The King City Highlands

The King City Highlands

A 55+ Adult Community

The King City Highlands

A 55+ Adult Community

The birds of the Highlands are representative of almost any intermountain/valley community in the Pacific Northwest. The Tualatin Valley (as part of the larger Wilamette Valley) is certainly large enough at over 3000 acres, with diverse terrain and proximity to fresh water and lots of plant cover, to support a wide variety of resident species. The Highlands lies between the Coast and Cascade Ranges, and is also close to Portland and the Pacific Ocean, of course, so you'll occasionally also see birds that are typically more associated with urban environments.
Birds are known to be very active and usually furtive creatures, and rarely allow the courtesy of posing for photographs. Hence, when you suffer with a digital camera with moderately-mediocre zoom capabilities -- such as mine -- you normally don't get the opportunities for many high-quality close-ups. (Full disclosure: my photographic deficiencies are almost entirely my own, as I often forget to go out with fully-charged batteries and clean lenses, and haven't taken the time to really learn how to use all of the features of the photo apps on my iPhone.) Nevertheless, hover your mouse over the images below to see more of the few photos I've managed to shoot!
Tap here for info about the entries on the Birds of the Highlands page:
  • Some of the recordings of the bird calls were assembled by Frank T. Awbrey. The clips were originally edited by James Dillane, with further editing by Rob Mustard. The clips were pulled from Frank's Southern California Coastal Sage & Chaparral Birds CD-ROM, which was produced by Rob's Featherbrain Productions (no connection to the keeper of this web site). The CD-ROM was also distributed by Rick's Tours. Attributions for other recordings are provided below the player controls.
  • Photos were provided with the courtesy of the photographers (all of whom I am insanely jealous of) via Wikimedia Commons and are public domain and/or open access via Creative Commons agreements. See the caption with each photo for complete details.
  • Photos of Highlands resident birds would also be greatly appreciated!
Tap here for the key to individual bird entries:

Common and Species Name Click on the Common Name to open Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds web site

Recording of the Bird's Voice

Photo of the Bird Tap on the photo to see the attribution!

Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura

The Mourning Dove is a not-too-commonly seen bird around the Highlands. You'll often spot them only in solitary pairs, or perhaps a third dove will be present, trying to elbow in on some mating action. They will come to your seed feeders, though, will rest and take shelter under your shrubs, and will also visit the bird bath or water source you've put out.

By http://www.naturespicsonline.com/
[CC-BY-SA-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-sa/2.5)],
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 183

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Streptopelia decaocto

The Collard-dove (as the rest of its name implies) isn't native to North America. They were introduced to the Bahamas, but have made their way north and are now found throughout the continental U.S. They look fairly similar to the slightly-smaller Mourning Dove, but these guys have that very distinctive collar on the back of the neck.

Audio file attribution: Jay McGowan / Mccauley Library (https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/66621141) ML66621141

By Charles J Sharp
CC BY-SA
(https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-sa/4.0),
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 299

European Starling

Sturnus vulgaris

The Starling is not a native to North America. This invasive pest was one of a number of species that were introduced by lunatic Shakespeare fanatics. Starlings are discourteous, boisterous, quarrelsome and obstreperous, and will shove aside and outcompete native birds for food and nesting cavities. Fortunately, they aren't often seen around the Highlands, but they're especially noticeable during fledging season, in early to mid-spring.

By http://www.naturespicsonline.com/
[CC-BY-SA-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-sa/2.5)],
via Wikimedia Commons

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Brown-headed Cowbird

Molothrus ater

These North American natives are fairly common in rural and suburban environments — but they aren't exactly common on lists of "favorites" among bird-watchers. Cowbirds are "brood parasites", meaning that the female lays her eggs in the nests of the birds of other species — whose hard-working adults raise the young cowbirds as their own. Worse, evolution has pushed the Cowbirds to hatch just a little quicker than the host bird's chicks; when the young Cowbird hatches, it can force the other hatchlings out of the nest, or simply out-compete them for the parents food and attention.

Audio file attribution: Jonathon Jongsma / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

By Lisette Lebaillif
[CC BY-SA
(https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-sa/3.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 188

Black-capped Chickadee

Poecile atricapillus

These little guys have tremendous energy, and are often seen picking among the leaves and flowers of trees hunting for insects. In the colder months, though, they'll come to your feeders for sunflower seeds, suet, peanuts and other high-energy food. They are often seen in pairs, and will make use of nesting boxes (with 1 1/8" holes!). Note: the two-note "fee bee" call in the recording is NOT what our Oregonian Chickadees do! Our local birds have a 5-7 note descending call in place of the better-known (and more-often recorded back East) "fee bee".

By Brian Tennessen,
"Black-capped Chickadee",
Jan. 12, 2020
[CC-BY-SA-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-nc/2.0)],
via Flickr Commons

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Red-breasted Nuthatch

Sitta canadensis

Nuthatches are, like woodpeckers, known as "tree-clinging birds". They're different from woodpeckers, however, as nuthatches are more adept at moving down the tree trunks, allowing them to forage under the scales of bark from a different angle! Red-breasted nuthatches are more often seen during the winter months, when they happily visit seed feeders and suet baskets.

Audio file attribution: Jonathon Jongsma / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

By Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren
CC BY
(https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by/2.0)
via Wikimedia Commons

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Bushtit

Psaltriparus minimus

The species epithet for this bird is pretty accurate; other than hummingbirds, Bushtits are about the tiniest birds we have in this area! They compensate for their diminutive size by going around in flocks of 12-20 birds. They really love suet, and it's pretty common to see eight or so of these little guys clustered all over a suet basket!

Audio file attribution: Jonathon Jongsma / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

By VJAnderson
CC BY-SA
(https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-sa/4.0),
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 273

Common Raven

Corvus species

Ravens aren't seen quite as often as Crows, though they look similar, and it's easy to mistake them for Crows (especially when the two species aren't close together for direct comparison). Ravens — like Crows — have a varied and complex vocabulary. Their "language", along with their curiosity, reflects the amazing intelligence of this species. In flight, Ravens are normally in pairs, and tend to glide and soar, without much flapping.

From USFWS Mountain-Prairie
Public domain
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 268

American Crow

Corvus brachyrhynchos

Crows are pretty common across all of Washington County, and they like to visit virtually all spaces of the Highlands. They're very similar to the less-common Ravens, but Crows are a little smaller, and tend to hang out in larger groups. Also, in flight, Crows are almost always under powered (flapping) flight, rather than gliding and soaring.

Audio file attribution: Jonathon Jongsma / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

By
Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren
CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by/2.0)
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 263

California Scrub-Jay

Aphelocoma californica

Scrub-Jays are members of the Corvid family of birds, which also includes Ravens, Crows and the other Jays. So, overall, these guys are pretty smart! Formerly known as "Western Scrub-Jays", these birds will come to larger seed feeders, and particularly like peanuts or other big things that they can cache away for later consumption.

By docentjoyce
(Flickr: California Scrub-jay (Aphelocoma californica))
[CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 162

Steller's Jay

Cyanocitta stelleri

The Highlands isn't exactly the prime habitat for Steller's Jays, except for the southeastern corner, where Jays have lots of tall conifers to hang out in. These strikingly-marked cousins of Scrub-Jays don't come to our feeders very often, but it's always a pleasure to see them in the neighborhood.

Audio file attribution: National Park Service / Public domain

By VJAnderson
CC BY-SA
(https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-sa/4.0),
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 258

Anna's Hummingbird

Calypte anna

I'm not sure who Anna was (perhaps an early 19th-century acquaintance of René Lesson), but she sure has a beautiful namesake. Anna's hummingbirds are year-round natives to our area, feeding not only from flowers in the warmer months, but also from feeders in the cooler months. One Anna's, however, will fiercely defend as many feeders as it can keep an eye on at once. PLANT NATIVE PLANTS in your garden! Native plants are best for the hummingbirds, and can support more than just one bird at a time!

By http://www.naturespicsonline.com/
[CC-BY-SA-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-sa/2.5)],
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 278

Northern Flicker

Colaptes auratus

These big, brown woodpeckers don't actually spend a lot of time pecking wood. Rather than hunt for insects under the bark of trees, Flickers forage for insects — especially ants — on the ground. They're happy to visit a suet basket, though, and peck the daylights out of a suet block. That's great news, too, for other ground-feeding birds, because Flickers are sloppy eaters, and leave a lot of crumbs on the ground.

Audio file attribution: Jonathon Jongsma / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

By Regan Fernbrook
CC BY-SA
(https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-sa/4.0),
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 736

Downy Woodpecker

Dryobates pubescens

These strikingly-patterened little woodpeckers are very similar to Hairy Woodpeckers — just smaller! Like most woodpeckers, Downies will come to your suet basket. If you know the height of your basket, that serves as a good gauge of the height of the bird. Downies stand about 5.5-6.5", while Hairies are from 7-10".

Audio file attribution: Nathan Pieplow; Colorado, April 24, 2011 / https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Downy_Woodpecker/sounds

By Wolfgang Wander
CC BY-SA
(http://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-sa/3.0/),
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 253

House Finch

Haemorhous mexicanus

Male house finches have the brilliant, scarlet coloration seen in the photo, and they're also the singers of this species. They look (and behave) a lot like sparrows, and they go after seeds in feeders just like sparrows do. Observe closely — after a while, you'll be able to start telling these LBJs apart!

Audio file attribution: Jonathon Jongsma / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

By Shenandoah National Park
from Virginia / Public domain
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 444

Song Sparrow

Melospiza melodia

What an appropriate species name for this bird! Song Sparrows are very common in the Highlands, but they're small, and you often hear them (the males, that is) singing, long before you see them. These birds love coming to our seed feeders, and also appreciate taking cover — and nesting — in our shrubs. In addition to the song you'll hear through the player below, Song Sparrows also make a distinct "chimp" alarm call.

Audio file attribution: Jonathon Jongsma / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

By Mdf
CC BY-SA
(http://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-sa/3.0/)
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 439

White-crowned Sparrow

Zonotrichia leucophrys

The White-crowned sparrow is more of a seasonal — cold weather — visitor to the Highlands. Like most of the sparrows and other LBJs we see, White-crowned sparrows love to come to our seed feeders, and will happily eat the crumbs the other birds knock down from the suet basket. The distinctive black and white crown is the giveaway visual ID, and they have a fairly varied repertoire of songs.

Audio file attribution: Kimberly Arthur / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

By Tim from Ithaca
CC BY
(https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by/2.0),
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 638

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Zonotrichia atricapilla

Ah, here's a challenge! The Golden-crowned is closely related — and very similar in appearance — to the White-crowned sparrow! This bird's crown has that small spot of gold, and just the one pair of larger black bars surrounding it. Just like the White-crowned, too, these guys are around mostly in the colder months.

Audio file attribution: Gerrit Vyn, Macauley Library / (https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/131474)

By VJAnderson
CC BY-SA
(https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-sa/4.0),
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 434

Dark-eyed Junco

Junco hyernalis

These little "hooded henchmen" are normally thought of as winter-season birds (snowbirds!), but they're year-rounders in the Highlands. They'll hang out around our seed feeders, taking shelter under shrubs. The "hoods" of the Oregonian juncos are very distinctive, compared to Dark-eyed Juncos in other areas, and their bills are perhaps a little less pink. Juvenile juncos, seen in late spring, often look a lot like female House Finches — look closely for those white outside tail feathers!

Audio file attribution: Jonathon Jongsma / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

By Becky Matsubara
from El Sobrante, California
CC BY
(https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by/2.0),
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 429

Spotted Towhee

Pipilo maculatus

Spotted Towhees (formerly known as "Rufous-sided Towhees") are big sparrows. They have distinctive burnt-orange feathers on the sides of their breast and abdomen, and if you don't catch the buffy-white belly feathers, you might think you're seeing an American Robin. They're year-round residents of the Willamette Valley, and are often seen under our seed feeders.

Audio file attribution: Jonathon Jongsma / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

By Melissa McMasters
from Memphis, TN, United States
CC BY
(https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by/2.0),
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 756

Black-headed Grosbeak

Pheucticus melanocephalus

Black-headed Grosbeaks are big finches, and they have the large, seed-cracking beaks to prove it! This is another species that you have to study closely, as they look a little like Spotted Towhees, but also like some of the Orioles that make a rare appearance. Their song is a bit like that of a sped-up American Robin, too.
They're insect and berry-eaters, and they'll visit your suet feeder for a snack.

Audio file attribution: Jonathon Jongsma / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

By HarmonyonPlanetEarth
Black-headed Grosbeak ! Walker House ! Paradise, HI
CC BY
(https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by/2.0),
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 424

American Robin

Turdus migratorius

Robins aren't really that interested in our feeders! They'll happily use our birdbaths and fresh water sources, but these birds prefer to capture live prey (invertebrates), or go after berries on our shrubs and in our trees. Again, plant NATIVE plants! Female robins are a little more "dusky" than the darker males. Robins are often the earliest risers — and singers — in the neighborhood. Their morning song (heard below) can be interspersed with a warning call, a series of sharp notes.

By Melissa McMasters
from Memphis, TN, United States
CC BY
(https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by/2.0),
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 419

American Goldfinch

Spinus tristis

The American (formerly known as "Western" or "Lesser" around here) Goldfinch is one of the more spectacularly-plumaged birds, notably the males, in summer. In winter, the males take on more of an olive tone, and look much like the females. Goldfinches are known to love black thistle seed, but happily will take sunflower seeds, too.

By Bettina Arrigoni
CC BY
(https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by/2.0),
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 548
Yellow-rumped Warblers are year-round residents of the Willamette Valley. They pose a bit of a challenge to the casual backyard birder, as they're only a little larger than American Goldfinch, and — in winter — have very similar plumage. You have to look for that yellow rump! In summer, the Yellow-rumped is a much easier ID.

Audio file attribution: Geoffrey A. Keller / Macauley Library (https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/44912)

By Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren
CC BY
(https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by/2.0),
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 558

House Wren

Troglodytes aedon

Highlanders can look forward to seeing at least two Wren species, especially during the summer months. House Wrens nest in our area during the summer, and have a bubbling, buzzy song. Their plumage is pretty much shades of brown, with speckled wings and tail. Speaking of tails, they often have their tail cocked at about 45° — a great behavioral ID sign! They don't come to feeders much at all; they really prefer to go after insects.

Audio file attribution: Jonathon Jongsma / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

By Mike's Birds
CC BY-SA
(https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-sa/2.0),
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 553

Bewick's Wren

Thryomanes bewickii

Bewick's Wren is about the same size and has similar behaviors to the House Wren (and the same cocked tail!), but Bewick's also has that distinctive white eyebrow.

By ADJ82
CC BY
(https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by/3.0),
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 656

Great Horned Owl

Bubo virginianus

These big owls are seldom seen, but occasionally heard (at night, of course). They tend to hang out in the southeast corner of the Highlands, where the taller conifers provide cover. If an owl is spotted in the daytime — especially by crows — you'll know it, as the crows will mercilessly mob the poor owl all day long!

By Peter K Burian
CC BY-SA
(https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-sa/4.0),
via Wikimedia Commons

Stacks Image 674

Mallard

Anas platyrhynchos

These are the most commonly-seen ducks across North America, and, as any self-respecting duck would agree, are likely to be observed on or near water. Except, of course, for the occasional pairs observed in the Central Greenway of the Highlands. There are no ponds of any serious size to support nesting and defense from predators, but our Mallards give it a go anyways, and the female often lays her eggs in the front yards of nearby homes.

Audio file attribution: Audubon Guide to North American Birds / https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/mallard

By Rob Mustard

Stacks Image 696

Cackling Goose

Branta hutchinsii

Cackling Geese look like smaller versions of Canada Geese — but they are not related, not even a sub-species! They're genetically distinct from the larger Canadas. The Cackling Geese in our area spend their winters in the PNW and north-central California, but head up to far northern Alaska to breed. They make their presence known, however, with their high-pitched, squeaky calls. They also like to hang out nearby on the King City Golf Course fairways, and at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, so they're often seen passing over in large flocks.

Audio file attribution: Andrew Spencer / The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds / https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Cackling_Goose/sounds#

By ALAN SCHMIERER / CC0 1.0,
via Wikimedia Commons

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