Puget Sound Shorebird Count

Photo by Tom Middleton

Help Us Count Shorebirds!

It’s that time of year again, so mark your calendars! We are happy to announce we will be coordinating the 2021 Annual Puget Sound Shorebird Count! The surveys will take place on November 28, 2021.

This event is part of the Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey, a long-term monitoring program for wintering shorebirds led by Point Blue Conservation Science. Join a vast network of volunteers and biologists along the Pacific Flyway that captures a snapshot of wintering shorebird abundance each year.

The data gathered from these counts helps provide a better understanding of shorebird populations and the habitats they utilize along the Pacific Flyway and allows for the creation of more effective conservation and management plans.

The Puget Sound Shorebird Count, which has been conducted annually since 2012, collects information from approximately 23 sites, including Samish, Padilla, Fidalgo, Skagit and Port Susan Bays and Whidbey Island.

If you are interested in helping out with this year’s count, contact Sarah Belles at sbelles@ecoinst.org to sign up!



In the winter of 2012, Ecostudies Institute, in collaboration with Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and US Forest Service International Program, began coordinating a Citizen Science winter shorebird monitoring effort in Puget Sound. The goal of this effort is to provide a mechanism to monitor long-term changes in shorebird populations in Puget Sound, while at the same time contribute to a large-scale, flyway-wide shorebird monitoring effort called the Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey, which is coordinated by Point Blue Conservation Science

Shorebirds using the Pacific Flyway are dependent upon a network of widely spaced estuarine sites between the Arctic and South America for wintering and migrating to and from their breeding grounds. Shorebirds also have exhibited long-term population declines. The lack of broad-scale coordinated monitoring along the Pacific Flyway limits our ability to understand the problem and design conservation strategies to benefit shorebirds

In Washington State, Puget Sound contains 26 estuarine sites that support > 1,000 shorebirds. However, the major stopover and wintering areas are located in four large estuaries in northern Puget Sound.


Puget Sound Shorebird Count

Citizen scientists counting shorebirds at a site on Skagit Bay.

Key Results

  • In 2020, 20 volunteers surveyed 20 sites and counted 21,988 shorebirds and 62 raptors. Dunlin topped the shorebird count with over 21,463 individuals sighted, while the raptor count was led by Bald Eagles with 30 individuals spotted.
  • In 2016, 21 volunteers surveyed 20 sites and counted 21,928 shorebirds and 43 raptors. Consistent with previous years’ results, Dunlin led the shorebird count at over 20,000 individuals sighted, with Bald Eagles being the most common raptor at 25 individuals.
  • In 2015  volunteers surveyed 21 sites and counted 33,519 shorebirds and 413 raptors. Once again, Dunlin led the count, with Bald Eagles and Northern Harriers leading the raptors.
  • The number of volunteers continued to grow in 2014, when 30 individuals participated in the count.  Twenty-two sites were surveyed and 20,189 shorebirds and 58 raptors were counted.  As in previous counts, the most abundant shorebird was Dunlin.
  • In 2013, we increased the number of sites monitored to 21 and the number of count participants increased too.  Twenty-one volunteers counted 13,581 shorebirds and 57 raptors.  The most abundant raptors on the counts were Bald Eagles and Northern Harriers.
  • In 2012, 15 volunteers monitored 15 sites and counted 15,485 shorebirds. Not surprisingly, the most abundant shorebird was Dunlin. Total raptors counted included 31 individuals of 6 species.

Overall, we have built a solid foundation of shorebird monitoring in Puget Sound that we plan to continue in the future.  With the amount of estuary restoration taking place in Puget Sound, these data will be extremely valuable in describing some of the long term effects of those conservation actions.  Read more about our work on the Effect of Estuary Restoration on Birds.

If you would like to volunteer for our Puget Sound Shorebird Count, please contact us

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