small bird, ruby crowned kinglet perched on a shasta red fir branch
A ruby-crowned kinglet (Corthylio calendula) is seen in an unusually calm moment. This small bird constantly flicks its wings appearing frantic as it forages through lower branches of shrubs and trees.

NPS Photo by Mimi Gorman 2020

Birds Are Everywhere

According to Sean Mohren, park wildlife biologist, “Most birds occur almost anywhere." This means that many of the 250 species of birds which have occurred in the park can be observed in more than one habitat. Even so, bird watching still requires patience and a keen ear.

The mountain's marbled composition of old growth forests, wet and dry meadows, numerous springs and streams, and of course, Crater Lake, supports the possibility of most species being found anywhere. In all these areas, resident and many migratory bird species are seen or heard; this includes warblers, thrushes, hummingbirds, jays, birds of prey, woodpeckers, and sparrows.
Clark's nutcracker sits atop a cluster of whitebark pine cones, prying them open for the seeds
Whitebark pines share a profound relationship with the Clark’s nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana). The trees bear “stone cones" which remain closed through maturity, and require assistance from the Clark's nutcracker to open cones and extract seeds.

Photo Credit Linda Powell 2021

Birding Around the Rim

Hiking is not required to identify many common birds. Sit anywhere along the promenade in Rim Village to observe members of the Corvid family: Canada and Steller's jays, Clark’s nutcrackers, and common ravens. These are the most entertaining when fledglings float from limb to limb with quivering wings, voicing their desire to be fed. Oregon dark-eyed juncos are gregarious, small ground feeders easily recognized by their pink beaks and dark hoods. All of these are important species to this elevation.

Stop at any of the overlooks along Rim Drive for opportunities to see the colorful western tanager, ruby crowned kinglet, yellow-rumped warbler, mountain chickadee, or hermit thrush. To locate these birds, a bit more patience and perhaps binoculars are required.
An immature rufous hummingbird perches on a conifer branch
Rufous Hummingbirds will perch when not feeding, but will fiecely launch themselves after any other hummingbirds that appears near their food source. Pictured is a juvenile rufous hummingbird.

Photo credit Linda Powell 2021

Preferred Landscapes

American dippers favor fast flowing water and are seen from trails that follow creeks, rivers, and waterfalls. Gray-crowned rosy finches and sooty grouse choose higher elevations like the Rim Trail, Mount Scott Trail and others. Raptors including bald eagles, osprey, red-tailed hawks, and American kestrels are observed around the lake.

Hiking trails that have greater landscape diversity, such as Grayback Drive, Boundary Springs, and Crater Peak increases your chances of seeing or hearing the sought-after black-backed, American three-toed, and pileated woodpeckers. Visit the Pinnacles Road and Trail, Castle Crest Wildflower Trail, the summit of Crater Peak, and the picnic areas on Hwy 62.which support wildflowers, blooming shrubs, and host a variety of trees.
Migratory flock of shore birds circle above the lake
This migratory flock was seen from Sun Notch Trail in early autumn, circling above the east side of Crater Lake before flying south.

NPS Photo/Mimi Gorman 2020

Birds, the Lake, and the Caldera

Crater Lake, contrary to most lakes and large bodies of water, does not attract a large variety of birds. A few species appear nearly every summer. Mergansers are seen, not too far off shore, bobbing with broods of new chicks. Solo California gulls circle and plop onto the water just about everywhere appearing as white dots from the rim.

Bald eagle and osprey nesting habitats within the caldera are monitored each year for returnees and newcomers with the hope for successful mating. These species are easy to locate and identify when in flight above the lake. Wizard Island welcomes some of the common birds seen around the rim but also the occasional belted kingfisher, and others. American white pelicans and other large fowl are sometimes seen in flight over Crater Lake.

Scientific Names of Birds Cited on This Page

Gray-crowned rosy finch Leucosticte tephrocotis
Sooty Grouse Dendragapus fuliginosus
Bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Red-tailed hawk Buteo jamaicensis
American kestrel Falco sparverius
Black-backed woodpecker Picoides arcticus
American three-toed woodpecker Picoides dorsalis
Pileated woodpecker Dryocopus pileatus
Canada jay Perisoreus canadensis
Steller’s jay Cyanocitta stelleri
Oregon dark-eyed junco Junco hyemalis oreganus

Clark’s nutcracker Nucifraga columbiana
Common Raven Corvus corax
Western tanager Piranga ludoviciana
Ruby crowned kinglet Corthylio calendula
Yellow-rumped warbler Setophaga coronata
Mountain chickadee Poecile gambeli
Hermit thrush Catharus guttatus
California gulls Larus californicus
Belted kingfisher Megaceryle alcyon
American White pelicans Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

To obtain a full species list, select "birds" for the category below.

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Last updated: June 15, 2022

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Crater Lake National Park
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Crater Lake, OR 97604


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