WILDLIFE: Tips for wisely watching winter waterfowl

Staff reportDecember 15, 2013 

The cold months of winter are a good time to watch waterfowl at many sites close enough to home to make for fun family holiday field trips.

Ducks, geese, swans and other waterbirds concentrate in locations such as the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, where large amounts of open water provide security and adjacent wetlands and fields provide food — for resident birds and those making a migration stopover.

The sheer numbers of watefowl makes viewing relatively easy and they’re a great species group to learn identification skills. Whether on water or foraging in fields, waterfowl are relatively stationary, so you’ll have longer viewing time. Many species of ducks have exceptional markings that make identification easier, at least compared with songbirds. Just be sure to take along a good field identification book if you want to know which species you viewing.

But as it is with all wildlife, waterfowl watchers need to be respectful. Even from viewing platforms and boardwalks at parks and refuges, remember that you are in their home, said a news release from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. If you get too close or make too much noise, you might disturb the birds and lose your opportunity to watch them if they fly off.

Here are some waterfowl viewing options throughout the region:


Union Bay Natural Area: University of Washington (Montlake Fill) on Lake Washington, King County

Marymoor Park: ball fields and lakeside boardwalk trails on the shores of Lake Sammamish, King County.

Fort Flagler State Park: campground and lighthouse areas, northeast of Port Hadlock, Jefferson County.

South Puget Sound/Coast

Point Defiance Park: Owen Beach and bluffs are good locations. The park is at the north end of Pearl Street, Tacoma.

American Lake: Visit the department’s water access site or the city of Lakewood’s American Lake Park.


Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge: There are multiple units of the refuge, north of Vancouver, Wash., along the Columbia River.

Shillapoo Wildlife Area: Columbia River lowlands outside Vancouver.

Cowlitz Wildlife Area: Visit Swofford Pond near Mossyrock.

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