What kinds of birds can you find in Crater Lake National Park?
This question is hard to answer because of the vast number of birds found in the park. Did you know there have been over 150 species recorded here? As you can imagine, there was no way to include this many birds in the below article. So instead, I tried to focus on the birds that are most regularly seen and observed.
Below I have listed the TEN birds you are most likely to find while visiting Crater Lake National Park.
#1. Clark’s Nutcracker
- Nucifraga columbiana
- Medium-sized grey bird with a long, dagger-like black bill and black wings.
- While in flight, you can see bright white tail feathers, along with white feathers at the end of their wings.
It’s fairly easy to spot one of these birds in Crater Lake National Park as long as you head to the correct habitat. Look for Clark’s Nutcrackers in coniferous forests in the mountains!
Their long beak is used to rip into pinecones to remove the seeds, which are mostly taken away to store and consume later. It’s estimated that Clark’s Nutcrackers stash away thousands of seeds each summer, which provides them food through winter. Amazingly, these intelligent birds remember where most pine seeds are hidden!
Clark’s Nutcracker Range Map
In fact, they hide so much food they are able to breed as early as January or February and rely ONLY on their cached food supply. As you can imagine, it is incredibly cold high up in the mountains during this time of year, so nothing is growing yet.
#2. Canada Jay / Gray Jay
- Perisoreus canadensis
- Paler grey on the belly. Darker gray on the backs.
- White cheeks, throat, and forehead.
- Short beak and a long tail.
It’s hard to describe a Canada Jay other than “cute.” These grey birds are smart and adapt easily in Crater Lake National Park to their surroundings, which allows them to consume almost anything.
Seriously, they have been observed eating the following weird things: ticks off the back of a moose, baby bats, amphibians, and baby birds, in addition to more normal foods like invertebrates, seeds, and berries.
Canada Jay Range Map
Another fascinating fact about them is that they raise their babies during late winter! Interestingly, they don’t attempt to raise a second brood of babies in May or June, which is when most other bird species have babies, and conditions seem more favorable.
So do you call this bird a Canada Jay or a Gray Jay?
Well, the correct name is now Canada Jay, as the name was changed in 2018 by the American Ornithological Society from the Gray Jay. But old habits die hard, and many birders in the United States still refer to this bold corvid as a Gray Jay.
#3. Steller’s Jay
- Cyanocitta stelleri
- Larger bird with a black head, rounded wings, and long tail. A tall black crest on the crown of the head helps identify them.
- Both sexes are half black, half blue on their wings, belly, and tail.
You will find the Steller’s Jay in Crater Lake National Park in evergreen forests. These bold birds often visit parks, campgrounds, and picnic areas.
Steller’s Jay Range Map
Steller’s Jays are very intelligent, bold, and noisy. They are known to even rob other nests for food, attacking or killing small adult birds like nuthatches or juncos.
Males and sometimes females have calls that sound like “shaack, shaack, shaack,” shooka, shooka.” Listen below.
#4. Cassin’s Finch
- Haemorhous cassinii
- Small finches with short-medium tails, streaked feathers, and thick bills.
- Males are rosy pink all over with more red on top of their heads.
- Females and young Cassin’s Finches are brown-and-white birds with dark streaks on the chest and underparts.
Male Cassin Finches get the red on the top of their head from eating colorful foods like the orange berries of firethorn plants. They also like shrubs with fruit, such as mulberry or grape bushes. Interestingly, they crave salt and are often found visiting deposits of minerals on the ground.
Cassin’s Finch Range Map
Their songs tend to imitate other birds, and both males and females sing. Listen below as a male Cassin’s Finch sings a joyful song with a fast series of short sounds.
#5. Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawks are one of the most prevalent birds of prey in Crater Lake National Park!
These large raptors are often seen soaring in the sky or perched on a fence post. The color of a Red-tailed Hawk’s plumage can be anything from nearly white to virtually black, so coloration is not a reliable indicator. The best way to identify them is by looking for their characteristic red tail. 🙂
Red-tailed Hawk Range Map
These hawks are highly adaptable, and there is no real description of their preferred habitats because they seem to be comfortable everywhere.
Red-tailed Hawks have impressive calls that are easily identified.
In fact, people are so enamored with their screams it’s common for directors to use the sounds of a Red-tailed Hawk to replace Bald Eagles that appear in movies. In case you have never heard one, Bald Eagles don’t make sounds that live up to their appearance (putting it nicely!)
#6. Western Tanager
- Piranga ludoviciana
- Adults are 6.3-7.5 in (16-19 cm) long and weigh 0.8-1.3 oz (23-37 g).
- Males are bright yellow with black wings and an orange-red head.
- Females are dusty yellow-green with gray wings.
Western Tanagers can be hard to spot because they spend much of their time in the upper canopy of open forests. However, if you see one of these yellow birds in Crater Lake National Park, you can identify a male by its fiery coloring. The orange-red head, yellow body, and black wings bear a striking resemblance to a burning fire.
Females are more understated, with a greenish-yellow body and gray wings.
#7. Eared Grebe
- Small grebe with a thin, straight, black bill. Bright red eyes.
- Breeding adults are mostly black but have beautiful golden feathers behind their eyes.
- Nonbreeding adults lack golden feathers. Mostly black with a grayish neck, white cheek patches, and white sides.
Eared Grebes are not only common water birds in Crater Lake National Park, but they are actually the most abundant grebe in the entire world!
Eared Grebe Range Map
Interestingly, every year when they molt, they are entirely flightless for around two months! But they are such poor fliers, it doesn’t really matter much, as they prefer to swim to get away from predators.
For a bird that doesn’t like to fly and isn’t very good at it, they sure do migrate a long way! They travel as much as 3,700 miles (6000 km) to reach their wintering feeding grounds. Interestingly, on their way south, the entire population of Eared Grebes stops in one of a few salt lakes (Great Salt Lake, Mono Lake) to fatten up on brine shrimp and alkali flies before migrating farther south.
Eared Grebes are generally quiet, except for during the breeding season, when it’s possible to hear a rising whistle that ends with a hiccup (ooEEK).
#8. Mountain Chickadee
If you want to find Mountain Chickadees in Crater Lake National Park, look for small birds with black heads and distinctive white eyebrows, which makes them fairly easy to identify.
Like other chickadee species, these birds are agile and curious. They are most often seen flitting from tree to tree in coniferous forests, searching for insects, spiders, seeds, and nuts.
Mountain Chickadee Range Map
Listen for them singing a 3-4 note descending whistle “fee-bee-bay” or “fee-bee-fee-bee.” Some people think it sounds like they are saying “cheeseburger!” Press PLAY below to hear a Mountain Chickadee!
#9. Bald Eagle
- Haliaeetus leucocephalus
The Bald Eagle is one of the most recognizable birds in Crater Lake National Park!
But did you know that the “Bald” portion of their name has nothing to do with not having feathers on their head? As you can clearly see, these eagles have white feathers covering their entire face with no bald spots anywhere. Their name actually stems from an Old English word “piebald,” which means “white patch” and refers to their bright white heads.
While almost everyone knows what a full-grown Bald Eagle looks like, trying to correctly identify juvenile birds is tricky. These eagles don’t get their characteristic white head and dark brown body until they are FIVE YEARS OLD. Until then, these birds have all sorts of different plumages and streaky browns and whites on their bodies. Even their beak changes color! It takes A LOT of practice and experience to identify young Bald Eagles properly!
Bald Eagle Range Map
The reason that Bald Eagles are found around water is that they mostly eat fish! Look for them around marshes, lakes, and rivers. The BEST areas are forests near large bodies of water that provide good fishing AND tall trees for nesting sites.
Did you know that Bald Eagles build the largest nests in the world?
Their nests start “small,” but eagles add new layers each year. The biggest one EVER found was 10 feet wide (3 meters) and 20 feet tall (6 meters) and weighed in at 3 tons! Bald Eagles would keep adding to their nests each year, but what happens is that the structures get so heavy they eventually fall out of the tree, and the birds have to start over.
The Bald Eagle probably doesn’t sound like what you think. If you imagine an intimidating eagle call, then you would be wrong. I think they sound more like a gull, with trills and little whistles. In fact, movie directors are so unimpressed with the sounds a Bald Eagle makes, it’s common for them to use the call of a Red-tailed Hawk instead for dramatic effect!
Press PLAY above to hear a Bald Eagle!
How to identify:
- Males have a bright green head, thin white collar, dark reddish-brown chest, yellow bill, and a black rump with a white-tipped tail.
- Females are mottled brown with orange and brown bills.
- Both sexes have purple-blue secondary feathers on their wing, which is most visible when they are standing or flying.
My guess is that almost everyone is familiar with the Mallard. These ducks are definitely one of the most common water birds in Crater Lake National Park!
Mallard Range Map
Mallards are extremely comfortable around people, which is why these adaptable ducks are so widespread. They are found in virtually any wetland habitat, no matter where it’s located.
When you think of a duck quacking, it is almost inevitably a female Mallard. If there is a better duck sound, we haven’t heard it! Interestingly, males do not quack like females but instead make a raspy call.
Which of these birds have you seen before in Crater Lake National Park?
Leave a comment below!
To learn more about other birds that live in Crater Lake National Park, check out these guides!
The range maps above were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!