Seattle is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States and a center for many medical and tech companies. It’s also an excellent place for urban birding. Birders who travel to Seattle for work can easily snag a few lifers if they’re new to the Pacific Northwest, even without a car. For others, just knowing good places near downtown for a few hours of birding is a boon. King County, where Seattle sits, is ecologically diverse. It spans from true alpine habitat at just under 8,000 feet to Puget Sound at sea level, and it has a respectable Big Day record of 170. Theoretically, one could see White-tailed Ptarmigan and Long-tailed Duck in the same day. However, if you don’t have more than a few hours to bird, you can’t visit both alpine peaks and coastal expanses. Still, there is plenty to see.
I present here a quick and dirty list of places to hit if you show up with no plan, little time, and the desire to see a few new birds or know the best places to bird within spitting distance of downtown Seattle (possibly without a car). All the sites mentioned are in heavy use year-round. Don’t expect solitude or your time in the field to be free of dogs, runners, and other urban distractions. Fall through early spring is best for the majority of waterbirds and some of the native songbirds that disperse to higher elevations during the summer months to breed. Check eBird or the local birding listserv, Washington Tweeters, for the latest sightings. Access information within this article assumes a starting point in downtown Seattle.