My 16 Best Bird Watching Spots in Oregon You Should Try


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Close to 500 species of birds can be found in Oregon. However, it is not always easy to know the best places for seeing the most species, which is why we have put together this article on the best bird watching spots in Oregon.

The best bird watching spots in Oregon are along the north and south coasts at places like Boiler Bay, Cape Meares, and the Coos River Estuary; you can also see lots of birds on the wetlands, like at Cold Springs and Alford Lake. Hart Mountain and Malheur are excellent for the diversity of species.

A table gives the most exciting birds you can see at my top 16 birding spots in Oregon:

PARKINTERESTING BIRDS YOU CAN SEE
Alvord Lake and BasinSandhill Cranes and Snowy Plovers
Bandon Marsh National Wildlife RefugeLeast Sandpiper and Western Sandpiper
Cold Springs National Wildlife RefugeWhite-fronted Geese and Lesser Scaup
Hart Mountain National Antelope RefugeShort-eared Owl and Greater Sage Grouse
Malheur National Wildlife RefugeGolden Eagle and Sage Thrasher
Zumwalt PrairieGrasshopper Sparrow and Ferruginous Hawk
William L. Finley National Wildlife RefugeAcorn Woodpecker and Dusky Canada Goose
Klamath Basin National Wildlife RefugeBald Eagle and Cinnamon Teal
Ankey National Wildlife RefugeOsprey and American Bittern
Boiler Bay State ParkBlack Oystercatchers and Marbled Murrelets
Fort Stevens State ParkSooty Shearwater and Surf Scoter
Cape Meares State Park and National Wildlife RefugeTufted Puffin and Pigeon Guillemot
Tillamook BayGreen-winged Teal and Northern Pintail
Coos River EstuarySnowy Plover and Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Summer Lake Wildlife AreaTrumpeter Swan and Marsh Wren
Lake AbertEared Grebe and Wilson’s Phalarope
Best Bird Watching Spots in Oregon

Read further to find more information on my top bird watching spots in Oregon, including some bird species you can see in each spot.

Best Bird Watching Spots in Oregon
Best Bird Watching Spots in Oregon

TIP: If you are interested in checking out the best pair of binoculars for bird watching, we recommend a pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars (Amazon link).

Best Places to Bird Watch in Oregon

Oregon’s various places and habitats provide an excellent opportunity to see many different types of birds.

  1. Alvord Lake and Basin

Deserts, meadows, marshes, and salt dunes surround this seasonal lake. The area is perfect for birds, with more than 2000 waterfowl observed here during migration.

Sandhill Cranes and Snowy Plovers nest here. Other waders and shorebirds include Willets, Spotted Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Baird’s Sandpiper, and Wilson’s Phalarope.

You can also see Prairie Falcon and Black-throated Sparrows. Several ducks occur here, including Gadwall and Cinnamon Teal.

  1. Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge

This is the largest salt marsh area in Oregon and is designated as an important bird area. Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge is 900 acres in area.

The marsh is situated at the mouth of the Coquille River. Besides areas of open water, there are also mudflats, sloughs, and Alder forests in the refuge.

The refuge attracts thousands of birds, such as Dunlins, Western Sandpipers, Pacific Golden Plovers, Black-bellied Plovers, Short-billed Dowitchers, and Least Sandpipers. You can download and print a checklist of the 212 species of birds recorded in the refuge.

  1. Cold Springs National Wildlife Refuge

The refuge is 3,117 acres and includes Cold Springs Reservoir and surrounding areas. The habitats for birds include trees, sagebrush, the open water of the lake, and marshy areas. 

The refuge is managed to support bird migration. Spring and fall bring White-fronted Geese to the refuge. In winter, you can find Bald Eagles; in fall, many shorebirds visit the area. 

You can find waterfowl such as Northern Pintail, Lesser Scaup, Common Merganser, Canvasback, and Redhead. There are also two colonies of Great Blue Herons in the refuge. In this refuge, you can also find warblers, vireos, juncos, and sparrows.

  1. Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge

This is a globally important bird area that covers a large area. The refuge in southeastern Oregon is 278,000 acres and consists of riparian, sage-steppe, and grassland habitats. At least 239 bird species have been recorded here.

It is worth visiting this refuge to see the Greater Sage Grouse, Short-eared Owl, Vesper Sparrow, Sage Thrasher, and Lark Sparrow. 

  1. Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

This refuge has a record of 300 bird species and is surrounded by agricultural fields that can also be productive for bird watchers. 

There are a variety of habitats present at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, including sage-steppe, wetlands and riparian vegetation, and meadows.

Sage Thrashers, Western Tanagers, Say’s Phoebes, And Golden Eagles are all found in this refuge. You can look out for Black-necked Stilts and Snow Geese in the wetlands.

  1. Zumwalt Prairie

This large area, covering 33,000 acres, is in the northwestern part of Oregon. This is a terrific spot to see typical prairie birds and raptors. 

Raptors you can see here include Rough-legged Hawks, Ferruginous Hawks, Prairie Falcons, and Swainson’s Hawks. Western Meadowlarks, Grasshopper Sparrows, and Vesper Sparrows reside in this conservation area.

  1. William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge

This refuge is in the Willamette Valley and was initially established to provide a place for the Dusky Canada Goose.

It is suitable for waterfowl generally, particularly in winter when tens of thousands of them are migrating. It is also a good refuge for other birds; for instance, Acorn Woodpeckers and Purple Martins live here.

  1. Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge

This refuge, in southern Oregon, attracts close to a million birds because it has many wetlands. Northern Shoveler, American White Pelican, and Cinnamon Teal also breed in the refuge.

You can also find many more birds, like the Great Egret and Northern Shoveler. This is the place to see Bald Eagles, with as many as 1000 birds showing up in winter.

  1. Ankey National Wildlife Refuge

This is in the northwestern section of Oregon, with 2,796 acres in area. The refuge has many trails and boardwalks you can walk along while looking for birds. 

Bird watchers to this refuge are likely to see the following birds in winter: Tundra Swan, American Wigeon, and Northern Pintail.

Birds that are resident and you can find in any season include the American Bitterns, Great Blue Herons, Red-shouldered Hawks, and Osprey.

  1. Boiler Bay State Park

Boiler Bay State Park is located on the northern coast of Oregon. This park gives beautiful views of the ocean and rugged coastline of Oregon. You can see many different species of seabirds here.

Birds you can find on and off this coast include Black Oystercatchers, Marbled Murrelets, and Brown Pelicans.

You may even spot albatrosses, jaegers, and shearwaters; these are open-ocean birds you won’t find easily elsewhere. Visiting this state park and scanning the oceans here can help you increase your life list.

  1. Fort Stevens State Park

This park is at the mouth of the Columbia River in northern Oregon. You can camp in this park, and they have picnic areas.

This is the place to see the Sooty Shearwater since thousands migrate past the viewing platform every fall. You can also see Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, and Caspian Terns.

You can find Black-bellied Plovers, Lewis’s Woodpeckers, Red-breasted Sapsuckers, and Short-eared Owls on the land. In winter, you may even be lucky and spot a Snowy Owl.

  1. Cape Meares State Park and National Wildlife Refuge

This park is found on the north coast of Oregon. You can go to the scenic viewpoint and look out to the sea to catch the sight of Tufted Puffins and Pigeon Guillemots. You can also find Common Murres here and Marbled Murrelets (a threatened species). 

Cape Meares has old-growth forests, cliffs, and an open ocean. You will get spectacular ocean views from the refuge, and you may even see seals.

The refuge is open all year and is designated as a specific area for conserving ocean birds. You can also look for birds in the coastal forest in the refuge.

  1. Tillamook Bay

This is one of the absolute best places for waterfowl, with over 7000 birds counted here previously. You find birds like the Bufflehead, Surf Scoter, Canvasback, Green-winged Teal, and Northern Pintail. 

You can also see thousands of Western Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, and Western Snowy Plovers. These shorebirds are found wading in shallow waters on the mud flats. 

There are also heron rookeries comprised of nesting Great Blue Herons. You can find additional information on bird species present here and what times of the year they are most abundant at Tillamook.

  1. Coos River Estuary

This estuary is located on the southern coast of Oregon. You can scan the open areas of water and tidal mud flats here for birds. Nearby marshes, sandy beaches, and muddy areas provide many habitats that attract a wide variety of bird species. 

Birds such as Dunlin, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Snowy Plover, Long-billed Curlew, Pied-billed Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, and Western Grebe are found here.

The area is especially significant as a breeding ground for the Snowy Plover. This is important because the Snowy Plover is designated as a threatened species by the state of Oregon.

  1. Summer Lake Wildlife Area

This wildlife area is in central Oregon and is 18,941 acres in size. Various habitats are present, including meadows, wetlands, and marshes. You can find a lot of birds here because of this habitat diversity.

There is an 8-mile road you can drive along and bird watch from. You also can hike in the area.

Bird species to watch out for include White-faced Ibises, Eared Grebes, Tundra Swans, Trumpeter Swans, and Ruddy Duck. You can find Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Marsh Wrens, and many other passerines in the meadows and marshes.

  1. Lake Abert

This is a large lake, covering 57 square miles and located in the state’s central region about 25 miles north of the city of Lakeview. The lake is a saltwater lake found in the high desert of Oregon and is located on the Pacific flyway for bird migration. 

Lake Abert is a crucial inland lake for water birds. You can find thousands of Eared Grebes in winter and nesting Snowy Plovers. 

During the fall, you can also find shorebirds like Wilson’s Phalaropes, American Avocets, and Red-necked Phalaropes during migration. Thousands of ducks and gulls have also been recorded at Lake Abert. 

Best Time to Bird Watch in Oregon

Any time is good for birds in Oregon, but certain types of birds are more numerous at certain times of the year. It is a good idea then to plan your visits to bird watching spots around when specific birds are most likely to be found there.

TYPES OF BIRDSSEASON
Shorebirds such as sandpipers Spring and Fall
Waterfowl, including teal, grebes, and ducksWinter
Best Time to Bird Watch in Oregon

The Oregon State Bird

Western Meadowlark: The Oregon State Bird
Western Meadowlark: The Oregon State Bird

The Oregon State Bird is the Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta. This beautiful bird of the grasslands and open country is bright yellow with a brown striped back and a distinctive black “V’ shape on the breast area.

The bird has a beautiful melodic song and can be seen foraging insects in the soil and ground among grasses. They also nest on the ground in grassy areas.

Bird Watching Laws in Oregon

All indigenous, native wild birds are protected by law, and you are not allowed to catch, possess, or harm any bird. You are also prohibited from interfering with nesting birds, including moving nests or taking eggs or chicks.

My Favourite Equipment for Bird Watching

Bird watching is one of the least expensive hobbies out there, but you still need some equipment to get the most out of it. 

The essential equipment to start bird watching is a pair of binoculars. My preference is 8 X 42 binoculars. The number 8 is how much the magnification is, while 42 is the field of view in millimeters of the lenses.

A pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars on Amazon is an excellent choice for both beginners and experts. 

In time, you can choose more expensive models and also opt to buy a spotting scope like the Celestron Ultima 80 on Amazon.

These are a lot more expensive compared with binoculars though, so if you are only a beginner, start with binoculars first. A spotting scope is only helpful for birds far away, such as out on a pond or seashore.

Bird Watching Ethics

There are a few rules or guidelines you should abide by as an ethical birder. These are listed below.

  • Do not enter private lands without prior permission from landowners.
  • Follow all the rules in refuges and reserves, including cleaning up any garbage from your campsite.
  • Do not disturb birds on nests.
  • Do not use apps and play songs to call up birds when they are hungry, tired, and breeding during spring and summer.

Conclusion

Oregon has many beautiful habitats, including coastlines, marshes, tidal flats, forests, inland lakes, and meadows.

It is also possible to see thousands of Bald Eagles and other migrating species on the lakes in winter. Oregon should be added to your list of top bird watching spots in the United States.

TIP: If you are interested in checking out the best pair of binoculars for bird watching, we recommend a pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars (Amazon link).

Rae Osborn

Rae Osborn is an avid bird watcher and holds a doctorate in Biology. Her interests in birds began as a child growing up in South Africa. She has continued to study birds and has bird watched in the United States and South Africa.

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