In various circles, Vashon Island is famous for its skis (K2), its coffee (Seattle’s Best Coffee), and its tofu (Island Spring)—but among bird lovers, the thirty-square-mile green space is renowned for its Western grebes. While populations of this red-eyed, swanshaped aquatic bird have declined by up to 95 percent in other areas of Puget Sound, they have remained stable on Vashon, whose waters are spawning grounds for its favorite delicacy, Pacific herring.
Designated in 2001 as one of the first Important Bird Areas in the state by the National Audubon Society, Vashon’s Quartermaster Harbor is the wintertime home of thirty-five species of waterfowl—including thousands of duck-size Western grebes, which account for 8 percent of the state’s wintering population. An Important Bird Area is a site deemed essential to one or more species for breeding, wintering, or migration—earmarking areas key to bird conservation. Vashon is at least a part-time home to more than one hundred bird species.
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