Birding Heaven on the Oregon Coast

Imagine the thrill of spotting a majestic bald eagle soaring overhead or the delight of catching a glimpse of an elusive tufted puffin perched on a rocky cliff. These are just a few of the feathery wonders that await you when you are birding on the Oregon coast.

This unrivaled birdwatcher’s paradise offers a diverse range of avian species and stunning natural landscapes. From the rugged cliffs of Cape Falcon to the sandy beaches of Bandon, the Oregon Coast is home to a wide variety of birds that are sure to amaze and inspire. 

When is the best time to go birding on the Oregon Coast?

The months of April through August are considered the best time of year to go birding on the Oregon coast, as a number of avian species start trickling in to nest on the coast.

However, as a haven for avian species, a variety of birds arrive and go with the seasons; some migrate here for the winter, some leave, while others remain all year.

Here is a breakdown of the bird species that you can encounter each season on the Oregon coast:

Winter: Although the Oregon Coast might have chilly temperatures and heavy downpours in the winter, it can also be a great season for birds! Rare species may be present because offshore storms push them closer to the coast, including Red Phalaropes and Black-legged Kittiwakes.

Spring: Birds begin to prepare for breeding in the spring. At this time, cormorants, puffins, and other bird species make trips to Haystack Rock. The bird of Cannon Beach, the Red-winged Blackbird, sings loudly in the marshes and flashes the red badges on their shoulders as American Robins return to the fields and parks.

Summer: In the forests, summer is the best season to look for birds like Western Tanagers, Evening Grosbeaks, and Hermit Warblers. Over Haystack Rock, you can see the swift Common Murres, fluffy Black Oystercatcher chicks, and Tufted Puffins in flight. You might also see a line of brown pelicans flying over the surf in the late summer if you are lucky! The cries of Swainson’s and other thrushes can be heard in the town’s streets and areas with lots of trees.

Fall: You can practice your “peeps” during the shorebird migration in the fall when sea ducks start to move through again and Sooty Shearwaters can be seen while monitoring the sea from bluffs. At the Cannon Beach Settling Ponds, look for Greater White-fronted Geese, American Coots, and Townsend’s Warblers. 

Birds you will encounter on the Oregon Coast

Oregon is home to over 500 bird species, with some calling the coastal state their permanent home while others are seasonal visitors. Here are some of the bird species that you may encounter on your next birding adventure on the Oregon coast: 

Bald Eagles

One of the most iconic birds found on the Oregon coast is the Bald Eagle. These magnificent birds can be seen perched on trees or soaring overhead, searching for fish in the water. It is not hard to spot them during a visit to the Oregon coast thanks to their thriving population. These birds can be identified by their distinct white heads and tails and their large, powerful beaks and talons. They are also renowned for their sharp eyesight, which lets them spot to fish from far away.

Western Gulls

Year-round inhabitants, the Western gulls can be seen foraging for food on the shorelines and in the seas. These birds protect their prey from other gulls as they have a reputation for being violent. Renowned for their “laughing” calls, a medium-sized gull has a white head and body, gray wings, and a recognizable yellow beak. 

Pelicans

Along the seaside, one may frequently see pelicans, notably the brown pelican. Brown pelicans have a unique head and bill, brown and white plumage, and large wingspans. Their neck pouch, which they utilize to snag fish out of the water, is another distinctive feature that makes them easy to spot. These huge birds are frequently seen diving into the water to grab fish or hover low over the lake.

Black Oystercatchers

This large coastal bird is also found on the Oregon coast. It can be identified by its black plumage, orange-red bill, and long pink legs. It’s typically found along rocky shorelines and beaches, where they forage for mussels. 

Marbled Murrelet

The Marbled Murrelet is a tiny seabird species that nests along the Oregon coast and is frequently spotted offshore looking for food. These little birds have short wings, chubby bodies, and distinctive beaks. On the head and underparts, they have white and gray markings on a dark brown background. The Marbled Murrelet is well known for its prowess in the water and is frequently seen diving to grab fish.

Tufted Puffins

The Oregon coast is also home to the tufted puffin during mating season. These medium-sized birds have orange legs and head feathers. These seabirds can be seen building their nests on rocky headlands and islands.

The best bird-watching spots on the Oregon Coast

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach

An iconic spot on the coast of Oregon, Haystack Rock is a must-see destination for more reasons than one. It provides visitors with a beautiful view and is steeped in incredible natural history. But above all, Haystack Rock is a top birding destination that is best accessed at low tide. The base of this 235-foot monolith is full of rocky intertidal zones. It is the best place on the coast to see tufted puffins from April to August. The rock also hosts breeding species like the Western Gull, Pelagic Cormorant, Pigeon Guillemot, and Black Oystercatcher.

Oswald West State Park

If you don’t have much time, Oswald West State Park is a great place to go bird-watching. A broad range of beach, cliff, and rainforest environments can be found in the park as well as a variety of birds, including pelagic species, Bald Eagles, Peregrine falcons, and others. Along the paths in coastal spruce and hemlock forests are Pileated Woodpeckers, Rufous Hummingbirds, American Dippers, and many other species that live in trees.

Fort Stevens State Park

In the far northwest of Oregon, on a peninsula where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean, sits one of the best spots in all of Oregon for spotting seabirds and shorebirds. Fort Stevens is a birding paradise from fall through spring. Here, a sizable observation tower offers excellent views of birds flying by in the Pacific. Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Red-throated Loon, Pacific Loon, Common Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Western Grebe, Brandt’s Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant, and Common Murrelet are among the birds that can be spotted through much of the year. This popular park also has beachcombing, lake swimming, trails, a historic shipwreck, and a military fort.

Gearhart-Necanicum River Estuary

The Necanicum River estuary is located on the Oregon coast at Seaside and is an excellent spot to indulge in local activities near Gearhart like birding in a canoe! The estuary is where the Necanicum River meets the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the best sites on the north coast to spot migratory species of shorebirds during the months of April and September. You can easily get a glimpse of species like the Western Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Semipalmated Plover, Lapland Longspur, and Dunlin.

Ecola State Park

The famous vantage point of Ecola State Park is located on the northern end of Cannon Beach.

If you plan on spending the day at the seaside at Cannon Beach, it is easy to overlook this wonderful location. The road to the park goes straight for a bit. Then it makes a left, going down a small lane with good bird-viewing areas. This park reveals the pristine beauty of the Pacific Northwest rainforest and offers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, Chapman Point, and Cannon Beach.

The coastline has 50,000 Common Murre nests, Pelagic Cormorants, Black Oystercatchers, Pigeon Guillemots, and in winter, Harlequin Duck and Surf Scoter. The main parking* area offers some of the closest views of the Tillamook Head lighthouse from the ground.

*Note: Parking in Ecola State Park needs either a day-use charge or an annual pass, both of which may be bought at the gate or online. 

Before you go birdwatching on the Oregon Coast,

Some things to keep in mind while preparing for your vacation in the Oregon Coast are:

  • Check the weather forecast and dress accordingly. The Oregon Coast can be windy and wet, so bring appropriate clothing and gear to protect yourself from the elements.
  • If you’re new to bird watching or not familiar with the area, bring binoculars and a bird guidebook. 
  • Wear comfortable shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking, and the terrain can be uneven and rocky.
  • Plan your route ahead of time and be ready to walk, because many places to watch birds on the Oregon Coast can only be reached on foot.
  • Consider the tides. Birds are more active at different times of the tide, so plan your trip around low and high tides. 
  • Always keep a respectful distance from the birds and their nesting sites. Also, avoid making loud noises that could disturb them.
  • Respect any rules and regulations. Some areas have rules to protect bird habitats, so make sure you know about any rules before you go birdwatching in Oregon.
  • Since you will be in nature, bring water, and snacks. A map, first-aid kit, and cell phone are also essentials.

Staying in a vacation rental allows you to fully immerse yourself in this natural wonderland with the comfort and convenience of a home away from home. With a vacation rental on the Oregon Coast, you’ll have your own private space to relax and recharge after a day of exploring, and you’ll be able to cook your own meals and save money on dining out. Plus, our properties are located in quieter, more secluded areas, providing a more authentic and peaceful experience.

So pack your binoculars and book your birdwatching vacation rental on the Oregon coast today!

Commonly asked questions about birdwatching on the Oregon Coast:

What is the best time of year to go birding on the Oregon coast?

The months of April through August are considered the best time of year to go birding on the Oregon coast, as a number of avian species start trickling in to nest on the coast.

Do I need any special equipment to go birding on the Oregon coast?

While you don’t need any specialized equipment to go birding on the Oregon coast, items like a good pair of binoculars, a smartphone, a powerful torchlight, a first aid kit, and a good camera are some of the essentials that should be carried while out birdwatching.

Are there any guided birding tours available on the Oregon coast?

Yes, there are a number of tour operators on the Oregon coast that provide a range of packages for guided birding tours in the area.

Are there any endangered or threatened bird species on the Oregon coast?

Yes, there are. Some examples are the Northern Spotted Owl, Marbled Murrelet, Greater Sage Grouse, Streaked-horned Lark, Western Snowy Plover, and California Condor.

Do you have to pay or get a permit to get to the Oregon coast birding spots?

Access to certain areas or birding spots, such as state parks on the Oregon coast, may require a day pass, but no other permits are required to go bird-watching.

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