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Oregon Birds: Profiles of 10 (Diverse) Backyard Species

American Robin eating berries

Last Updated: September 20, 2022

Many birders nowadays know how phenomenal birdwatching is in Oregon. For one, there's Siletz Bay, a well-known National Wildlife Refuge in Central Oregon, which has a picturesque marsh area that houses raptors and waterbirds.

Not to mention how migratory birds enjoy the lakes and wetlands to the east of the Cascade Mountains in southern Oregon. The state's diverse habitats are home to various Oregon birds.

Therefore...

Before you embark on an enriching birdwatching experience, let's get to know some of the species you will likely encounter there.

The Different Birds Of Oregon

Oregon's biological diversity explains its abundant bird distribution, natural history, and habitats. There are several Oregon backyard birds you will likely encounter across the state. Some are familiar visitors, while others are occasional ones.

Understanding different bird species is essential in appreciating their kind, and bird watching is more fun when you know what you see. Hence, we provide comprehensive bird profiles for a better Oregon bird identification and a more memorable birding experience.

Even if you don't get to visit the popular birding hotspots around the area, the show in your backyard will deliver you hours of enjoyment. Here are some of the most familiar Oregon backyard birds and how you can recognize them more easily:

1. American Robin American Robin eating berries

American Robin is among the OR state’s birds that breed in a wide range of habitats throughout North America. However, its kind is limited to areas with trees and large shrubs, particularly forests. 

Despite being an inhabitant of riparian woodlands and urban areas of eastern Oregon, you will least likely see an American Robin in treeless regions.

You will recognize this migratory songbird with its gray-colored head and upper parts with an orange shade underneath that looks brighter in males. Adult males also grow black plumages on their heads during the breeding season.

While its diet includes insects and earthworms, you might also encounter an American Robin visiting a feeder for Himalayan blackberry seeds in winter.


2. House Finch

House Finch perched on branch

The house finch from the Fringillidae family is a native bird in western North America. You can find this bird in grasslands, shrub brushwoods, and low-altitude woodlands, especially in residential areas.

A majority of this bird's diet includes dandelion seed, thistle seed, some weeds, and fruits when available.

Many finches, including this house finch and the American goldfinch, form flocks during the non-breeding season. Like the lesser goldfinch, you may also see it frequenting a suburban bird feeder for some seeds.

Its male has varying plumage color, from radiant to faint red and even yellowish-orange, sometimes due to the carotenoid ornaments in its food. Additionally, its long tail, belly, and back have brown streaks.

Comparatively, females have plain brown shades with bold streaks contrasting their white chests.


3. Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow perched on a reed

The song sparrow is among the backyard birds of Oregon with flat feet, just like the white-crowned sparrow. It is a sizable bird with a short bill, rounded head, and one of the most familiar sparrows in North America.

You can spot this sparrow in various habitats, including suburban backyards, brushy fields, woodland edges, and shrubberies near water.

It is one species with the most geographical variation, and those from North America have different kinds of melodious songs. This creature is a year-round resident in western Oregon; hence, you are most likely to hear its cheerful jumble of trills and whistles in your backyard.

Regardless of the variation, remember to look for the long tail and the distinct brownish-grey streaks in its body. Further, the song sparrow primarily feeds on insects, and like the house sparrow, it occasionally visits feeders for some seeds.


4. Northern Flicker Northern Flicker lands on a tree

Among the common birds in Oregon, one of the most adaptable species you can find in various habitats is the Northern flicker. Its versatility is why you'd most likely find it on the entire North American continent. You will find it in open forests, towns, and areas with minimal trees.

This bird starts moving during the late fall towards lowland areas in Oregon's western part, where they become more common in winter. It often competes with kestrels for nest cavities or old tree excavations, as the latter never excavate their holes.

Aside from the kestrels, this competitive interaction also occurs with other hole nesters, such as the mountain bluebird, purple martin, European starling, and house sparrow.

Its eastern subspecies have a yellow-shafted form, while ones with the red shafts are from the west; these variations are noticeable during flight.

A Northern flicker spends much of its time ground foraging ants, its primary food source. Moreover, this bird sometimes eats fruits and berries from trees and shrubs and a chunk of beef suet from bird feeders.


5. Spotted Towhee Spotted Towhee hiding in the yellow flower of the brooms

The spotted towhee is among the widespread species in western North America. It is one of the familiar North American birds you can spot in Oregon's eastern region, often dwelling in forest openings, suburban landscapes, and blackberry patches.

Together with the eastern towhee, these species were once the rufous-sided towhee, now with twenty variable subspecies across its range.

It's a sizable bird with males sporting handsome black plumage and females looking similar but with brown hooded cowls. A spotted towhee also has rufous flanks and white underparts, with its wing having bold white spots and its long black tail with a white tip.

Further, this bird is well-known for its inclination towards brushy habitats in winter. This species forages seeds and insects in such habitats, scuffing thickets energetically with its large toes in a backward, scraping motion. 

However, spotted towhees ingest more insects in springtime and summer than in other seasons. It also has a song that sounds like a standard mnemonic with repeated phrases, either rapidly or slowly.


6. European Starling European Starling in winter perched on a branch

The European starling is a distinctive non-native bird in the northern hemisphere. It resides in open woodlands, meadow edges, riparian forests, and urban and agricultural areas. 

You will mostly find starlings close to human settlements, but never in grasslands lacking trees and also in dense forests.

This species belonging to the Sturnidae family can be a small or medium-sized bird having dark iridescent plumage, a sharp, yellow bill, and strong legs. Starlings are highly thriving invasive creatures proficient at exploiting food resources from other birds.

Starlings are secondary cavity nesters, a pest responsible for the declining population of native cavity-nesters. This opportunistic creature evicts birds like kestrels and woodpeckers from cavities, even causing economic damage by devastating grain and orchard crops.

A European starling mainly feeds on insects, some invertebrates, nuts, seeds, grains, and fruits, although it sometimes asks for handouts. This bird's song is an assortment of whistles and screeches punctuated by sounds resonating a sneeze or a car alarm.


7. Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove on the ground

Although some would rather see it as a songbird, the mourning dove is a widely hunted game bird in the north. You can readily identify this fawn-colored dove with its slender body, small head, rosy breast, and long pointed tail. 

Its kind is widespread throughout the United States, especially during the breeding season.

This graceful-looking dove can thrive in human settlements, but it primarily inhabits open woods, farms, suburbia, and prairies. Mourning doves sometimes benefit from ponderosa pine, juniper, and oak woodlands. These birds even go to desert districts if there's a water source nearby.

This ground-foraging dove has a mellow cooing song like an owl and eats ninety-nine percent seeds, which it swallows whole. Mourning doves typically bob their heads as they show up at feeders for some sunflower seeds, milo, millet, and cracked corn. 

Additionally, this bird lacks the skill to make sturdy nests; thus, these nests fall apart easily during a storm. You're likely to hear a whistling sound from their wing feathers as mourning doves take off in flight.


8. Downy Woodpecker Downy Woodpecker perched on a wooden fence

There are species where males and females share similar looks, and the downy woodpecker is one. The only difference is that females lack that distinctive red mark on the back of the males' heads. Both sexes have white bellies with black and white spots on their wings.

Downy woodpeckers find trees as their essential source of seeds and fruits.

These birds dig into tree barks with their sturdy beaks, reaching for insect larvae and sap, sometimes obtaining insects from leaves or catching insects mid-air.

Such a beak comes in handy for breaking nuts at feeders, where you might also see downy woodpeckers enjoying stale bagels or exploring a suet cage. Throughout winter, their kind remains abundant in Oregon, only moving upslope during the fall season to forage for food.

Additionally, these species play a significant role as natural controllers of forest pests, especially the red oak borer beetle. Such a woodpecker excavates its nest in a diseased or dead tree trunk and dwells mostly in habitats with broad-leafed trees or riparian areas.

Otherwise, you can see it in suburbia and city parks or mixed coniferous-deciduous forests. If you hear its drumming sound during the breeding season, it means that this woodpecker is declaring its territorial limits.


9. American Goldfinch American Goldfinch perched on a wooden fence

The American goldfinch is among the most recognized birds in Oregon; its males have striking yellow plumage with a black cap and wings outshining the females. Non-breeding birds have a faint grayish overall shade with bright yellow heads.

Although their winter plumage looks dull, watching an American goldfinch looping to and from the feeders in your backyard can be entertaining.

Several finches form flocks outside their breeding season, while others are recurring visitors at feeding stations. Many birders often refer to this goldfinch as a winter bird since it is more visible during the non-nesting season.

This bird is common in low shrubberies, brushy spots, and riparian zones; it is rarest in most open areas of southeastern Oregon and the outer coast. It is readily recognizable with its series of high-pitched calls, sometimes a wheezing, twittering sound.

American goldfinches do not have a range as extensive as lesser goldfinches. Such finches nest in spots with low trees and thickets or near marsh edges, weedy fields, and open areas, most commonly in low-altitude valleys.

It favors different seeds, such as goldenrod, thistles, and dandelions, but sometimes eats seeds from conifer, alder, and birch trees. However, these goldfinches feed mainly on insects during their breeding season.


10. American White Pelican American White Pelican stretching its wings

American white pelicans are opportunistic fishers you'd typically encounter along Coos Bay. This large-sized bird also finds the wildlife area on the Pacific flyway as a vital nesting ground. However, birders will see more of it in inland lakes and marshes during its breeding season.

While you may spot this pelican feeding carp at Malheur Lake, you will rarely find it there in winter; it needs isolated habitats with sparse vegetation.

Its straight orange-yellow bill and plumage are unmistakable; it has all-white plumage, with feet and throat pouch in bright orange shade. This throat pouch turns yellowish in winter; the top of its head turns black, and a ridge starts to appear on its upper mandible when breeding.

These birds will often fly farther to feeding areas as they require many fishes when breeding. Upper Klamath Lake, Malheur Lake, and Pelican Lake are among its breeding colonies in Oregon. Their breed is well-known for cooperative feeding that typically occurs in shallow water.

The American white pelican is also an excellent swimmer and flier like brown pelicans, lifting their broad wings with outstretched wing feathers. It is somewhat expected of pelicans to nest in colonies; you will find a handful in the middle of large lakes or watersheds.

When they form flocks, you will notice these pelicans beating their wings in perfect synchronicity. Such movement drives fishes back into shallow waters, where this pelican surrounds and herds its fish prey, feasting on it at will.

There are fewer wetland birds now than there were in the past. Thanks to wetland restoration, these pelicans and many other wetland species are experiencing a resurgence. Nowadays, this restoration is becoming a model for bird conservation.

Birdhub Talk: There are more of these fun birds in other states. Fluff your feathers and fly over here -- Birds in Illinois: 14 Native & Most Rare Species Year-Round.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the state bird of Oregon?

Oregon declared the Western Meadowlark as its state bird in 1927. You can spot this bird year-round across the region's grasslands, overgrown fields, or habitats at low altitudes.

It has brown streaks in its upper section, bright yellow underneath, a black V-shaped band below its throat, and a white outer tail. While you might chance upon this bird feeding on a seed, its diet primarily depends on bugs, crickets, ants, and grasshoppers.

Listen to the sound of a Western Meadowlark here:

What birds of Oregon are migratory?

The rufous hummingbird and the flammulated owl are among the migratory birds in Central Oregon. The varied thrush migrates towards the valleys in winter, and the chipping sparrow arrives in the state in April.

Further, many birders come to the Shorebird Festival on the Oregon Coast to witness a spectacular event. This event provides birders an opportunity to watch a significant number of migrating shorebirds like the Western sandpiper, black-bellied plover, and more.

Relatively, birders interested in seeing great blue heron, great egret, belted kingfisher, and spotted sandpiper can visit the nearby reserve. Several summer residents arrive in Oregon while others pass through as they move north.

Some birds of southern Oregon, especially shorebirds, frequent the Coos river on the south coast. Snowy plovers and Buff-breasted sandpipers appear around the area during spring and fall migration; the waterfowl is a winter bird you will see there too.

What birds can you see on the Oregon Coast?

Between the dense forests and abundant wildlife, Oregon's coastal area is full of wonders that birders should not miss. It is a breathtaking spot to witness the brown pelican, bald eagle, and the great blue heron along the bay's edge.

The dark-eyed junco, black oystercatcher, common murre, and varied thrush enjoy gliding, nesting, and foraging in the rocky cliffs at Cape Meares. The tundra swan frequents Tillamook Bay shores in eastern Oregon and the wetlands around Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Also, you can see the black-bellied plover in western Oregon year-round, while the black-necked stilt is a casual fall migrant. Despite Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach being part of a state-protected wildlife refuge, it's undeniably an iconic spot with its diverse birdlife. 

Tufted puffins nest around this area in springtime; the marbled murrelet feeds along the shore during the breeding season. You can hear the American crow and Steller's jay year-round at Cannon Beach; even songbirds visit there during the winter months. 

Final Thoughts

In summary, we hope this article served as your comprehensive guide to understanding Oregon birds more than merely identifying them. It enriches your birding experience to know more about the bird feeder visitors, resident birds year-round, and those nesting within the state parameters.

If you're consistent about observing these birds, you will gain significant insight into the vast array of interactions among different species. Many of these feathered friends occur across homes and cities in Oregon. 

The state is undoubtedly an excellent place to witness spectacular avian life. You may also check exhaustive bird identification details from Cornell Lab or make it more enthralling by spotting them with your naked eye. 

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