What kinds of birds can you find in Mount Rainier 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 250 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 Mount Rainier National Park.
#1. 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 Mount Rainier 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.
#2. Sooty Grouse
- Dendragapus fuliginosus
- Males are mostly dark in color, with a yellow air sac in their throat, which is surrounded by white feathers. They also have a yellow patch of skin above their eye.
- Females have a mottled brown appearance with dark brown and white markings on their underparts.
To locate a Sooty Grouse in Mount Rainer N.P., it is important to have patience.
One effective approach is to move quietly on foot or drive through open coniferous woodlands during the spring season. In the early morning hours, you might encounter one walking along trails or roadsides, where they gather grit as part of their diet.
Sooty Grouse Range Map
During the day, Sooty Grouse spend their time resting and eating. They search for food on the ground, including plants and insects, and also in trees, where they eat leaves, needles, and buds, particularly in winter. In early spring, the males show off by perching in trees, making brief flights, and performing impressive displays on the ground.
Listen carefully for the distinctive DEEP hooting calls of the male grouse.
#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 evergreen forests in Mount Rainier National Park. 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. 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 Mount Rainier 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.
#5. Common Raven
- Corvus corax
- Large bird that is completely black, including its eyes and bill.
- The bill is hefty and thick.
- In flight, look for their wedge-shaped tail.
Ravens are one of the SMARTEST birds in Mount Rainier National Park!
Their intelligence makes them efficient predators, and it’s common for ravens to team up to get food, such as stealing eggs from nests or attacking larger prey.
Common Raven Range Map
Since they are so smart and adaptable, Common Ravens are found in many habitats in Mount Rainier National Park. Look for them living near the edges of towns. But ravens also have no problem living far away from civilization.
Common Ravens are impressive vocalists that make many different types of calls, from harsh grating calls to shrill alarm sounds. But the most common sound you will hear in the wild is a gurgling croak that rises in pitch.
Interestingly, they can mimic the sounds of many other bird species and even humans if raised in captivity.
#6. American Robin
- Turdus migratorius
- A beautiful thrush that features a rusty red breast and a dark head and back.
- Look for a white throat and white splotches around the eyes.
- Both sexes are similar, except that females appear paler.
American Robins are one of the most familiar birds in Mount Rainier National Park!
They inhabit a wide variety of habitats. These thrushes are comfortable around people and are common to see.
American Robin Range Map
Even though they are abundant, American Robins rarely visit bird feeders because they don’t eat seeds. Instead, their diet consists of invertebrates (worms, insects, snails) and fruit.
These birds also commonly nest near people. Look for an open cup-shaped nest that has 3-5 beautiful, distinctive sky blue color eggs. American Robins sing a string of clear whistles, which is a familiar sound in spring. (Listen below)
Many people describe the sound as sounding like the bird is saying “cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up.”
#7. Pacific Wren
Pacific Wrens are most commonly found in Mount Rainier National Park in coniferous forests, especially those with fir and spruce trees. These wrens are tiny with dark brown, barred upperparts and a light brown eyebrow. The tail is very short and will most likely be held upright.
Like most species of wrens, they eat insects, arthropods, and spiders. To find their prey, they mainly forage on the ground and along stream banks. Look for them hopping on logs and exposed roots as they are checking crevices and beneath bark for food.
Pacific Wren Range Map
The Pacific Wren is probably best known for their incredible singing abilities. Listen for a series of sweet mystical trills and chatters, which typically last between 5 and 10 seconds. They can string together as many as 50 phrases into one song!
Press PLAY above to hear a Pacific Wren!
#8. Pine Siskin
- Spinus pinus
- Both sexes are small, brown, and streaked with fine yellow edging on their wings and tails.
- Sharply pointed bill and a short, forked tail and long pointed wingtips.
- The only finch in Mount Rainier National Park where males and females look the same.
Pine Siskins are social and search for food in flocks while chirping nonstop to each other. They don’t even stop chattering when flying!
Pine Siskin Range Map
Pine Siskins are typically found in mixed evergreen or deciduous forests, but they will move to a new place in search of food, like weedy fields, backyards, or gardens.
Listen below to Pine Siskin’s song, a twittering warble that rises and falls in pitch. They randomly throw in a “ZZZzzzzzreeee” that rises in pitch ever so often. You will notice they sound more wheezy than other finches in Washington.
#9. Varied Thrush
- Males are bluish on their back with burnt orange underparts, an orange eye line, and orange throat.
- Females are similar to males but paler.
- Look for the black breast band across their chest.
It can be hard to spot one of these beautiful orange birds in Mount Rainier National Park.
That’s because Varied Thrushes are quite shy and live in dense, dark forests! Most often, they are heard before being seen. Listen for their simple, ringing song.
Varied Thrush Range Map
#10. Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch
- Leucosticte tephrocotis
- Males are a rich brown. Look for pink plumage on the body, a gray head, and a black forecrown, throat, and bill.
- Females are similar but with fewer amounts of pink, and their bill is yellow.
These birds are found at high elevations in Mount Rainier National Park!
Look for them high on mountains or cliffs where they forage among loose stones, glaciers, meadows, and even avalanche areas.
Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch Range Map
Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches may visit backyard bird feeders in the winter when they come down a bit from the mountains. They like to eat black oil sunflower seeds scattered on the ground or in platform feeders.
Listen below to the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch chattering cheep cheep song.
Which of these birds have you seen before in Mount Rainier National Park?
Leave a comment below!
To learn more about other birds that live in Mount Rainier 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!