Photo – Joseph Gruber © Creative Commons
Western Washington’s marine waters, estuaries and freshwater wetlands provide essential habitat for millions of migrating and wintering waterfowl, seabirds, and wading birds. Puget Sound, fed by more than 10,000 rivers and streams, is the second largest estuary in the U.S. In addition, uplands such as forest, grasslands, and riparian corridors offer breeding and wintering habitat for numerous species of landbirds.
Species that depend on oak woodlands and grassland prairies are in steep decline. Some, such as the Streaked Horned Lark and Western Bluebird, were extirpated from much of the Puget Sound lowlands. In a win-win for habitat conservation, riparian habitat restored for endangered salmon populations will also benefit birds such as the Yellow Warbler and Willow Flycatcher.
Habitat loss through conversion, degradation and fragmentation has significantly altered the landscape for avian species throughout western Washington. Washington’s diverse habitat types have all significantly declined since European settlement. As an example, more than 80% of all tidal and freshwater wetlands have been lost in the North Puget Sound Lowlands, mostly to agriculture conversion between the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Additional stressors in Washington include invasive species, incompatible agricultural practices, marine traffic, pollution, and sea level rise due to climate change.