscript.
Common Loon. Rare visitor, mainly in late fall to still portions of the Yakima River and adjacent ponds in the Yakima Canyon.
Pied-billed Grebe. Uncommon and local in the few still bodies of water in the Yakima Canyon. Noted mainly from March through October. Breeds uncommonly.
Horned Grebe. Uncommon to rare migrant, mainly late fall, early winter and again in May to still portions of the Yakima River and adjacent ponds.
Red-necked Grebe. Very uncommon fall migrant to quieter portions of the Yakima River and adjacent ponds.
Eared Grebe. Rare to very uncommon migrant, mainly fall.
Western Grebe. Uncommon post-breeding visitor, noted mid-July through October.
Double-crested Cormorant. Rare post-breeding wanderer, mainly late August through September. Birds which show up in the Yakima River Canyon area likely come from the large breeding population around the Potholes Reservoir.
American Bittern. Occasional visitor March through September to stands of reed canarygrass, common reed and cattail.
Great Blue Heron. Common visitor, mostly fall through spring. Uncommon in summer perhaps due to disturbance from the large number of human visitors. Birds from the significant rookery to the south in Selah may forage in the canyon. Hard winter freezes also prompt withdrawal from the canyon.
Great Egret. Very rare visitor. Recorded May 16, 1986, at the south end of canyon; also recorded late spring in nearby Yakima. An increasing breeding population on Potholes Reservoir (35 pairs in 1991) may gradually increase sightings in the Yakima-Ellensburg region.
Green-backed Heron. Very rare visitor. Sighted May 14, 1987, at the north end of canyon.
Black-crowned Night Heron. Rare post-breeding visitor, presumably from Potholes Reservoir colonies. Noted September and October.
Tundra Swan. Uncommon spring migrant, especially early to mid-March. Usually seen and heard flying high over the canyon on their passage north.
Canada Goose. Abundant spring migrant, numbers peaking mid-April, when noisy flocks move north by the hundreds daily, especially in the early morning hours. A few pairs remain to breed on quieter waters in the canyon. Occasional in winter, when mild conditions occur.
Wood Duck. Uncommon resident, spring through fall particularly in wooded riparian sloughs at north end of the canyon. Limited sloughs and treed backwaters in the canyon generally make this beautiful species of local occurrence here.
Green-winged Teal. Uncommon spring and fall migrant. Only occasionally seen "putting down" in the canyon.
Mallard. Common spring and fall migrant. Appears in February as conditions permit. Flocks of hundreds arrive annually at Selah and Ellensburg when ice breaks up in late winter. Breeds in the canyon where quiet waters allow and also occasionally at some distance from water in the shrub-steppe. Generally uncommon in winter.
Northern Pintail. Common migrant through region, though seldom "setting down" in the canyon proper. Common in March on large ponds in Ellensburg and Selah, as the species moves north. Less common in late August through September when heading south.
Blue-winged Teal. Uncommon summer visitor and possible breeder mid-April through late August.
Cinnamon Teal. Fairly common late spring to early summer resident on sloughs. Probably breeds.
Northern Shoveler. Migrant through the canyon, seasonally fairly common both at Ellensburg and in Selah.
Gadwall. Uncommon spring and fall migrant with other dabbling ducks. Occasional in mild winters.
American Wigeon. Fairly common spring and fall visitor on the river and its backwaters.
Canvasback. Uncommon spring and fall migrant, rare in early winter.
Redhead. Uncommon spring and fall migrant, occasional summer visitor. Breeds rarely in sloughs and backwaters of the Yakima River. Rare winter visitor.
Ring-necked Duck. Uncommon spring and fall migrant; stays as long as there is open water in early winter. Usually the most common diving duck on large ponds in the area.
Greater Scaup. Rare late fall and early spring migrant. Generally considered a coastal species. There is, however, increasing evidence the Greater Scaup is common on large inland bodies of water, such as the Columbia River and the Coulee Lakes north of the Yakima Canyon. Thus, any flock of Lesser Scaup, especially those in early spring should be checked for this often difficult-to-identify species.
Lesser Scaup. Uncommon spring and fall migrant. Rare in winter if open water persists.
Oldsquaw. Very rare late fall visitor to quiet waters, recorded on Thorp "freeway" ponds, October 20, 1990.
Surf Scoter. Rare visitor to quiet waters, especially larger "freeway" ponds both north and south of canyon. Recorded October 20-23, 1990. Five October records from "freeway ponds" in Yakima area.
White-winged Scoter. Rare visitor to quiet waters, especially larger "freeway" ponds both north and south of the canyon. Recorded October 23-24, 1990.
Common Goldeneye. Fairly common visitor from November through mid-March. A hardy and conspicuous winter bird, especially when the river becomes ice-choked.
Barrow's Goldeneye. Although this striking species is fairly common from March through September on Cascade lakes and ponds, it seems very rare east of the mountains save locally in winter on the Columbia River. There are a few winter records from nearby Ellensburg and south at the Selah Ponds, but as yet, none from the Yakima Canyon.
Bufflehead. Uncommon spring and fall migrant. Rare in winter if open water persists.
Hooded Merganser. Uncommon to rare fall migrant.
Common Merganser. Resident, but more common fall through spring. Scarce only during the hardest freezes when the river can mostly freeze over. Breeds in cavities in large trees by the river or in caves high on the basalt cliffs. One female observed entering a small cave May 18, 1989 about 100 meters above the talus slope, presumably its nesting site. Broods commonly observed competing with rafters for river space in late July to early August.
Ruddy Duck. Uncommon visitor and possible breeder from mid-April through October.
Turkey Vulture. Surprisingly rare. Very occasionally observed in early spring (April) when moving north and again in September when southbound. More common just to the southwest along the eastern foothills of the Cascades where rangeland is typically interspersed with brushy habitats.
Osprey. This magnificent fishing hawk is an uncommon spring and fall migrant in the Yakima Canyon. Often mistaken for Bald Eagles in this area, this species does not actually breed in the canyon. In Ellensburg and near Selah, the Osprey nests on utility poles. The local power company has been sympathetic with Ospreys taking up residence on their structures. In several cases, the utility companies have moved the poles to safer locationsboth for the birds and the utility consumer!
Bald Eagle. From early November through early April, migrants from the north patrol the Yakima River and cliffs. These magnificent birds have become a tourist attraction, attracting notice of many folks only casually interested in birds. There is some evidence that the winter population is increasing. The early January counts by the Yakima Valley Audubon Society have shown a slow, but noticeable gain. From 1978 to 1990, average total counts of bald eagles noted in this count increased from 7-8 to 11-16. This may reflect the concerted fish enhancement efforts ongoing along the Yakima River. Usually, early winter is the period of maximum counts. Numbers diminish by February. Both adults and immatures are noted. There is an increase in numbers in late February through mid-March as birds from the south are migrating north, some through the canyon. Although this species is mostly limited to the Yakima River, many soar and patrol over the surrounding cliffs. Birds in March are often far from water. At this time, they are likely to be attracted to afterbirth from spring calving on the surrounding rangelands.
Northern Harrier. Common spring and fall migrant over grasslands of the adjacent shrub-steppe. A few pairs breed in these grasslands both west and east of the canyon. Most withdraw from the canyon in winter to adjacent agricultural areas or perhaps southward.
Sharp-shinned Hawk. Common fall and spring migrant. A few may winter, but generally its chief prey items, small songbirds, are not common in mid-winter in the canyon; thus, this small hawk leaves also.
Cooper's Hawk. Uncommon visitor spring through fall. Usually the only accipiter in winter in the canyon proper.
Northern Goshawk. A rare bird in the canyon. Reported by Monk (1976). To be expected, especially October through early March.
Swainson's Hawk. Fairly common visitor mid-April through early August in the higher shrub-steppe bordering the river. Higher and presumably well-watered areas of the Yakima Firing Center have a small breeding population as does the lower Wenas Valley and surrounding grasslands. Usually nests in small trees in well-watered copses amidst the lusher, higher shrub-steppe.
Red-tailed Hawk. Common from March through October, uncommon to rare in mid-winter, depending on the severity of the winter. The Red-tailed Hawk is the most common large hawk breeding in the Yakima Canyon. Estimates of breeding pairs range from 20-25 in the main canyon and surrounding area. Nests are mainly on cliffs in the canyon, but a few occupy trees. There is a definite space partitioning between the Red-tailed Hawk and Golden Eagle in this area. Red-tail nests are invariably well-spaced from the eagle's eyries. For example, a pair of Golden Eagles nesting on Mt. Baldy very rarely cross the river to the west which is traditionally occupied by a pair of Red-tailed Hawks and vice versa. The eagles range east from their eyrie, the Red-tails west with the river apparently forming a territorial boundary.
Ferruginous Hawk. A few pairs breed adjacent to the Yakima Canyon on the Yakima Firing Center, in their favored habitat: large expanses of shrub-steppe. It is a species not attracted to high cliff and talus habitats, but rather extensive open tracts where rodents abound so they are predictably absent from the canyon proper. This magnificent raptor is at the edge of its range here. This area's pronounced summer drought may restrict prey availability. The eastern edge of Washington typically has more summer rain, and rodent activity may be extended, allowing this species to breed more regularly.
Rough-legged Hawk. Occasional winter visitor or migrant through the canyon. A common winter visitor in agricultural fields in the Ellensburg area and on the wheatlands to the west of the canyon on the Wenas Road.
Golden Eagle. Fairly common resident. Four to five pairs breed in the canyon and surrounding areas. Perhaps the breeding birds remain in their territories year-round. There is, however a definite influx of migrants in March-early April and again in September-October. Most birds nesting on the east side of the canyon utilize the open shrub-steppe to the east. Particularly attractive to them are the black-tailed and white-tailed jackrabbits on the Yakima Firing Center and adjacent ranches. Perhaps only one pair nesting on Umtanum Creek ranges west to the Cascade foothills.
American Kestrel.The most common breeding raptor in the area. Conservative estimates indicate 85-100 breeding pairs use the canyon and its feeder streams and gulches. Their arrival in numbers in April coincides with warming temperatures and presumably greater availability of larger insects and rodents. Rare to absent in winter. Many occupy cavities in large cottonwoods and also nest in clefts and cavities in the cliffs.
Merlin. A rare migrant, occasionally seen dashing along the canyon walls, particularly in fall. To be looked for in agricultural areas where concentrations of blackbirds, starlings or House Sparrows occur.
Peregrine Falcon. Often reported from the area, but I know of no verifiable records. To be expected in spring and again in fall migrations.
Prairie Falcon. Fairly common breeder, utilizing the cliff caves and ledges for nesting. Forages widely over open shrub-steppe and irrigated agricultural areas for rodents and small birds (Horned Larks and Western Meadowlarks may be common prey). Perhaps irregular in its nesting success due to cycles in ground squirrel populations. In 1984, for example, 15 fledged from three nests on one cliff at the south end of the canyon. A year later, only three fledged from one nest. Not usually seen in mid-winter, the first males return to their cliff-side territories in late January and begin active courtship a month later. March and April visitors to the canyon often witness the incredible dives and shrill "kekking" of birds in courtship display. In most years, the young have fledged by mid-June. Thus, the Prairie Falcon times its breeding cycle admirably to the shrub-steppe's most verdant period. By late June, most birds have departed to higher elevations, becoming fairly common in the alpine meadows of the Cascades by August. Late fall brings a few birds to the canyon's surrounding shrub-steppe and more birds to the agricultural areas for wintering.
Gray Partridge. Common resident near the canyon and open terrain of the Yakima Firing Center.
Chukar. Common resident of the steeper terrain, including talus slopes and adjacent steep draws and brush. An elusive species generally, due to hunting pressure, though often found by roadsides gathering grit or heard "ruck-a-ruck-a-rucking" from basalt cliffs. In some years, rainy weather during the breeding period may cause low breeding success.
Ring-necked Pheasant. Fairly common resident in brushy areas of the canyon, particularly those adjacent to agricultural areas.
Ruffed Grouse. Sparse resident of extensive riparian areas of the canyon. Perhaps formerly more common.
Sage Grouse. Uncommon resident of extensive shrub-steppe areas, mainly east of the canyon. The population on the Yakima Firing Center may be somewhat secure with concerted conservation efforts. An estimate made in the spring of 1991 by Yakima Firing Center biologists indicates a population of 150 to 300 individualsa gradual decline from previous counts. Eleven lekking sites occupied from late February through March are active. However, most activity is on four major leks. An unknown number of Sage Grouse occur west of I-82 and north of Squaw Creek on the private Eaton Ranch. Also, there are persistent but unconfirmed reports of a remnant group of grouse to the west of the Yakima River in the Roza Creek drainage and north of Umtanum Creek. These birds have been seen from Durr Road as late as the mid-1980s.
Wild Turkey. "Rio Grande" types were released in the canyon in 1987 and may have become established. Certainly, the adjacent Wenas population seems to be thriving, though many have spread to other nearby drainage areas, usually where oaks are common.
California Quail. Common resident of riparian vegetation and brushy shrub-steppe, venturing into grasslands occasionally.
Virginia Rail. Fairly common spring through fall resident and breeder in the local areas of marsh vegetation in the canyon. A few remain into early winter if conditions are not too severe.
Sora. Uncommon spring through fall. Perhaps breeding in the localized areas of marsh vegetation, especially north of the Roza Dam.
American Coot. Uncommon visitor, spring through fall. Perhaps breeding on quiet waters in the canyon.
Sandhill Crane. Uncommon or irregular spring through fall migrant, late March through early May. Usually noted high overhead, most often in early afternoon. Much of the spring migration in south-central Washington is east of the canyon, passing north over the region near the Columbia River where wheatlands provide extensive stubble. Autumn migration is also usually to the east in the environs of the Columbia River or east to the wheatlands of the Palouse area.
Semipalmated Plover. Rare spring and fall migrant to mudflats and lakeshores.
Killdeer. Common spring through fall visitor and breeder. Often associated with irrigated areas. Arrives very early to its breeding areas, the first birds noisily announcing their presence in mid to late February.
Greater Yellowlegs. Uncommon in spring (mainly April), more common in fall migration (mid-June through September).
Lesser Yellowlegs. A very occasional spring migrant, usually later than the Greater Yellowlegs. Regular in the fall, though still uncommon here. August is the peak of the "fall" migration
Solitary Sandpiper. An occasional "fall" migrant. Peak period when this bird of Canada's muskeg is expected locally is in the third week of August.
Spotted Sandpiper. Conspicuous visitor, common from spring through fall along the Yakima River. Likely breeds, as "agitated" behavior is commonly noted during late spring through early summer.
Long-billed Curlew. Uncommon but conspicuous visitor and breeder, late March through early July on grasslands of the shrub-steppe west and east of the canyon. The haunting cries of this extraordinary shorebird are a vanishing feature of the shrub-steppe, and conservation measures will be necessary to preserve this species. Vacates the area as the summer drought and heat intensify, leaving for the coastal estuaries where it spends the balance of the year.
Western Sandpiper. Uncommon spring visitor, mainly mid-April through early May to muddy and sandy river or pond margins. More common in "fall," August through September.
Least Sandpiper. Uncommon spring migrant, more common on its southbound migration in August and early September.
Baird's Sandpiper. Uncommon "fall" migrant, noted from mid-July through mid-September.
Pectoral Sandpiper. Rare to uncommon fall migrant. Noted late August through September.
Stilt Sandpiper. Occasional to rare fall migrant, late August and early September.
Long-billed Dowitcher. Uncommon spring and fall migrant. Look for the species in flooded pastures in this area, often with yellowlegs.
Common Snipe. Fairly common spring through fall, rare in winter. Usually associated with wet, irrigated sites or in the very limited areas of marsh vegetation.
Wilson's Phalarope. Rare visitor, from late April through mid-July.
Red-necked Phalarope. Occasional to rare spring migrant, occasional to uncommon in fall migration. The third week of August is perhaps the peak of the southbound movement.
Bonaparte's Gull. Rare spring and fall visitor.
Ring-billed Gull. Common visitor, late March through early September along the river and adjacent agricultural lands. Does not breed locally, but thousands nest nearby on the Potholes Reservoir.
California Gull. Common visitor, late April through October along the river. Does not breed locally, but thousands nest nearby on the Potholes Reservoir.
Herring Gull. Rare winter visitor.
Caspian Tern. Uncommon visitor from August through September. Most likely post-breeding dispersal from the breeding populations on Potholes Reservoir.
Common Tern. Occasional fall migrant.
Forster's Tern. Occasional visitor, possible from mid-April through mid-September.
Rock Dove. Mostly resident, spring through fall, nesting in caves and ledges of the cliffs of the canyon. Occasional in winter.
Mourning Dove. Common March through September. Characteristic breeder of the brushy draws and riparian zones.
Barn-Owl. Perhaps an uncommon breeder about the irrigated hay and alfalfa lands in the canyon. Rare to absent in winter.
Western Screech-Owl. Fairly common resident of the more extensive riparian tracts, particularly at the north end of the canyon. Status in winter not fully understood.
Great Horned Owl. Common resident throughout the canyon. Nests in small caves or ledges on the basalt cliffs of the canyon walls. An early breeder, many fledging on or about the end of May.
Burrowing Owl. Local and uncommon, especially to the west of the canyon where expanses of grassland with only a sparse cover of shrubs occur. Present early April through summer, nesting in burrows.
Short-eared Owl. Irregular visitor and breeder. This nomadic species is an opportunist. It can be absent or scarce over its favored grassland habitats when rodent populations are low or when deep snows occur. Or, it can be a conspicuous visitor, even breeding, when microtine populations increase. The canyon proper contains very little habitat; the deeper-soiled (hence lusher grasslands), gentle topography both west and east of the river are more attractive to this species.
Long-eared Owl. Occasional to rare visitor and possible breeder spring through fall. Occasionally, communal winter roosts are found in dense trees adjacent to rodent-rich open country.
Northern Saw-whet Owl. Uncommon breeder of the dense riparian habitats, particularly at the canyon's north end. Numbers augmented with arrival of mountain or northern birds in October. Favorable rodent populations will attract this highly migratory owl to stake out winter territories. Roosts in dense vegetation by day. Begins calling in March to attract a mate. Nests in cavities in cottonwoods, especially those excavated by Northern Flickers.
Common Nighthawk. Common summer resident. The arrival of this crepuscular aerial forager truly marks the beginning of summer. It is the last of the summer breeders to arrive, usually in the last days of May, and its presence here June through August denotes a period of great insect abundance upon which it depends. On cloudy days or perhaps when demands of growing young are greatest, it may be abroad by mid-day. Its penetrating "peent" call, often from high in the sky is often accompanied by resounding "swooshes" of rushing air as males perform courtship dives. Though nesting data is not available for the canyon, undoubtedly the nighthawk is a common breeder, usually choosing barren or open areas for nesting.
Common Poorwill. As with the Common Nighthawk, this is another crepuscular insect forager that is here only during the warmer months. Its exact status is not clear, but it can be heard calling from early May through early September. Perhaps assigning its status as "uncommon" in summer merely reflects intensity of calling. The soft mellow "poor-will-up" call is often, but erratically given by this species, particularly on warm nights. The species is perhaps more common at the forest-steppe margin to the west of the canyon.
Vaux's Swift. Rare spring migrant, mainly late April, usually seen when spring storms "ground" migrant flocks. Cool, rainy weather forces these birds to fly low for their insect prey. Rare again on their fall migration.
White-throated Swift. A common and characteristic spring and early summer visitor to cliffs of the Yakima Canyon. Arrives in late March in some years, conspicuous by April. Its "jee-jee-jee-jee" calls ring from many cliffsides through the warmest months. Much more difficult to detect by August when it has finished nesting and departed or has become less vocal.
Black-chinned Hummingbird. Status unclear. Perhaps an occasional summer resident, appearing in mid-May to well-watered brushy areas of the canyon. Neighboring Yakima Valley populations depart from their breeding habitats by mid to late August.
Calliope Hummingbird. Very uncommon spring migrant; most appear to slip through quietly. More conspicuous on their southbound flight, especially at feeders. Perhaps most pass southbound along the Cascade-Sierra axis.
Rufous Hummingbird. Rare spring visitor, more common in fall. Post-breeding southbound males appear in early to mid-July about feeders in the shrub-steppe. Most probably migrate along the mountain meadows and thus pass through this area unnoticed.
Belted Kingfisher. Fairly common resident of the canyon proper and on major feeder streams such as Umtanum Creek. Severe stream icing in winter forces the kingfisher south. This species' familiar noisy rattle and its habit of perching conspicuously above waters while searching for prey makes it an easily-learned denizen of the canyon. Nests in burrows in unconsolidated sediments or banks at river or stream edges.
Lewis' Woodpecker. Fairly common spring and summer breeder to the well-wooded northern portions of the canyon, often nesting in ponderosa pine snags. Also present near the forest-steppe margin to the west on Umtanum Creek.
Downy Woodpecker. Fairly common resident of riparian vegetation. Perhaps more common in winter when birds from higher elevations or from the north invade the canyon. In our area, this cute little woodpecker is often noted foraging on dead mullen (Verbascum thapsus) stalks that stand all winter.
Hairy Woodpecker. Irregular winter visitor to pine and riparian woodlands of the canyon. Resides just to the west of the canyon beginning at the forest-steppe margin.
White-headed Woodpecker. Rare winter visitor to cottonwoods and ponderosa pines in the canyon. A visitor from the montane forests just a short distance west.
Northern Flicker. Common resident of all riparian woodlands, venturing out into the adjacent shrub-steppe to forage. An early breeder, its loud drummings can be heard in March. This species is one of the most important primary cavity excavators in western North America, providing nesting and roosting sites for a wide variety of wildlife.
Olive-sided Flycatcher. Occasional spring migrant, particularly in May. Breeds to the west in mixed-conifer forests of the Cascades.
Western Wood-Pewee. A common and conspicuous species of the riparian edges in the canyon. Usually first arriving in late April, its "pe-urr" is a characteristic call from May through July in the streamside trees and brush.
Willow Flycatcher. Uncommon spring transient and breeding species of dense riparian habitats adjacent to marsh vegetation. As such vegetation types are scarce in the canyon, so is this species. The locally ubiquitous Brown-headed Cowbird is well documented as causing serious declines in this species' breeding success, which may further explain its rarity in the canyon. Fall movements are not well known, but apparently most leave in August.
Hammond's Flycatcher. An uncommon spring and fall migrant. Probably the earliest Empidonax to arrive from the south, there are several records from the second week of April, usually from riparian areas. These early arrivals may be waiting in the warmest parts of the canyon for conditions to moderate on their breeding sites upslope from the Yakima Canyon along the eastern slopes of the Cascades.
Dusky Flycatcher. Uncommon spring and early fall migrant to riparian and brushy draws in the canyon. Breeds just to the west of the canyon along the forest-steppe margin, particularly where willows and deerbrush (Ceanothus) form a multi-tiered vegetation stand with some larger trees.
Pacific-slope Flycatcher. Uncommon spring and fall migrant and breeder in denser riparian habitats of the canyon and tributaries. Recent study of this speciesthe "old" Western Flycatcherindicates this species may be present in our area, not the Cordilleran Flycatcher, as indicated by researchers in recent literature. The latter may be a more inland species.
Say's Phoebe. Along with robins, this flycatcher is the earliest migrant passerine noted in the Yakima Canyon. In some years, individuals may be present by the second week of February. Whether these earliest birds are here to breed or merely moving north is unknown. Uncommon as breeders here.
Ash-throated Flycatcher. A southern species, one or two pairs nesting in some years in the area. It is easiest to find just to the west of the Yakima Canyon nesting in boxes set out for bluebirds in habitats presumably wetter and hence brushier than those found in the canyon proper.
Western Kingbird. Common roadside species arriving in April and fledging young by early July throughout the area. A bird of open habitats, often utilizing wires for perching and placing its nest on insulators on poles.
Eastern Kingbird. Fairly common breeding species of the riparian vegetation along the Yakima River. Arrives in mid-May, fledges young by mid-July, interestingly at the same time as Western Kingbirds fledge, though arriving nearly a month later. A conspicuous and noisy species, often seen hovering over floaters and rafters in the Yakima Canyon.
Horned Lark. The characteristic passerine of the shrub-steppe in the Yakima Canyon area, but not of cliff or steep slope habitats. This species is a common resident in the area, but moves to agricultural areas both north and south of the Yakima Canyon, particularly wheat stubble fields during the deepest winter snows. As the snows melt, it returns, filling the steppe and gentle slopes with its tinkling calls and song by February. Nesting is commenced early, and several broods may be raised. Nesting takes place at the base of shrub-steppe vegetation and is amazingly well-hidden. It is inconspicuous during the hot summer months when the steppe bakes, becoming more vocal again in the fall, perhaps with an influx of birds from the north.
Tree Swallow. Uncommon breeder in the north end of the canyon where riparian woodlands reach their greatest density, providing numerous snags for nesting. Generally, the Tree Swallow favors wetter vegetation types such as montane or riparian meadows, so it is far more common just to the west in the Cascades. Otherwise, this beautiful swallow is mainly a fall visitor, sometimes in large numbers as it moves south. Birds in drab immature plumage predominate then.
Violet-green Swallow. In the Yakima Canyon, the dainty Violet-green Swallow is one of the earliest harbingers of spring. In some winters, warm southerly winds may bring "advance guards" (possibly males) by the third week of February. The species becomes steadily more conspicuous through April. Initially, the swallow is noted only at river level, where presumably insect concentrations are greatest. As the weather warms, it moves upslope, by May occupying all the rugged terrain in the canyon. Nests commonly on the canyon walls, often in proximity to White-throated Swifts. An early departer, most have left the canyon by mid-August.
Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Early to mid-April brings this drab and common denizen of riparian banks. Utilizes banks much like the Bank Swallow for nesting, but in small, loose colonies. Overgrazing in this area favor the continued formation of streamside banks for a long time to come, as rare floods sweep through the gullies.
Bank Swallow. Uncommon and local inhabitant of stream and riverside banks, often in large colonies. Usually present from the third week of April through August. Most such colonies are either at the south end of the canyon or to the north. The species is, however, fairly common in the canyon.
Cliff Swallow. Abundant breeding species all along the cliffs of the Yakima Canyon. Arrives in early April, fledges young by early July. Most depart south soon thereafter. Colonies are scattered throughout the length of the canyon where the river is edged by cliffs, and are conspicuous to floaters and rafters. The breeding population of this species in the canyon probably numbers in the thousands.
Barn Swallow. A familiar and common companion of man-made structures throughout the area. In the canyon, most often associated with irrigated pastures and ranch outbuildings or near bridges. Arrives in April, departs in September, often raising two broods.
Steller's Jay. Rare fall and perhaps occasional winter visitor to brushy and riparian vegetation from the coniferous forests just to the west in the Cascade Mountains.
Clark's Nutcracker. Irregular fall and winter visitor to ponderosa pines in the canyon. This raucous species may visit the pines in the canyon only when pine seed crops fail in the adjacent Cascades.
Black-billed Magpie. Common and conspicuous resident throughout the canyon. Indeed, one of the canyon's characteristic species. Usually associated with brushy habitats or the edges of agricultural areas. Constructs a large, ball-shaped nest, often used by various raptor species, especially owls, the following year as nesting platforms. On winter afternoons, flights of magpies enroute to their roosts often number in the hundreds and reveal just how common this bird is.
American Crow. Uncommon visitor, especially in fall migration. Common spring through fall, less so in winter both north and south of the canyon in agricultural areas and urban areas of Ellensburg, Selah and Yakima.
Common Raven. A characteristic and common resident of the Yakima Canyon. Nests on cliffs and in trees, uses man-made structures such as utility poles or under bridges. Ranges widely over adjacent shrub-steppe. Its dawn patrols of highways for roadkills make this a conspicuous species. A major predator of Sage Grouse nests and young in the area.
Black-capped Chickadee. Common resident of riparian and dense brushy habitats. A conspicuous species during the harshest winter weather. During the short, gray days of winter, Black-capped Chickadees, Golden-crowned Kinglets and juncos form mixed species flocks in riparian habitats. Early in spring, the "fee-bee" of males is a characteristic song of the leafless woodlands. Commonly nests in holes of cottonwoods in this area.
Mountain Chickadee. Irregular winter visitor to pines and riparian areas in the Yakima Canyon. Some years witness definite "invasions" to the lowlands from the Cascade Mountains. Usually associates with kinglets, Red-breasted Nuthatches or Black-capped Chickadees.
Chestnut-backed Chickadee. Irregular winter visitor to pines in the canyon. Usually associated with kinglets, Red-breasted Nuthatches or Black-capped Chickadees.
Bushtit. A recent arrival. One bird seen leaving a nest at the mouth of Umtanum Canyon on April 4, 1992. Three other birds noted in the vicinity. These may represent a recent range expansion of this species from either a small population along Satus Creek or from west-of-the-Cascades birds coming over Snoqualmie Pass.
Red-breasted Nuthatch. An irregular visitor, especially from July through late fall, occasionally through winter. Usually noted from stands of ponderosa pine though sometimes associates with Black-capped Chickadees and Golden-crowned Kinglets in loose winter flocks.
White-breasted Nuthatch. Irregular fall and winter visitor to pines and riparian woodlands of the canyon.
Brown Creeper. Very uncommon spring and fall visitor to tall cottonwoods and other trees.
Rock Wren. Common summer resident, occupying talus and steep rocky slopes. Begins arriving in March and becomes steadily more conspicuous due to its incessant calling through the spring. Due to its coloration and pattern, it generally is difficult to see among the basalt talus and rocky slopes. It is only by learning this species' calls and song that a better appreciation of its abundance is gained. By July, it becomes quieter and thus less conspicuous. The Rock Wren may winter very rarely, particularly if mild conditions prevail.
Canyon Wren. Uncommon resident of cliffs throughout the canyon. Usually associated with cliffs near water but perhaps dependent more on shady clefts and crannies where moister micro-habitats exist. The beautiful song of this species rings from the canyon walls beginning in late February in some years. When not singing, its presence is noted by a penetrating "zeet-zeet" call. Winter snows and ice seem to be no problem for the Canyon Wren, but periods of prolonged Arctic cold may cause high mortality, and a number of years may elapse before numbers rebuild.
House Wren. Common summer visitor, arriving in April and departing by early September, occasionally later. A cavity- nesting species, many have occupied boxes set out for bluebirds in the adjacent Wenas area.
Winter Wren. Uncommon spring and fall migrant, rare in winter. From mid-March through early April, and again in September and October, dense tangles of brush are likely to harbor this scolding mite. It is easily detected by its persistent staccato "kip-kip-kip" calls. The Winter Wren moves upslope or north to breed in montane or subalpine zones.
Marsh Wren. Uncommon summer resident of marsh vegetation. This is a scarce habitat in the Yakima Canyon, which accounts for this species general absence. It is far more common in such habitats both north and south of the canyon.
American Dipper. Uncommon winter visitor, perhaps regular in only the harshest of conditions, when Arctic cold snaps freeze much open water at higher elevations. Breeds just north of the Yakima Canyon in the Ellensburg area.
Golden-crowned Kinglet. Common spring (March-April) and fall (mid-September through October) migrant, less common winter visitor to riparian communities. A remarkable "birdlet." Encountering a mixed winter flock of kinglets and chickadees on cold winter days raises questions as to how these tiny insectivores brave such conditions. Bark gleaning for dormant insects and their larvae may be the answer.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Common spring migrant. Present from early March through mid-May. Migrating males often sing their extraordinary song in this area. Fall migrant also, though usually less common. Very rare in winter north of Union Gap in this area.
Western Bluebird. Common breeding species of the forest-steppe margin just west of the Yakima Canyon. In the canyon proper, occasional small flocks are noted in the first part of March on migration. The bluebird box program along the Wenas Road sponsored by the Yakima Valley Audubon Society has resulted in 400-500 fledged Western Bluebirds annually just west of the Yakima Canyon. This species is most common where open ponderosa pine is bordered by large openings.
Mountain Bluebird. Common breeding species, present from late February through summer on high, barren-appearing agricultural terrain. The bluebird box projects of the Yakima Valley Audubon Society on the high shrub-steppe and adjacent wheatlands just to the west of the Yakima Canyon have been fledging 300-500 Mountain Bluebirds annually.
Townsend's Solitaire. Fairly common, though irregular visitor, fall through spring to brushy, berry-producing habitats of the canyon area. Most easily found by its mellow, somewhat Pygmy Owl-like "toot-toot," or its beautiful song, given even in winter. This thrush breeds along the eastern Cascade slopes, particularly in the mixed-conifer belt where south?facing openings occur.
Veery. Occasional late spring through summer visitor. May breed in the moistest canyon thickets, but much more common just west of this area.
Swainson's Thrush. Fairly common spring migrant (mid-May to early June) in riparian habitats in the canyon. Some extensive riparian habitats may harbor a small breeding population, particularly at the canyon's north end. A common breeding species, just to the west in suitable habitat, for example, in the Wenas area. Fall migration is somewhat a mystery. They seem to slip south quietly.
Hermit Thrush. The Hermit Thrush is a common spring and fall migrant to dense thickets in the canyon. It is, in contrast to the Swainson's Thrush, a hardy species, arriving a full two months earlier.
American Robin. Primarily a spring and fall migrant, though a small breeding population occurs about the few farm homes and adjacent agricultural fields. Spring migrants are conspicuous by the end of February with the bulk of the movement over by mid-March. The fall movement is much less conspicuous.
Varied Thrush. Known as the Northwest's "mountain robin." Appears in the fall, usually in October about any berry-producing food source, particularly where there is adequate cover. It can be fairly common, but is usually inconspicuous. The Varied Thrush has a distinctive, if haunting call, a symbol of the Northwest's cool forests. Feeble calling occurs even on cold winter days, particularly at dawn and dusk. Most merely pass through the canyon area, but a few remain for the winter in mild years. It is much less noticeable in spring.
Gray Catbird. Uncommon skulker of dense thickets usually associated with riparian areas. The Gray Catbird arrives late in spring, usually after mid-May and departs early for its southern wintering grounds. It advertises its presence with a prolonged and rather typical thrasher-like warble.
Sage Thrasher. Fairly common species in the limited tract of bitterbrush/sage habitat west and east of the Yakima Canyon. Particularly on the Wenas Road east of the forest-steppe margin, the beautiful song of this species rings from the shrub-steppe on spring days, after its arrival in early to mid-April. This species becomes very inconspicuous after breeding, having either become difficult to detect due to cessation of singing or having slipped south to its wintering grounds in the American southwest.
Water Pipit. The Water Pipit has a remarkably compressed spring migration in this area. It seems to be between April 15-25 every year. For this short period, they are conspicuous as they fly north, often high overhead, uttering their "sip-it" calls. A few days later, they have disappeared as there is little suitable habitat in the canyon proper to tempt them to linger. In the Yakima Valley to the south and in the Kittitas Valley to the north, they often "put-down" in wet agricultural fields for a short refueling stint. Then they are gone to their northern or alpine breeding haunts until late September, when they again appear briefly.
Bohemian Waxwing. Ellensburg and the eastern slopes of the Cascades in this part of Washington seem to be the usual southern limit for roving winter flocks of this sleek beauty. In some winters, a few flocks will move south through the canyon to abundant berry and fruit sources in the Yakima area during December and January.
Cedar Waxwing. Common summer bird, arriving usually after mid-May. Many are probably moving north, but a few may stay to nest in suitable berry-rich draws and riparian habitats. Most depart south by September, but a few winter irregularly in Ellensburg and Yakima.
Northern Shrike. Late October brings this visitor from the boreal woodlands of Canada and Alaska. Through the winter, it takes up territories with high perches to search for prey, much like a bird of prey. Indeed, this hook-billed passerine is a predator, capturing rodents and small birds. Utility wires are favored lookouts. By late March, most have departed to their northern haunts.
Loggerhead Shrike. The Loggerhead Shrike replaces the Northern Shrike as the Yakima Canyon area's breeding shrike. April through late August finds this darker-backed species inhabiting shrub-steppe areas. Preferred habitat locally seems to be one that includes an abundance of breeding "desert" sparrows. This species typically perches low on shrubs, but does use utility wires.
European Starling. Common resident, but much more numerous spring through fall. Breeds in crannies on the extensive basalt cliffs and commonly in cottonwood snags where it aggressively out-competes other cavity nesting species.
Solitary Vireo. Uncommon spring and fall migrant to riparian habitats.
Red-eyed Vireo. Perhaps a rare late spring migrant and possible breeder to extensive riparian woodlands. Status unclear.
Warbling Vireo. Common migrant, spring and fall. Some breed in the denser tracts of riparian woodland.
Orange-crowned Warbler. Common spring and fall migrant. Arrives by mid-April. The fall influx is by late August with lingerers noted through late September. Some breed in the limited suitable breeding habitat: dense areas of brush, often on the fringe of riparian areas.
Nashville Warbler. Common spring and fall migrant. Arrives by mid-April, fall influx by late August. The Nashville Warbler breeds commonly just to the west in moister regimes. The dense Ceanothus and willow thickets along the east slopes of the Cascades provide abundant breeding habitat.
Yellow Warbler. Common migrant and breeding species in riparian habitats throughout the Yakima Canyon. Arriving in late April to early May, the sweet song of this species is a characteristic part of the riparian chorus in the area. It is hoped this species can successfully withstand the increasing pressure from cowbirds who now commonly parasitize this species' nests.
Yellow-rumped Warbler. The first warbler noted in spring in the Yakima Canyon. Loud "chip" notes betray its presence in treed areas by early to mid-April each year. Remaining conspicuous and common through April until either moving north or upslope to its montane breeding habitats. Common again in fall. Most individuals are of the "Audubon's" type. A few fall, early winter and spring birds will be of the "Myrtle" type, distinguishable by a slightly more metallic "chip" note and plumage differences. The species is generally absent from the area in mid-winter, its usual northern range being mature pear and apple orchards south of Yakima.
Townsend's Warbler. The typical breeding warbler of cool and moist Northwest forests. In late April through early May, however, it is fairly common as a migrant through the Yakima Canyon. Usually stays high in the trees. Fall migration of the Townsend's Warbler is later than many of the other warblers in this area. Good numbers will still be moving through in late September, two to three weeks later than most other warblers in the canyon.
MacGillivray's Warbler. Fairly common spring migrant, usually detected by its clocklike "tick." May breed in the moistest and densest of riparian brushlands, though more regular in such habitats just west of the Yakima Canyon along the east slopes of the Cascades.
Common Yellowthroat. Uncommon breeding species and spring and fall migrant in the few limited tracts of cattails present in the Yakima Canyon. Absent in winter.
Wilson's Warbler. This bright little gem is the most conspicuous spring migrant of the warbler clan in the Yakima Canyon area. It appears in late April and is common through the first half of May in all riparian and shrub communities. Males give their "chet-chet-chet" song frequently at this time. Much less common in the lowlands in fall when there are more abundant foraging possibilities along the lush subalpine willow and mountain ash thickets and meadows, rather than in the parched shrub-steppe.
Yellow-breasted Chat. A very localized and uncommon summer resident of dense riparian habitats of the canyon. Most easily located by its varied and loud calls and song, given even at night.
Western Tanager. Common spring migrant through treed habitats in the canyon area, appearing late April and continuing through early May. Its breeding haunts are close at hand, in the montane forests along the east slopes of the Cascades. Fall migration in August and September finds this species less common in the lowlands. Perhaps many move south at higher altitudes.
Black-headed Grosbeak. Common summer resident in tall riparian communities throughout the canyon, arriving in May and fledging young by mid-July. Throughout June, the males sing an unhurried and very melodious robin-like song persistently from the tall cottonwoods. They depart for southern climes by late August and thus, along with the Northern Oriole and Gray Catbird, are one of the true summer birds.
Lazuli Bunting. The first week of May brings males in advance of their mates to their breeding habitats in the canyon. Common in spring and summer in shrub communities with serviceberry, squaw currant and elderberry, often those draping the base of talus slopes. The male Lazuli Bunting is one of the most persistent of canyon singers, singing through the hottest parts of the day on occasion. This species departs south by mid-August.
Rufous-sided Towhee. This "ground scratcher" is characteristic of shrub and dense riparian thickets, often at some distance from water. Arriving early in the spring, males are singing on territory by mid-March. Most depart southward in fall, though a few remain to forage in the densest underbrush where snow seldom falls, and a supply of seeds is available on bare ground.
American Tree Sparrow. Rare winter visitor to brushy shrub-steppe or agricultural areas.
Chipping Sparrow. Uncommon species spring through fall in the Yakima Canyon area. The Chipping Sparrow is very common during this period just west in the forested habitats along the east slopes of the Cascades. Birds seen here are probably migrants, though a few breeding season records indicate some may nest in treed portions of the canyon.
Brewer's Sparrow. The remarkable trills and buzzes of the Brewer's Sparrow song are a good candidate for the most fantastic vocalization of the shrub steppe. How such a little mite can gush forth such a prolonged and variable performance! Males arrive by mid-April to moister tracts of the shrub-steppe than are occupied by most sparrows. Its favored stands have bitterbrush, sagebrush and a good coverage of bluebunch wheatgrass. This habitat is common high on north sides of all the west-east trending ridges above the canyon. A stiff hike is necessary to see and hear this species in the canyon. Late July and early August find this sparrow joining others of the "desert" sparrow clan in mixed species flocks which migrate to the high deserts of the southwest.
Vesper's Sparrow. Probably the most common of the shrub-steppe sparrows in the Yakima Canyon area. To see it, however, one must climb to the high west-east trending ridges. On those north slopes grows a lush native grassland predominated by bluebunch wheatgrass and often a lush growth of herbaceous species, such as lupine, various Lomatiums, and paintbrushes. This is favored Vesper Sparrow habitat. All during April and May and into June, males sing their energetic song, which resembles that of the Song Sparrow. It arrives from its wintering grounds in the interior southwest by late March and departs by the end of August.
Lark Sparrow. Fairly common summer resident to brushy rangeland. Usually found in our area near stockyards.
Sage Sparrow. The Sage Sparrow is somewhat of an enigma. While certain tracts of sagebrush attract this sage-obligate sparrow, the species is completely absent from other areas that would appear to contain suitable habitat. Look for this uncommon species adjacent to the Yakima Canyon wherever extensive shrub-steppe habitat occurs, particularly if sagebrush is abundant. If the necessary habitat is present, this bird will be on territory from mid-March through late June. Males habitually sing their pleasing, if somewhat scratchy songs from the tops of tall sagebrush. Prior to migration in late summer, flocks of "desert" sparrows (Brewer's, Vesper, Lark and Sage) containing many drab appearing juvenile and immature birds can be seen roving the shrub-steppe prior to moving south.
Savannah Sparrow. Common summer resident (March through September) in extensive areas of grassland, irrigated or native. As there is a rarity of pure grasslands in the canyon area, most birds breeding locally are attracted to irrigated pastures, particularly alfalfa. More conspicuous in fall migration when northern birds are pouring south.
Fox Sparrow. The large and rusty-tailed Fox Sparrow is an occasional spring and fall migrant to this area. It is attracted to areas of dense brush. Thus, riparian zones are favored habitats. A small breeding population inhabits the Ceanothus on north slopes just west of the Yakima Canyon in the Wenas area. Otherwise, the main breeding areas are in subalpine forest openings where the trees have "skirts." Such habitats are common along the Cascade Crest and northward in Canada.
Song Sparrow. Very common and characteristic denizen of riparian habitats. This sparrow's "chimp" is a familiar call-note wherever dense riparian brush occurs. Although mostly a resident species, there is some withdrawal from this area during winter.
Lincoln's Sparrow. Uncommon skulker, noted here mostly in April and again on its fall migration in September. The species breeds locally in damp, montane meadow edges along the east slopes of the Cascades and much more widely in Canada.
Golden-crowned Sparrow. Common spring migrant, especially in late April and early May. Peak numbers fill the brushy habitats of the Yakima Canyon after the main movement of White-crowned Sparrows. This species breeds exclusively in maritime and very snowy krumholz habitats of the Coast Mountains in British Columbia and Alaska, so late snow-melt there prevents the Golden-crowned Sparrow from occupying its breeding haunts early, as many sparrows do. Hence, this is the last of the north-bound sparrows passing through the canyon in spring. Rare in fall and early winter here, as the bulk of the population moves to moister, snow-free habitats west of the Cascades.
White-crowned Sparrow. Abundant migrant throughout April and less so in September and October in the Yakima Canyon. At times in mid-April, it seems every bush and fencerow is filled with the delightful song of western North America's most abundant "Zonotrichia. " Most are heading to the subarctic willow thickets of Alaska and Canada. It is uncommon in mild winters and mostly absent in harsher ones in the canyon.
Harris' Sparrow. Rare winter visitor, usually to areas frequented by White-crowned Sparrows.
Dark-eyed Junco. Abundant migrant, both spring and fall and a common winter visitor, especially in low-snow winters in the canyon. Beginning about mid-September, juncos from the Cascades and north fill the brushy and riparian habitats in the canyon. Many are merely passing through to more southerly areas, but some remain for the winter. Interestingly, the main passage of this species, often the most common breeding passerine of montane forests in western North America, is accompanied by the peak movement of Sharp-shinned Hawks.
Red-winged Blackbird. The first warm spells of late winter bring male Red-winged Blackbirds to their territories all along the Yakima River. The males announce their arrival with their braying songs. The females arrive several weeks later. They breed abundantly in every patch of river-side willows. This species is one of the most conspicuous and abundant birds of the riparian habitats until it departs south at summer's end.
Western Meadowlark. Perhaps the most common breeding species of the shrub-steppe habitats. From early March through late spring, the melodious flute-like notes of this pretty bird ring from every stretch of suitable grassland and patch of shrubs adjacent to grasslands. Early in the breeding cycle, males actively perform display flights uttering various clucking notes; territorial encounters are frequent. The species becomes much quieter by early summer, but there is a renewal of singing activity in early fall. This species vacates its breeding grounds during winter. Most migrate south, though a few linger around sources of abundant grain such as feedlots.
Yellow-headed Blackbird. Uncommon from mid-April to September in the limited cattail habitat, mostly at the south end of the canyon near the Roza Dam backwaters.
Brewer's Blackbird. Abundant farm and roadside species, arriving in early to mid-April to breed. Begins flocking in August and seeks agricultural fields, departing by mid-September. Breeds in seemingly every roadside patch of brush, often noted on the roadways.
Brown-headed Cowbird. Common summer resident. Most conspicuous late April through June when patrolling every patch of riparian vegetation, particularly those adjacent to open areas, for likely host nests for raising its young. Probable favored host species in the Yakima Canyon are Western Wood-Pewee, Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Lazuli Bunting, Rufous-sided Towhee, Red-winged Blackbird and American Goldfinch.
Northern Oriole. Common in riparian vegetation from early May through mid-August. Though strikingly colored, it can be inconspicuous in its typical breeding habitatthe tall cottonwoods. However, it is a vocal bird and once recognized, its various fluty calls will betray its presence. The hanging, gourd-shaped nests are inconspicuous during the breeding season, but when autumn leaves fall, the nests become very noticeable.
Rosy Finch. Uncommon winter visitor to the canyon from the adjacent alpine portions of the Cascade Mountains. Its wintering habitat requirements seem to be met locally, but this does not increase winter visits. While abundant cliffs and Cliff Swallow colonies provide holes for winter roosting in conjunction with extensive weedy areas for foraging, no appreciable numbers winter here. Instead, most winter observations come from areas farther east or adjacent to wheat country in eastern Washington. Cliffs near wheat country, particularly where grain trucks or trains frequently pass, are where the Rosy Finches seem to take up winter residence.
Pine Grosbeak. Irregular visitor, mainly mid-November through January. Usually detected by its call notes overhead.
Purple Finch. Irregular fall visitor, usually detected by its "tick" call note overhead.
Cassin's Finch. Occasional spring migrant and summer visitor, uncommon in fall migration. The Cassin's Finch is a characteristic and common species of montane habitats along the east slopes of the Cascades just west of the canyon. In its fall exodus from the mountains, numbers tend to be cycliccommon one year, particularly in late September and October, scarce in other years. It is most easily detected by its musical call notes high overhead: a musical "cheedle-eee" or "whee-you."
House Finch. Common resident of all weedy and agricultural areas of the canyon, particularly close to human habitation. This finch is an early breeder, with many on nests by mid-April. Multiple broods seem common. Fall finds this species forming flocks for the winter. In that season, they travel in search of abundant food sources, which can be far out in barren-appearing shrub-steppe habitats.
Red Crossbill. Irregular visitor, most often spring and late fall. Usually noted overhead giving its "jip-jip-jip" call while presumably searching for areas where abundant conifer seeds are present. Most often noted October-November. Irregularly common as a breeder just west in the ponderosa pine belt of the Cascades.
White-winged Crossbill. Recorded only once or twice during the most massive of its irregular outbreaks from the north. Recorded early winter.
Common Redpoll. Irregular visitor from November through February in streamside alder and birch trees. Absent most years; this is a truly unpredictable winter finch. Most often noted overhead where its distinctive "chet-chet-chet" flight call is often given.
Pine Siskin. Somewhat irregular, but usually common as a spring migrant, appearing again in fall and early winter. Breeds just to the west of the Yakima Canyon along the eastern slopes of the Cascades.
American Goldfinch. Common visitor, arriving late in spring and attracted to weedy areas. Breeding may not commence in earnest until June in this area. This species thus times its raising of young to coincide with a bountiful supply of seeds from brushy and weedy habitats. Fall brings the goldfinches a greatly expanded food supply when the white alder and water birch cones mature. Most depart by mid-winter, however, from the canyon area.
Evening Grosbeak. Irregular presence east of the Cascades here. It is perhaps most dependable during spring migration in April or May. Many pass high overhead, their ringing "cleer" calls giving away their identity. Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir forests just west of the Yakima Canyon can occasionally harbor this species in high numbers, particularly during outbreaks of spruce bud-worm.
House Sparrow. Common resident about farm outbuildings in the Yakima Canyon. As this is a rare "habitat" type locally, this sparrow is not abundant here. To the north and south, outside the canyon, this little pest is abundant.
Monk, G. 1976. Raptors of the Yakima Canyon. Dept. of Interior, Bureau of Land Management. Yakima Valley Audubon Society, PO Box 2803 Yakima, WA 98909
Stepniewski, Andrew. Washington, Spokane District, Birds of the Yakima River Canyon, Wenatchee Resource Area. No date. United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Spokane District. 23 Pages.This resource should be cited as:
Stepniewski, Andrew. Washington, Spokane District, Birds of the Yakima River Canyon, Wenatchee Resource Area. No date. United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Spokane District. 23 Pages. Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online. http://www.npwrc.usgs.govyakinfo.htm (Version 10JUL2001)