Photo by Jerry Gay
Burien Birdfest participants gave a hand to Burien’s birds by providing lots of good things to eat.

Highline’s feathered friends stop snowbirding

A good number of Highline’s humans still head south for the winter as “snowbirds.”

As for our feathered friends--not so much.

So reported Andy Waters of Wild Birds Unlimited at the Burien Birdfest, held Sunday, Feb. 17 at Dottie Harper Park.

The one-day event, sponsored by Sustainable Burien, provided both indoor and outdoor education on birds for adults and children

Birdfest also coincided with the international Great Backyard Bird Count.

The bird count happened all over the world Feb. 15-Feb. 18 as citizen scientists tracked birds in order to create a data base of what is happening to the world population of birds. The citizen scientists submit their data to a lab at Cornell University. Results are reported at

Highline is on the Pacific Flyway, one of the travel paths used annually by birds migrating from Alaska to the Antarctic. The area is a great place to gather information on bird travel and movement—whether from a kitchen window or a local park.

Because more Highline residents are providing winter food and the climate is staying milder, more birds are opting out of becoming snowbirds and are taking up permanent residence here, according to Waters. His Wild Birds Unlimited is located at 15858 1st Ave. S. in Burien’s Five Corners.

One example is Anna’s Hummingbirds, the most common local hummingbird. With the number of nectar feeders sprouting up in back yards, Highline’s hummingbirds have quadrupled in the past decade, Waters noted.

Waters identified male hummingbirds as the “cads’ of the bird world. While the males of other bird species help with the housework and caring for the babies, the male hummingbird does nothing but mate and leave, Waters said.

Waters also named the Evening Grosbeak, a large yellow bird, and the American Goldfinch, the Washington state bird, and Juncos as other species that now hang around Highline year round.

Lack of food in the Arctic has also brought an unprecedented number of Snowy Owls to Ocean Shores on the Washington coast this winter, Waters reported.

When a large number of a particular bird species show up unexpectedly far out of their normal range that is called an “eruption,” according to Waters.

With the return of the Snowy Owls for a second year, Ocean Shores is experiencing an “echo eruption.”

Climate change is also forcing the eruption of some northeast coast birds to the south and west. Waters added.

Placing feeders will attract these year round residents to your backyard, Waters said. Black oil sunflowers are a favorite food.

As for birdhouses, an entry hole of about 1-1/8 inches will attract the most common nesting birds. But Waters warns not to put a perch under the hole. The nesting birds won’t use it and predators will grab hold and steal eggs from the nest.

Burien Birdfesters also learned the four factors responsible for the greatest loss of bird population—habitat loss, deadly pesticides, wind generators….and cats.

Cats actually kill 2.4 billion birds annually in the United States. Keeping cats inside the house helps both the birds and cats live longer and healthier lives.

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