Oregon is a state that runs from rock strewn shores to salty bays, vast rivers to lofty volcanic peaks, glacier alpine lakes and high altitude desert, making it a hot spot for bird variety. In fact, bird watching is popular enough in these parts to merit the creation of a well-rounded list of birding trails that take in much of the state, whether one’s birding needs lead to arid canyons or foggy coast.
For an introduction to this northwestern state’s diversity, leave time for a leisurely loop around Mount Hood and a multi-day excursion through the volcanic peaks of central Oregon west of Bend. Wildlife refuges abound in these parts, but one of the best in southern Oregon is Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, not far from Crater Lake National Park. Salem, the state’s capital, is surrounded by farmland, with waterfalls and forest thrown in for good measure. Drive a loop east before steering on to the Pacific, where shorebirds, seabirds and migratory species flock in season to popular birding sites like Cannon Beach, Yaquina Bay or Bandon Marsh.
Audubon Society of Portland:
At the edge of Portland’s vast Forest Park find the 150-acre wildlife sanctuary run by Audubon. The bird species selection is limited, but for its proximity to big city this offers an easy (and free) introduction to local plants and noisy Steller’s Jays, resident doves, thrushes, chickadees and wandering salamanders.
Mt Hood Bird Watching Loop:
Enjoy a closer look at the face of Portland’s big mountain traveling the birding trail that winds around Mount Hood. Venture from the mouth of the Hood River and the scenic Columbia Gorge past coniferous forest, fruit orchards and river canyon watching for a range of bird species that includes grebes, nutcrackers, woodpeckers, sandpipers, flycatchers, sapsuckers, grouse, even hummingbirds and owls.
Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge:
This 15,000-acre refuge is one of the best places to go birding in southern Oregon. Expansive freshwater marsh and the abundance of open water draw in a number of nesting birds including the American White Pelican, Bald Eagle, herons and Osprey. Plan to penetrate the secrets of this park on the marked canoe trail; canoes are available for rent locally.
Three Sisters Birding Trail:
Scored by the Cascade Range, the country west of Bend takes in volcanic peaks, glacial alpine lakes, old-growth forest, waterfalls, river, meadow and a selection of bird species to match. This self-guided loop route includes stops at Newberry Volcanic National Monument, the haunt of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches, and Salt Creek Falls, where the Black Swift nests. Watch also for songbirds like the Mountain Chickadee and Golden-crowned Kinglet, sapsuckers, grouse, woodpeckers, goshawks and around manzanita thickets like those at Fish Lake, Bald Eagles and Osprey.
Couple a drive through Oregon’s atmospheric farm country with good birding on a self-guided loop tour of the region east of Salem. Between popular tourist destinations like Mount Angel Abbey and Silver Falls State Park via ponds and gardens, this birding trail offers a glimpse of the Dusky Canada Goose (Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge), Western Screech Owl, American Dipper, American Kestrel, Bullock’s Oriole and a long list of additional bird species.
Cannon Beach Settling Ponds:
Wetlands and settling ponds at the edge of popular seaside destination, Cannon Beach, attract a variety of bird species, from waterfowl like colorful Wood Ducks to soaring Bald Eagles, Rufous Hummingbirds and Black-capped Chickadees, many of which can be sighted from the associated viewing platform. Around local landmark, Haystack Rock, look for the Tufted Puffin, Brown Pelican and other seabirds in season.
Between Yaquina Bay State Park, where summer sunshine draws in a cacophony of seabirds like pelicans and cormorants, and the shallow water sites like Perpetua Bank, where pelagic species such as the albatross, shearwater and storm-petrel can be seen by ocean-going boat, the Central Oregon Coast deserves a nod for both fine bird and whale watching in season. Be sure to visit the nature trails at the local marine science center and Oregon Coast Aquarium for more bird viewing opportunities on the bay.
Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge:
There are two units to this 889 acre refuge in the Coquille River estuary, Ni-les’tun and Bandon Marsh. Bandon Marsh attracts thousands of migratory shorebirds in season with its bounty of clams, crabs, shrimp and worms; watch for flocks of sandpipers, plovers, Red Phalaropes and even Ruff. The Ni-les’tun Unit takes in both intertidal and freshwater marsh, as well as riparian habitat which also draws in migrating birds.