North Cascades Ecoregion and Birding Sites

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Click to see a detailed map with birding sites.

Location

The North Cascades Ecoregion includes the Cascade Mountains west from the Cascade crest and north from the South Fork Snoqualmie River drainage (I-90 corridor). Its lower limit is approximately the 1,000-foot contour, a few miles east of the Puget Trough communities of Sumas, Sedro-Woolley, Arlington, Granite Falls, Sultan, and North Bend. It extends northwest into British Columbia.

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Physiography

The North Cascades of Washington compose a highly dissected mountain terrain created by volcanic activity continuing into recent times. The two tallest volcanoes, Mount Baker and Glacier Peak, last erupted as recently as 10,000 - 12,000 years ago. Mountain peaks over 10,000 feet plunge quickly into valleys as low as 500 feet above sea level, cut out by ancestors of the vast glaciers that still sprawl in the northern part of the region. Glacially carved U-shaped valleys and cirques are therefore prominent features. Some of these have been dammed to form large reservoirs, notably Ross and Baker Lakes, and there are also many smaller, natural lakes. The major river systems of the region - Snoqualmie, Skykomish, Stillaguamish, Skagit, and Nooksack - flow toward Puget Sound.

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Climate

High precipitation typifies this ecoregion. Huge masses of water-logged clouds come out of the ocean and slam into the mountain range most of the year. Valley bottoms, near the western edge of the region, are typically dry, more Sierra-like in climate and receiving less than 50 inches of rain a year, while higher elevations receive over 100 inches, mostly in the form of snow from October through April. At higher elevations, 20 feet of snow on the ground is standard during the winter. Temperatures are mild in the valleys all year, but the higher mountains are cool in summer and very cold in winter, with permanent snow and ice at high elevations.

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Habitats

The vegetation in this ecoregion is stratified by both elevation and amount of precipitation. At low elevations, the predominant trees are western hemlock, Douglas-fir, and western red cedar, with a dense understory of ferns and shrubs such as salal and huckleberries, exactly as the Puget Trough Ecoregion. Forests at middle elevations are composed mainly of Pacific silver fir and western hemlock, with lodgepole pine, larches, Engelmann spruce, and Douglas-fir locally abundant and many of the same shrubs that dominate the lowlands. At higher elevations, forests of mountain hemlock and subalpine fir alternate with open parklands. Above the treeline, alpine heaths, meadows, and fell fields are interspersed with barren rock, ice, and snow. The region also contains forested and open wetlands, riparian areas with broadleaf trees, and avalanche chutes dominated by Sitka alder, vine maple, and blueberries.

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Human Impact

More than 96 percent uninhabited and uncultivated, the North Cascades show the lowest human impact of any of the state's terrestrial ecoregions. Large areas are protected in North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, and several wilderness areas, but logging has occurred widely at lower elevations. Recreation associated with natural environments (hunting, fishing, hiking, snowmobiling) may have minor effects on bird populations.

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Abundance Code DefinitionsBird Checklist

C=Common; F=Fairly Common; U=Uncommon; R=Rare; I=Irregular
BirdJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Cackling GooseRRRRR RRR
Canada GooseCCCCCCCCCCCC
Trumpeter SwanUUUR RUU
Wood Duck UCCCCCCCU
GadwallRRRRRRRRRRRR
American WigeonFFCC UFFF
MallardCCCCCFFFFFCC
Blue-winged Teal RRR
Cinnamon Teal UUUUU
Northern ShovelerRRRRR RRRR
Northern PintailUUUF RUUUU
Green-winged TealUUUURRRRRUUU
Ring-necked DuckFFFFURRRRUFF
Greater ScaupRRRRRR RRRR
Lesser ScaupUUUURRRRRUUU
Harlequin Duck RUUUUR
BuffleheadCCCCU CC
Common GoldeneyeCCCFR RCC
Barrow's GoldeneyeCCCFUUUUUUCC
Hooded MerganserFFFFFUUUUFFF
Common MerganserCCCCCCFFFCCC
Red-breasted MerganserRR RR
Ruffed GrouseFFFFFFFFFFFF
Spruce GrouseRRRRRRRRRRRR
White-tailed PtarmiganUUUUUUUUUUUU
Sooty GrouseFFFFFFFFFFFF
Common LoonRRRUUUUUUURR
Pied-billed GrebeFFUURRRUUFFF
Western Grebe UF
Double-crested CormorantFFFF FF
American Bittern RRRRRR
Great Blue HeronFFFFFFFFFFFF
Green Heron RRRRRR
Turkey Vulture UFFFFU
Osprey RFFFFFFR
Bald EagleCCCFUUUUUUCC
Northern HarrierRRRRRRRUUURR
Sharp-shinned HawkUUUUUUUUUUUU
Cooper's HawkRRUURRRUUUUR
Northern GoshawkRRRRRRRRRRRR
Red-tailed HawkFFFFFFFFFFFF
Golden EagleRRRRUUUUURRR
American KestrelRRRUUUUUUUUR
MerlinRRRRRRRRRRRR
Peregrine FalconRRRRRRRRRRRR
Prairie Falcon R
Virginia Rail UUUUUUU
Sora UUUUUU
American Coot RR
KilldeerRUCCCCCCCCUR
Spotted Sandpiper RFCCCUU
Solitary Sandpiper RR RRR
Greater Yellowlegs UU RUU
Whimbrel R
Western Sandpiper R RU
Least Sandpiper UR RU
Baird's Sandpiper RR
Pectoral Sandpiper R RR
Long-billed Dowitcher RRRR
Wilson's SnipeRRRUUUUUUURR
Bonaparte's Gull R RRR
Mew GullR RRR
Ring-billed GullRRRR RRR
California GullRRRRR RRRRRR
Glaucous-winged GullCCCCCURFCCCC
Marbled Murrelet UUUU
Rock PigeonCCCCCCCCCCCC
Band-tailed Pigeon UFFFURR
Mourning DoveRRRRUUUUUUUR
Barn OwlRRRRRRRRRRRR
Western Screech-OwlRRRRRRRRRRRR
Great Horned OwlRRRRRRRRRRRR
Northern Pygmy-OwlUUUUUUUUUUUU
Spotted OwlRRRRRRRRRRRR
Barred OwlUUUUUUUUUUUU
Northern Saw-whet OwlRRRRRRRRRRRR
Common Nighthawk UUUR
Black Swift RUUUR
Vaux's Swift CCCCU
Calliope Hummingbird RRR
Rufous Hummingbird UCCCCCU
Belted KingfisherFFFFFFFFFFFF
Red-naped Sapsucker RUUUU
Red-breasted SapsuckerUUUFFFFFFFUU
Downy WoodpeckerFFFFFFFFFFFF
Hairy WoodpeckerFFFFFFFFFFFF
American Three-toed WoodpeckerUUUUUUUUUUUU
Black-backed WoodpeckerRRRRRRRRRRRR
Northern FlickerCCCCCCCCCCCC
Pileated WoodpeckerUUUUUUUUUUUU
Olive-sided Flycatcher FFFFR
Western Wood-Pewee FFFFR
Willow Flycatcher UCCFR
Hammond's Flycatcher RCCCFR
Dusky Flycatcher RRRR
Pacific-slope Flycatcher UCCCCU
Western Kingbird RRR
Eastern Kingbird RRRR
Northern ShrikeRRRR UUR
Cassin's Vireo RUUUUR
Hutton's VireoRRRRRRRRRRRR
Warbling Vireo RCCCFU
Red-eyed Vireo RFFUR
Gray JayFFFFFFFFFFFF
Steller's JayCCCCCCCCCCCC
Clark's NutcrackerUUUUUUUUUUUU
American CrowCCCCCCCCCCCC
Common RavenCCCCCCCCCCCC
Tree Swallow RFCCCURR
Violet-green Swallow UCCCCFUR
Northern Rough-winged Swallow FFFFUR
Bank Swallow UUUR
Cliff Swallow RCCFU
Barn Swallow UCCCCF
Black-capped ChickadeeCCCCCCCCCCCC
Mountain ChickadeeUUUUUUUUUUUU
Chestnut-backed ChickadeeCCCCCCCCCCCC
BushtitFFFFFFFFFFFF
Red-breasted NuthatchCCCCCCCCCCCC
Brown CreeperFFFFFFFFFFFF
Bewick's WrenFFFFFFFFFFFF
Pacific WrenCCCCCCCCCCCC
Marsh Wren RRRRRRR
American DipperUUUUUUUUUUUU
Golden-crowned KingletCCCCCCCCCCCC
Ruby-crowned KingletUUUCFRRFCFUU
Western Bluebird RRRRRR
Mountain Bluebird RUUUUU
Townsend's SolitaireRRRFFUUURRRR
Veery RR
Swainson's Thrush CCCCU
Hermit Thrush UFCCCFR
American RobinUFCCCCCCCFUU
Varied ThrushCCCCCCCCCCCC
European StarlingCCCCCCCCCCCC
American PipitRRRCFFFFCFRR
Bohemian WaxwingII III
Cedar Waxwing RCCCCCR
Orange-crowned Warbler RFCCCCCR
Nashville Warbler UUUUU
Yellow Warbler CCCFU
Yellow-rumped Warbler RCCCCCCF
Black-throated Gray Warbler FCCCCUR
Townsend's Warbler UCCCCUR
American Redstart RUUR
MacGillivray's Warbler RCCCFR
Common Yellowthroat RCCCCCCR
Wilson's Warbler RCCCCU
Western Tanager RCCCCU
Spotted TowheeCCCCCCCCCCCC
American Tree SparrowRR RR
Chipping Sparrow RFFFRR
Savannah SparrowRRRCCCCCCRRR
Fox SparrowUUUUFFFUUUUU
Song SparrowCCCCCCCCCCCC
Lincoln's SparrowRRRUFFFFFRRR
White-throated SparrowRRRR RRR
White-crowned SparrowRRUCCCCCCUUR
Golden-crowned SparrowCCCCF UCCC
Dark-eyed JuncoCCCCCCCCCCCC
Black-headed Grosbeak CCCCU
Lazuli Bunting UUUU
Red-winged BlackbirdUFCCCCCCCFFU
Western Meadowlark RR RRR
Brewer's BlackbirdUUFFFFFFFFFU
Brown-headed CowbirdRRRFCCCCRRRR
Bullock's Oriole UUUR
Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch RUUUUR
Pine GrosbeakRRRRRRRRRRRR
Purple FinchFFFFFFFFFFFF
Cassin's Finch RRRRRR
House FinchCCCCCCCCCCCC
Red CrossbillFFFFFFFFFFFF
White-winged CrossbillIIIIIIIIIIII
Pine SiskinCCCCCCCCCCCC
American GoldfinchRRRUCCCCFRRR
Evening GrosbeakFFFFFFFFFFFF
House SparrowCCCCCCCCCCCC

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