If you don’t give a hoot about this, you’re missing out!
In the Pacific Northwest, spotting your favorite feathered friends is easy! Much of the area is a natural path for migration, offering temporary and permanent homes for hundreds of species of birds. Add in the many nature reserves, estuaries and bird sanctuaries scattered throughout the region, and you’ve got a recipe for some of the best birdwatching on the globe!
To give you some guaranteed birding action, we’ve scoured the area and created a list of the top birdwatching hotspots in the Northwest. So, grab your binoculars and your trusty species guide and train your eyes to the skies to find your flock with this birding guide to the Pacific Northwest!
Up first on our list is a spot the Audubon Society has named as the best birdwatching hotspot in Washington. Leavenworth sits at the junction of the Icicle and Wenatchee rivers, giving it a uniquely diverse landscape that offers good birdwatching opportunities year-round. Leavenworth is home to some of the most iconic birds in the country, from American dippers to raptors to woodpeckers and more.
Birdwatching is a breeze in Leavenworth thanks to the Barn Beach Reserve, a nine-acre sanctuary owned by the Wenatchee River Institute (WRI). This environmental learning center features plenty of accessible walking trails where visitors can see a variety of local and migratory bird species that make their home on the Wenatchee River. Depending on the time of year, you may spot Warblers, Sparrows, Swallows, or Osprey. You may even see a majestic eagle soaring over the Wenatchee River!
The Reserve is also home to Bird Fest, an annual event that brings bird enthusiasts together each May to enjoy classes, workshops, speakers, and of course, plenty of birdwatching.
Where to Nest: Make your own home away from home in Leavenworth at luxurious Edgewater Lodge! This sprawling cabin sits right on the Wenatchee River, giving you plenty of opportunities to see your feathered friends from your own back porch.
Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
Thanks to its temperate rainforest climate, Vancouver Island is home to more than 400 species of local and migratory birds. Some of the best places on the island to birdwatch include the many estuaries and wildlife sanctuaries that span across its shores. Whether you’re staying in north, south, east or western Vancouver Island, you need only look up to see your feathered friends in flight.
The largest estuary on the island is an official eBird hotspot that supports a wide variety of birds and other wildlife. You’ll spot many water-based bird species in the area, including ducks, raptors, owls, heron and more.
On the western side of the island, this official Important Bird Area (IBA) is known as one of the best places in western Canada to birdwatch. Shorebirds and waterfowl like sandpipers, heron, geese, and the endangered marbled murrelet use the mudflats for migratory travel and nesting.
The river that winds through this iconic park acts as an important spawning site for chinook salmon and chum. This leads waterfowl like Bald Eagles, gulls, and mergansers to swoop in and enjoy a bountiful feast in the park’s waters. You can also spot Winter Wrens, American dippers, and dozens of songbirds in the surrounding trees!
Where to Nest: Just 15 minutes from Nanaimo, Nanoose Bay Country Home offers a perfect base for bird watching across Vancouver Island.
Lopez & San Juan Islands
Just off the eastern tip of Vancouver Island, Lopez Island and San Juan Island offer the perfect blend of rugged terrain and coastal habitats to attract hundreds of local and migratory bird species. You don’t need expert birdwatching skills to catch a glimpse of your feathered friends on the islands, as unique birds can be seen and heard from every corner of the islands year-round! A quick ferry trip from your rental on Vancouver Island, San Juan and Lopez islands are a must-see for any respecting birder.
San Juan Island
San Juan Island is a birders paradise. It’s home to the largest population of breeding bald eagles in Washington State; you’ll often see these majestic flyers swooping overhead from anywhere on the island. For a closer look, head to the historic lighthouse on Cattle Point, a known hangout spot for these elusive birds. You can also catch a glimpse of diving seabirds fishing off the coast!
Another can’t-miss birding spot on San Juan Island is English Camp, the northern section of the San Juan National Park. The area features a diverse habitat that includes a large bay, open woodland, mudflats, rocky slopes, and coniferous forests. Keep your eyes peeled for osprey, eagles, and snowy owls in the treetops or head to the mudflats to see wading blue herons and nesting ducks.
On Lopez Island, head south from the ferry and make your way to Iceberg Point. This rocky bluff offers sweeping views of the Olympic Mountain and the chance to get up close and personal with some unique waterfowl. Keep an eye out for tufted penguins, soaring seagulls and black oystercatchers.
Where to Nest: Settle in at luxurious Three Coves Hideaway, a stunning 3BR home that overlooks Haro Strait.
Oregon is part of the Pacific Flyway, the western-most passage for migratory birds, making the area a birdwatcher’s paradise. Thanks to a diverse landscape that includes rocky shores, soaring forests, dense wetlands, and winding rivers, central and coastal Oregon offer visitors hundreds of unique bird species to spot and photograph on your birding adventure. Whether you’re an expert or amateur bird enthusiast, you’ll find plenty of feathered friends in the area.
Coastal Oregon (Cannon Beach)
Cannon Beach is a quaint seaside town in northwestern Oregon, where miles of dramatic cliff faces and rocky shores provide an attractive home for hundreds of waterfowl species. It’s known as one of the 100 most beautiful spots on Earth – and the birds agree! A trip to Cannon Beach means you’ll get plenty of birdwatching experience, coupled with unmatched coastal views. Here are the best places to flock:
No birding trip to Cannon Beach is complete without a first stop at Haystack Rock. This gigantic monolith sits just offshore and provides a haven for nesting tufted puffins every spring. Stop by from April to August to see these colorful characters popping up from its grassy slopes. It’s the best access to these elusive birds in the entire Northwest!
Chapman Point (Bird Rocks)
Cannon Beach has another claim to fame when it comes to birding. Just north of Chapman Point, Bird Rocks is home to the largest colony of common mures in the world! These penguin-like birds congregate en-mass on the rocky surface, often covering it completely from view. You can also see bald eagles, Marbled Murelett, Hawks, and Peregrine Falcons frequenting the nearby cliffs and shores.
Where to Nest: Birds of a feather flock together! For visitors to Cannon Beach, that means a luxurious seaside rental that keeps you close to the coast. If you want to be near Haystack Rock, Paradise View is a beachfront retreat that offers sweeping ocean views and quick access to downtown.
Nestled near Deschutes National Forest and the shores of the McKenzie River, Sisters is in prime birding territory. You can often hear the call of the Western Meadowlark, the state bird of Oregon, echoing through the streets and trails just outside of downtown. For a closer experience, try these excellent birding hotspots:
Indian Ford Campground
This no-frills campsite at the mouth of the Deschutes National Forest welcomes you into a teeming riparian habitat thanks to the intersecting Indian Ford Creek. Explore miles of mature ponderosa pine forest as you listen to the soulful sounds of warblers and migratory songbirds. Keep an eye out for the shy pygmy-owl hiding in the treetops!
Cold Springs Campground
Cold Springs Campground, another portion of Deschutes National Forest that runs near McKenzie River, is a great place to catch white-headed woodpeckers nesting in the tall aspen trees. Try to spot all six species of woodpecker that call this forest home – and watch out for spotted towhees scampering beneath your feet!
Where to Nest: Stay close to the action in our D2 Estate, a luxurious rental surrounded by 10 acres of soaring ponderosa pine.
Just 45 minutes south of Sisters, Sunriver offers many of the same habitats and landscapes for birdwatching as its central Oregon neighbors. As an added benefit, it’s home to the Sunriver Nature Center, a dedicated wildlife reserve that’s home to hundreds of species of song and shorebirds.
This multi-habitat reserve provides a sanctuary for birds and other wildlife in central Oregon. From riparian areas to marshy wetlands and open meadows, each area of the center has easy-to-access trails that lead you from one habitat to the next. They also offer guided bird tours through the center, where you’ll learn from a local birding expert about the types and tendencies of each species you see.
Just 10 minutes north of Sunriver, the High River Museum boasts miles of wide, expansive trails that wind through acres of Ponderosa Pine forests teeming with birdlife. The area is home to species like the Pygmy Nuthatch, Hite-headed Woodpecker, and Mountain Chickadee. If you still have a bird to check off your list when you’re done, you can always head inside the museum for a peek at their live bird residents!
Where to Nest: We have a large variety of vacation rentals near Sunriver where you can rest your binoculars after a day of birding. Our Aquila Lodge 5 is just minutes from the Sunriver Nature Center, and also offers five complimentary bikes that guests can use to cycle the city’s many nature paths and spot some wild birds of your own!
Ready to start birding? Book your stay with Northwest Stays for the perfect birding base for your own flock today!