Oregon is an amazing state well known for fantastic natural features, including Mount Hood, Crater Lake, and the Columbia River Gorge, as well as spectacular salmon, a vibrant wine industry, and abundant ghost towns. What birders know the Beaver State 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.
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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.
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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.
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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.Continue to 5 of 30 below.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.Continue to 9 of 30 below.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.Continue to 13 of 30 below.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.Continue to 17 of 30 below.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.Continue to 21 of 30 below.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.Continue to 25 of 30 below.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
While the birds of Oregon are amazing, if heading to the Pacific Northwest isn't part of your travel plans, there are many other great destinations that have fantastic birds to see.
- Get tropical and see fantastic birds in Florida!
- Enjoy heartland species when you find birds in Ohio!
- Get the best desert and mountain birds in Utah!
No matter where you travel, there are always more stunning birds to see, and if you know which birds to watch for, you won't be disappointed no matter where your avitourism takes you.