30 Best Birds to Watch for in Oregon

White-Headed Woodpecker
Frank Lehman/Flickr/Used With Permission

Oregon is an amazing state, well known for its fantastic natural features, including Mount Hood, Crater Lake, and the Columbia River Gorge, as well as its spectacular salmon, vibrant wine industry, and abundant ghost towns. What birders know Oregon best for, however, are the more than 500 bird species recorded in the state. No matter what your reason for visiting the thirty-third state, these top 30 species are the best birds to watch for in Oregon.

  • 01 of 30

    Harlequin Duck

    Harlequin Duck

    Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    The drake harlequin duck (Histrionicus histrionicus) has stunning “painted” plumage, though the female is much more camouflaged. These ducks spend their winters along Oregon’s rocky, turbulent coast, and during the breeding season, they are found along the state’s active streams.

  • 02 of 30

    Long-Tailed Duck

    Long-Tailed Duck

    Ron Knight / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    Also called the oldsquaw, the long-tailed duck (Clangula hyemalis) is easily recognized by its needle-like tail. These are diving ducks, and are hardy, Arctic birds that are often along Oregon’s coast in the winter months, typically further offshore than other winter ducks.

  • 03 of 30

    Cackling Goose

    Cackling Goose

    Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    The cackling goose (Branta hutchinsii) was considered a subspecies of the Canada goose until 2004, but these much smaller geese with their stubby bills and shorter legs are now considered a species of their own. They’re found in western half of Oregon throughout the winter.

  • 04 of 30

    Brant

    Brant

    Russ / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    The brant (Branta bernicla) is a small, dark goose easily recognized by its black head and neck with a white, triangular, partial collar. In Oregon, these geese appear in sheltered coastal bays throughout the winter, often with other winter waterfowl.

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  • 05 of 30

    Tundra Swan

    Tundra Swan

    USFWS / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    Very large and powerful, the tundra swan (Cygnus columbianus) is a winter resident in western Oregon, though not often right on the Pacific coast and instead preferring more inland areas, including flooded fields. They’re also often seen in flight, and their three-noted honking is distinctive.

  • 06 of 30

    Tufted Puffin

    Tufted Puffin

    Isaac Sanchez / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    Widespread along the Pacific coast, the tufted puffin (Fratercula cirrhata) breeds along the Oregon coast on rocky islands and cliffs. The long pair of crests these birds wear during the breeding season is a distinctive feature and makes identification easy for birders who want to see puffins.

  • 07 of 30

    Rhinoceros Auklet

    Rhinoceros Auklet

    Mick Thompson / Flickr / Used With Permission

    The rhinoceros auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata) is found year-round along the Oregon coast but is most distinctive along the northern coast during the breeding season, when these birds wear their namesake basal knob. That “horn” falls off after the breeding season.

  • 08 of 30

    Common Murre

    Common Murres

    Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith / Flickr / CC by-SA 2.0

    The common murre (Uria aalge) is the largest of the auks and resembles a penguin with its upright posture and pied plumage. These sleek birds are found year-round off the Oregon coast, and breed in isolated areas on rocky islands and cliffs.

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  • 09 of 30

    Marbled Murrelet

    Marbled Murrelet

    U.S. Forest Service / Martin Raphael / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    A small but distinct bird, the marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) prefers sheltered coastal waters and are found year-round all along Oregon’s coast. They breed in coastal forests, preferring old-growth areas where they nest on high branches.

  • 10 of 30

    Brandt's Cormorant

    Brandt's Cormorant

    Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    While the Brandt’s cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) has similar plumage to the pelagic and double-crested cormorants, all three of which are also found along Oregon’s coast year-round, the blue patch on the throat and the buff chin during the breeding season are distinct field marks for these birds.

  • 11 of 30

    Black-Footed Albatross

    Black-Footed Albatross

    ALAN SCHMIERER / Flickr / CC0 1.0

    While most albatrosses are not seen inland, the black-footed albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) can be seen on pelagic birding tours from Oregon year-round, though late spring and summer are the best seasons to spot them. Their overall dark coloration makes these seabirds easy to identify.

  • 12 of 30

    Osprey

    Osprey

    texaus1 / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    As one of the world’s most widespread raptors, the osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is not unique to Oregon, but it is a unique sight to see these superb fishermen hunting in the state’s amazing gorges during salmon season. Of course, they are seen year-round throughout the state, hunting many types of fish.

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  • 13 of 30

    Spotted Owl

    Spotted Owl

    Bettina Arrigoni / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    Many birders hope to spot the spotted owl (Strix occidentalis) when they visit Oregon. These owls are found in the western third of the state year-round, typically in old-growth forest but not in regions where the more aggressive great horned owls are plentiful.

  • 14 of 30

    Greater Sage-Grouse

    Greater Sage-Grouse

    Tom Koerner / USFWS / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    In the southeastern sagebrush plains of Oregon, the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is a year-round target bird for visitors to see. Visiting a lek during the mating season is the best way to see these elusive birds, but birders should be careful not to disturb the birds’ courtship.

  • 15 of 30

    Chukar

    Chukar

    Miltos Gikas / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    A colorful and unexpected game bird, the chukar (Alectoris chukar) is found year-round in eastern Oregon. Its preferred habitat includes dry, rocky canyons, which are similar to the habitat it prefers in its native Asian and Middle Eastern range.

  • 16 of 30

    Mountain Quail

    Mountain Quail

    Nick Varvel / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    The mountain quail (Oreortyx pictus) is a shy, elusive game bird, but its colorful flanks and upright, thin crest are distinctive field marks. These birds are found year-round in both eastern and western Oregon in brushy foothills and mountains, but are missing from the central region of the state.

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  • 17 of 30

    Black Oystercatcher

    Black Oystercatcher

    Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    An easy-to-spot shorebird along Oregon’s wave-washed, rocky coasts year-round, the black oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani) is bold and active as it seeks out oysters, mussels, and other prey it pries off rocks. These birds are typically found in pairs.

  • 18 of 30

    Black Turnstone

    Black Turnstone

    Jason Crotty / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    The black turnstone (Arenaria melanocephala) is easily spotted along Oregon’s coast in winter, often on rocks, jetties, and mudflats as well as along beaches. These birds are plainer and darker than the ruddy turnstone, which it often flocks with.

  • 19 of 30

    Surfbird

    Surfbird

    Nigel / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    Another active shorebird, the surfbird (Aphriza virgata) is a winter guest to Oregon’s rocky coast, where it searches for barnacles and mollusks with its short bill. Its bright legs are a key identifying trait even in winter when many other shorebirds have duller colors.

  • 20 of 30

    American Dipper

    American Dipper

    Eric Ellingson / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    While Oregon may be known for its shores, the American dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) avoids the shore but prefers active, rocky, mountain streams inland instead. It can be found year-round in the western and northeastern parts of the state. Dippers stay low above the water when they fly.

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  • 21 of 30

    Lewis's Woodpecker

    Lewis's Woodpecker

    Linda Tanner / Flickr / Used With Permission

    Oregon is well known for its great variety of woodpeckers, including the uniquely colored Lewis’s woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis). These birds breed in eastern Oregon, and are year-round residents in the state’s western mountains. They are found in tall tree groves, but are absent from coastal areas.

  • 22 of 30

    White-Headed Woodpecker

    White-Headed Woodpecker
    Frank Lehman/Flickr/Used With Permission

    Aptly named for its plain white head and face, the white-headed woodpecker (Picoides albolarvatus) prefers mountain pine forests year-round. In Oregon, these woodpeckers are found in the central and northeastern areas of the state where the habitat is appropriate.

  • 23 of 30

    Acorn Woodpecker

    Acorn Woodpecker

    ALAN SCHMIERER / Flickr / CC0 1.0

    The acorn woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) is a nut-loving bird, stashing hundreds of acorns in “granary trees” that are used by an entire woodpecker family. These birds are found year-round in southwestern Oregon where oak trees are abundant.

  • 24 of 30

    Red-Breasted Sapsucker

    Red-Breasted Sapsucker

    Linda Tanner / Flickr / Used With Permission

    Boldly colored and distinctive, the red-breasted sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber) is a year-round resident of western Oregon’s humid forests. Because these woodpeckers may interbreed with red-naped sapsuckers, some offspring will show subtle striping on the head.

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  • 25 of 30

    Varied Thrush

    Varied Thrush

    Nick Saunders / Flickr / Used With Permission

    The varied thrush (Ixoreus naevius) prefers to stay low in thick cover, but its bold markings are still easy to recognize. The birds are year-round residents of western Oregon, but spread out through the center of the state in winter. Some winter varied thrushes even irrupt much further outside of Oregon.

  • 26 of 30

    Hermit Warbler

    Hermit Warbler

    Frode Jacobsen / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    The very plain, bright yellow face of the hermit warbler (Dendroica occidentalis) is instantly recognizable. These birds spend their summers in western Oregon and are also found in southwestern Washington and northern California. In winter, they migrate to Mexico and Central America.

  • 27 of 30

    Chestnut-Backed Chickadee

    Chestnut-Backed Chickadee

    ALAN SCHMIERER / Flickr / CC0 1.0

    The chestnut-backed chickadee (Poecile rufescens) is easily found in the dense, wet, evergreen forests of western Oregon, where it lives year-round. Active and curious, these birds respond to pishing and will readily come to feeders if birders take steps to attract chickadees.

  • 28 of 30

    Anna's Hummingbird

    Anna's Hummingbird

    Frank Lehman / Flickr / Used With Permission

    One of the few northern states to enjoy winter hummingbirds, Oregon is home to the Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna) year-round in coastal regions and along mountain streams. These bright hummers are also found in gardens, parks, and yards with hummingbird-friendly flowers.

    Continue to 29 of 30 below.
  • 29 of 30

    Calliope Hummingbird

    Calliope Hummingbird

    Dan Pancamo / Flickr / Used With Permission

    The smallest of the North American hummingbirds, the calliope hummingbird (Stellula calliope) is found throughout much of Oregon’s mountain meadows in the summer, but is absent from the state’s northwestern corner. The pink streaky feathers of these hummers’ throats are very distinctive.

  • 30 of 30

    Western Meadowlark

    Western Meadowlark

    Becky Matsubara / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    Boldly colored with an equally bold voice, the western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) is Oregon’s official state bird. It is found year-round throughout the state in grassland areas, where it will often sing from fence posts, brush tops, and other elevated perches. No visit to Oregon is complete without spotting this melodious bird!