Winter Birdwatching in Oregon - Columbia Land Trust
Photo by Brian Chambers Photography
Visit the birding hotspots near some of our conserved sites

If you’ve ever travelled through Oregon in the winter, you know that the birds love to show off. Throughout the state, there are several protected wildlife areas and refuges that make for excellent birdwatching. Some of which are near our conserved sites!

One of the best spots to go birdwatching is at the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area, located just outside of Portland. The wildlife area protects habitat for waterfowl and has grown from five to 11,643 acres since its beginning in 1940.  At least 275 species of birds are supported throughout the landscape and thousands love to hang out for the winter. September to March is the perfect time to see wintering waterfowl, swans, and sandhill cranes. If you’re lucky, from January to March, you might see some bald eagles too.

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge provides a variety of habitat in southeast Oregon for birds that migrate through the Pacific Flyway and acts as a small rest stop for the frequent fliers. The refuge was established by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 to serve as a protected breeding ground for native birds. Known as the “mecca for birdwatchers”, the refuge sees over 300 species of birds throughout the year, making it the perfect viewing site for all seasons. Visitors are encouraged to make their way through the surrounding land to see birds gather in larger numbers.

Fernhill is a prime location for birdwatching west of the Cascades. Located near Forest Grove, it is another rest stop for many wintering waterfowl and other birds that migrate over the Pacific Northwest. Since its transformation from sewage ponds to National Treatment Systems, the area has increased the variety of habitat available for several different species of birds. During the winter in the wetlands, you’ll see black-capped and chestnut-backed chickadee, robin, song sparrow, geese, swan, red-tailed hawk, and much more.

If you find yourself eager to bird watch along the North Coast, Fort Stevens State Park is an excellent place to explore. The park was previously a military base, but now provides a variety of outdoor recreational experiences. You’ll be amazed at the remarkable amount of birds in nearby forests, wetlands, and beaches. Some birds occupy the park year round, while others prefer to visit seasonally. A few of the long-term residents include steller’s jay, winter and marsh wren, red-tailed hawk, and more.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife provides several resources and tips for birdwatching that may be helpful to you. Be sure to stay updated on information about your region’s field reports, birding area maps, and more.

Happy birdwatching!