Updated May 9, 2024 - Things to Do

What makes Portland a great place for birdwatching

A photo of two waxwngs sitting on a branch.

Two Cedar Waxwings sitting on a branch. Photo: Courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

As Portlanders, we're lucky because our region hosts a diverse bunch of over 200 winged species that can be seen almost anywhere in town, no matter the season.

Why it matters: Spring is still the best time for birdwatching, since dozens of migratory species are passing through.

The latest: Through the end of May, the Bird Alliance of Oregon (formerly Portland Audubon) hosts free, guided Bird Song Walks at parks throughout the region, including Canemah Bluff Nature Park, Mount Tabor and Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge.

  • Birders of all experience levels are encouraged to meet up and hear the tunes of our feathered friends.

What they're saying: Sarah Swanson, an event manager for the Bird Alliance, says the organization has seen a boom in birders of all ages in recent years, thanks to the hobby's low barrier to entry and proximity to the great outdoors.

  • "It's just a really accessible way to enjoy nature," she told Axios. "You don't have to go super hard to be a birder and get some enjoyment out of it."

The intrigue: Portland is home to myriad habitats, making it one of the best places to spot not only regional residents — like American robins, dark-eyed juncos and ospreys — but also neotropical migrants, like black-headed grosbeaks and warblers, just passing through.

  • Look for waterfowl at the Columbia River, wade through the cottonwood forests of Sauvie Island to glance at woodpeckers and chickadees, or take a stroll up Mount Tabor to find red-tailed hawks and spotted towhees.
A photo of people looking through binoculars at birds.
Birding is for everybody. Photo: Courtesy of Bird Alliance of Oregon

Flashback: During the early days of the pandemic, Swanson said, a lot of people took notice of birds in their neighborhoods, looking up different species and putting out feeders, which led some to join birdwatching clubs when gatherings resumed.

  • Since then, the Bird Alliance has seen increased interest in its guided walks and the "Birdathon" — a weeks-long fundraising event tied to how many species a single birder sees.
  • And it's not just among retired folks, which is a stereotype of the hobby, Swanson said. "I just see a lot of enthusiastic, young, new birders out there."
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