30 Best Birds to Watch for in Oregon

Oregon’s diverse landscapes provide excellent birdwatching opportunities. From rugged coastlines to high mountain peaks, mixed forests to arid deserts, birders can find a huge variety of species. Here are 30 of the best birds to look for on your next birding adventure in Oregon:

Steller’s Jay

With its crest of dark blue and black feathers and striking bright blue body, the Steller’s jay is a real beauty. It’s loud calls of “shaar-shaar-shaar-shack-shack-shack” echo through mountain forests across Oregon. Steller’s jays are intelligent and curious birds that can be quite bold around humans. Watch for these jays hopping along branches and scavenging for food at campgrounds in forested mountain areas like the Cascades and Siskiyous.

Black-billed Magpie

The largest North American magpie, the black-billed magpie is an eye-catching bird with its long, iridescent blue-green tail and bold black and white markings. Look for these social, noisy birds in valleys and foothills across Oregon. They build large, domed nests high in trees. Around humans, magpies are intelligent and inquisitive but may become aggressive when defending nest sites.

Red-breasted Sapsucker

Red-breasted sapsuckers are woodpeckers adorned with red feathers on their heads. Watch for them drilling into tree bark to feed on sap. They use a unique figure-eight motion when drilling. Listen for their metallic “tuk-tuk-tuk” calls ringing through forests. In Oregon, these striking woodpeckers breed in coniferous mountain forests and migrate to lower elevations and wet woodlands in winter.

Varied Thrush

During the breeding season, male varied thrushes live up to their name with striking plumage in hues of orange, blue, black and white. After nesting in northwest mountain forests, they migrate through Oregon to wintering grounds along the coast. Watch for these robin-sized birds hopping along the ground, flicking leaf litter as they search for insects. Listen for their eerie, ringing song echoing through the area.

Bullock’s Oriole

The male Bullock’s oriole sports a bright orange body and black cap and bib, making it eye-catching as it darts between trees. This striking songbird summers in open oak and riparian woodlands in southwest Oregon’s Rogue and Umpqua River valleys. Watch for the distinctive hanging basket nests. Listen for the loud, flute-clear whistle of the males and a chattering call from females.

Bald Eagle

With a wingspan topping 6 feet, bald eagles are truly majestic raptors. They’re most numerous along Oregon’s coastline and rivers where they hunt for fish but also inhabit lakes and wetlands statewide. Look high overhead for these powerful birds soaring with flat wings or perched in large conifer snags. Their high-pitched cackling calls can sometimes be heard from birds in flight.

Lewis’s Woodpecker

Though they favor burned pine forests, Lewis’s woodpeckers sometimes visit oak woodlands and riparian areas in southern Oregon. Their dark greenish-black plumage and red face make them stand out. These long-distance migrants winter farther south but return to nest in Oregon’s cavities. Watch for them flycatching from perches and listen for their loud, rolling calls.

American Dipper

American dippers, sometimes called water ouzels, like fast-flowing mountain streams. Look for these unique songbirds bobbing up and down on rocks along rushing streams, or even diving underwater to forage! Listen for their loud, ringing song echoing from streambanks. They build distinctive ball-shaped nests tucked under bridges and overhangs along waterways.

Black Phoebe

In the Columbia River Gorge and other rocky gorges statewide, keep watch along the rocky walls for black phoebes. These songbirds constantly wag their tails and make aerial forays to catch insects in midair. Look for mossy nests attached to rock overhangs along cliffs and listen for their sharp “whee-bee” calls.

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Though tiny at just 8 inches tall, northern saw-whet owls have an oversized presence when their haunting, monotonous tooting call echoes through the night. These nocturnal raptors hunt from low perches in dense conifers and deciduous woods. Try owling after dark by hiking forest trails and listening for their calls or trying recordings to elicit a response.

Mountain Quail

Plump, ground-dwelling mountain quail inhabit brushy mountain foothills in southwest Oregon. Their whistled calls sound like “Chicago!” Watch for coveys freezing and holding still in shrubs to avoid detection before scurrying uphill and out of sight. The males have a bold white head plume that stands up when they’re alarmed.

Red-necked Grebe

In winter and during migration, watch for red-necked grebes on lakes, reservoirs and along the coast, where they dive to pursue small fish. They earn their name from their striking plumage pattern: a grey body, dark cap, white cheeks and a rusty red neck. Listen for their cackling calls and whistles carrying across the water.

Red-tailed Hawk

One of Oregon’s most widespread raptors, look for red-tailed hawks soaring over open areas throughout the state. They are colorful raptors with dark patagial markings on the leading edge of their wings when soaring. Watch for them perched on poles, trees or rocky outcrops surveying for prey. Their shrill, piercing scream is a classic sound of the outdoors.

Golden Eagle

With wingspans over 6 feet, golden eagles impress with their large size and prowess as aerial hunters. In Oregon, they’re most often spotted soaring over open habitats east of the Cascades. Watch for them cruising at high altitudes over mountain slopes, rock outcrops and plains, especially in late fall and winter.

Western Bluebird

Beloved for their brilliant blue plumage and cheerful song, western bluebirds are a jewel of Oregon’s oak savannas and open ponderosa pine forests. They nest in cavities and readily use nest boxes. Watch for these azure beauties perching on low branches or wires, fluttering out to catch insects in open areas.

Acorn Woodpecker

In oak woodlands of southwestern Oregon, acorn woodpeckers provide constant entertainment as they store acorns in specially-drilled holes they peck into dead snags and live tree trunks. Watch for these clown-faced woodpeckers squabbling and chasing each other around granary trees and listen for their raucous cries.

Pileated Woodpecker

Oregon’s largest woodpecker, the crow-sized pileated woodpecker makes its home in mature and old-growth forests statewide. Watch for this unmistakable black bird with a flaming red crest hammering away at snags and listen for its loud,machine gun-like hammering and raucous cackling calls.

American White Pelican

Massive American white pelicans breed in colonies in eastern Oregon and visit lakes and rivers statewide during migration and winter. They’re one of the largest North American birds, with wingspans over 9 feet! Watch for squadrons gliding in V-formation, sometimes soaring high in the sky.

Clark’s Nutcracker

This mountain dweller survives harsh winters by caching tens of thousands of pine seeds for later. Its loud, rolling calls echo through mountain forests as these gray and black birds fly between trees. Watch for them investigating picnic tables and campsites for food scraps too.

Sandhill Crane

Standing 4 feet tall, sandhill cranes are truly imposing birds. Migrating flocks stop in the Klamath Basin and Summer Lake region where tens of thousands congregate. Watch for these elegant gray birds striding across marshes and fields, leaping and flapping their huge wings as they take flight.

Burrowing Owl

Unlike most owls, burrowing owls nest underground in abandoned mammal burrows, especially those of prairie dogs. Find these charismatic owls standing sentinel or sunning at burrow entrances in Oregon’s arid grasslands and shrub steppe landscapes, especially at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Snow Goose

Snow geese winter in the thousands at wildlife refuges in the Willamette Valley and Klamath Basin. Watch for huge flocks and lines of these white geese with black-tipped wings flying overhead or feeding in wetlands and agricultural fields. Their loud, nasally calls carry far.

Northern Harrier

Northern harriers cruise low over fields and marshes watching for small mammal prey. Also called marsh hawks, males are pale grey with white rumps, females larger and brown. Watch for their acrobatic aerial courtship displays in spring when pairs soar high together before diving steeply.

Hooded Oriole

The bright yellow and black plumage and loud whistled song of male hooded orioles make them hard to miss on a spring or summer day in southwest Oregon. Watch for these striking songbirds in cottonwoods along rivers and streams and in neighborhoods with tall trees.

Mountain Bluebird

Though widespread in migration, mountain bluebirds nest in higher elevation meadows and grasslands in central and eastern Oregon. Males are brilliant sky blue above and pale blue below, females more muted gray-brown. Watch for them perching on fence posts and wires along mountain roads.


Traveling from South American wintering grounds, male bobolinks in their black and white breeding plumage brighten Oregon’s eastern meadows with bubbling, ringing song. Watch for these grassland birds singing from perches and fluttering over fields during summer. Large flocks stopover in migration.

Western Meadowlark

Oregon’s state bird, the western meadowlark serenades from fence posts with its flute-clear song. Its bright yellow breast with a distinctive black “necklace” make it easily recognizable. Watch for these grassland songbirds displaying by fluttering high over fields, singing exuberantly.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted kingfishers make their presence known with their rattling, laughing call as they fish rivers and lakes. These stocky, crested birds dive from perches to catch fish and crayfish. Watch for their shaggy crests bobbing as they perch on branches over the water.

American Kestrel

North America’s smallest falcon, the American kestrel is often seen perching on wires in open country across Oregon. The males’ slate blue wings and rusty red back and tail make them colorful raptors. Watch for these falcons hovering at roadsides as they scan for prey.

Western Screech-Owl

One of Oregon’s most common owls, western screech-owls inhabit wooded suburbs, parks, and rural areas statewide. Listen for their haunting, bouncing-ball whistle calls at night. They nest in tree cavities but also readily use nest boxes.

Barn Owl

With their ghostly white heart-shaped faces, barn owls are a spooky sight. They inhabit rural barns and outbuildings where they hunt for rodents. Listen for their eerie rasping scream at night. Watch for their swift, buoyant flight over fields as they hunt.

Anna’s Hummingbird

Watch for these boldly-colored hummingbirds with iridescent rose-pink throats and crowns feeding from flowering plants even in cold weather. The males perform dramatic aerial courtship displays, climbing hundreds of feet into the air before diving down.

Great Horned Owl

Oregon’s largest owl species, great horned owls have prominent ear tufts and bright yellow eyes. Their deep hooting calls are quintessential nighttime sounds: “hoo hoo-hoo hooooo.” Watch for these powerful nocturnal hunters perched on snags and rocky outcrops.

Red Crossbill

Watch for these uniquely-adapted finches in coniferous forests across Oregon. Crossbills use their crossed mandibles to pry seeds out of cones. Listen for their “kip” flight calls as flocks move through the tree tops searching for ripe cones.

Black Oystercatcher

Watch for these striking black shorebirds with bright orange bills and eyes along Oregon’s rocky coastlines. Listen for their piping calls as they fly along beaches. Oystercatchers use their strong bills to probe for invertebrates in the intertidal zone and mussels in rocks.

Yellow-breasted Chat

In northwest Oregon’s riparian thickets, listen for the bizarre song medley of the yellow-breasted chat. They mimic other birds’ songs and incorporate gurgles, whistles and chatters. Watch for these gray songbirds with bright yellow throats skulking through dense understory vegetation.

Rufous Hummingbird

One of Oregon’s most common and feisty hummingbirds, rufous hummingbirds pass through in huge numbers during migration on their way to and from their Alaska breeding grounds. Watch for the males’ brilliant orange throats as they chase each other around yards and gardens.

Vaux’s Swift

From spring through fall, watch for huge flocks of Vaux’s swifts circling on swift, curved wings over towns and cities at dusk as they head to nighttime roosts in chimneys and hollow trees. These agile birds fly ceaselessly as they catch insects on the wing.


With varied habitats ranging from rugged coastlines to high desert, Oregon offers marvelous birding opportunities. From tiny hummingbirds to massive pelicans, songbirds, raptors, waterfowl and shorebirds, these 30 species highlight the diversity of birds to watch for around the Beaver State. Exploring Oregon with binoculars, field guides and curiosity promises excellent birding adventures.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some of Oregon’s best birding spots?

Some top birding hotspots in Oregon include Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Steens Mountain, Camp Sherman, Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, Malheur National Forest, Siuslaw National Forest, Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges, Summer Lake, and Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge.

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

Spring (April-May) and fall (September-October) migration are excellent times, when both resident species and migrants are present. Some birds like hummingbirds, swallows, swifts and shorebirds are more abundant in migration. Winter is good for raptors, waterfowl and finches.

What birds are unique to Oregon?

Some Oregon specialty birds include the Oregon vesper sparrow, streaked horned lark, red-eyed vireo, varied thrush, band-tailed pigeon, sooty grouse and marbled murrelet.

Are there any endangered birds in Oregon?

Oregon has several endangered bird species including the marbled murrelet, northern spotted owl, short-tailed albatross, western snowy plover, yellow-billed cuckoo and streaked horned lark. Protecting rare birds is important for conservation.

What tools do I need to start birdwatching?

Great starter gear includes binoculars, bird guides or apps to help with identification, layered clothing in earth tones, hiking footwear, hats, and snacks. Optional gear includes a spotting scope, camera, birdfeeders and nest boxes to attract birds.

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