The best spring experiences in Bend, Oregon
February 21, 20249 minute read
Bird watching, or birding, around Bend offers spectacular opportunities whether you’re an avian enthusiast or picking up binoculars for the first time, it’s a sanctuary for bird enthusiasts! With a wide diversity of species in the region, you’re sure to spot something special.
Enjoy the sweet melody of a Western Meadowlark right outside your hotel room. Oo and ah as an Osprey plunges into the Deschutes River looking for lunch. Or admire a Great Horned Owl perched cliffside in Shevlin Park. The diversity of species, stunning natural habitats and accessibility make Bend a year-round destination for viewing our feathered friends.
Did you know that Oregon has nine established birding trails, over 500 species of birds, and we’re a major stopover point for migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway? Yup, we’re kind of a big deal. And Bend makes for a perfect place to land while you explore Central Oregon’s parks, forests, rivers, and other areas birds call home, even if it’s just for a quick layover.
So grab your binoculars, and let’s head outdoors for some fabulous bird watching in Bend!
A lot! With over 300 types (residential and migratory), we can’t name them all, but here are a few species that are a highlight for anyone’s visit.
Raptors such as Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Osprey, Prairie Falcon, and American Kestrels can be spotted cliffside at Smith Rock State Park, along the Deschutes River, the canopies of the Deschutes National Forest, and many other sites in and around town.
Woodpeckers like the Northern Flicker, White-headed Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, and Hairy Woodpecker can be found in wooded areas around Bend, riparian zones along the Deschutes River, habitats found in Tumalo State Park, and forests in higher elevations around Mount Bachelor.
Songbirds including the Mountain Bluebird, Mountain Chickadee, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-winged Blackbird, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, White-crowned Sparrow, and the Western Tanager can be discovered in the meadows and open fields in the high desert, to the banks of the Deschutes River, and among the trees in the Deschutes National Forest.
Waterfoul and shorebirds such as the Mallard, Canada Goose, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, and American Avocet can be observed in the wetlands and along the riparian stretches in Tumalo State Park, along the Deschutes River, and ponds and lakes scattered throughout the region.
Other birds such as owls and quails include the Common Nighthawk, Great Horned Owl, Mountain Quail, California Quail, Ring-necked Pheasant, Western Screech-Owl, Common Poorwill, Northern Pygmy Owl can be spotted in the dense, sheltered woodlands, to the shrubby, open landscapes of the high desert region.
Begin your birding adventure right here in downtown and the Old Mill District. The Great Horned Owl or its smaller cousin, the Western Screech, are known to make night-time appearances. Or take the short hike up Pilot Butte to discover bluebirds, robins, and get a panoramic view of soaring red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures circling the skies.
Bend is also the gateway to the Oregon Cascades Birding Trail, which features 200 sites along 1,200 miles of scenic roadways. With locations as geologically diverse as the lava flows near the Dee Wright Observatory to the riparian habitat along the Deschutes River, this region of the Cascades is home to treasured species like the Western Meadowlark (Oregon’s state bird), the Yellow-Headed Blackbird, and even the legendary Bald Eagle.
The Deschutes River Trail is a birder’s paradise. This scenic trail meanders along the Deschutes River, passing through a variety of habitats, including forests, meadows, and wetlands. This diversity of habitats attracts a wide variety of birds, making it one of the best places in Bend to go bird watching.
As you walk along the trail, be sure to keep an eye out for waterfowl swimming in the river, shorebirds foraging on the mudflats, and songbirds perched in the trees. Some of the common birds you can see on the Deschutes River Trail include, Mallards, Canada Geese, Wood Ducks, Sandpipers, Western Meadowlarks, Black-capped Chickadees, Purple Finches, Goldfinches, and Dark-eyed Juncos.
Hatfield Ponds, a wetland sanctuary, offers boundless birding opportunities. The lakes’ diverse ecosystems provide a haven for a variety of waterfowl and shorebirds, including distinctive species like Black-necked Stilts and American Avocets.
Take a walk along the lakes and keep your eyes peeled for birds like Mallards, Canada Geese, and Northern Pintails taking a leisurely swim. You might also see Great Blue Herons and Bald Eagles perched in the trees or soaring overhead. And along the muddy shorelines, you may spot Black-necked Stilts with their long, slender legs and American Avocets with their upturned bills.
Shevlin Park is another gem with its intricate network of trails meandering through forests, meadows, and along the banks of Tumalo Creek. This diverse landscape provides habitat for a wide variety of bird species, including forest birds such as Lewis’s Woodpeckers and Pygmy Owls.
Listen for the melodious songs of warblers, such as the Townsend’s Warbler and the Orange-crowned Warbler. And be sure to check the trees along the creek for Pygmy Owls, which are known to nest in cavities in old-growth trees.
For an educational and close-up experience, visit the High Desert Museum where you can get a look at some of nature’s most spectacular predators like owls, hawks, eagles, falcons and even vultures at the Bird of Prey Encounter. And learn more about how the museum takes care of these rescued birds that are unable to be released back into the wild.
Anytime of year is a great time to observe bird life in Bend. But certain seasons bring out unique opportunities, species, and conditions.
Spring is a fantastic time as migratory birds return, and resident birds are more active. This is the breeding season for many species, and birds are often more visible and vocal. Migratory songbirds, waterfowl, and raptors are easier to spot in the spring.
Summer offers the opportunity to see resident species and some late migrants. The variety may not be as extensive as in the spring, but many birds are still active, especially in the early morning and late evening when the temperatures are cooler.
Fall is another excellent season for birding as many birds are migrating south for the winter. This is a good time to see a variety of waterfowl, raptors, and songbirds. The changing foliage also makes for a beautiful backdrop while birding.
Winter birding can be rewarding as it hosts a variety of wintering birds and snow-capped landscapes. The number of species out and about may be lower, but can be easier to spot against the snow, and there’s less foliage blocking views.
For comprehensive details on sites, events, and gatherings, visit the East Cascades Audubon Society’s website and the Oregon Birding Association’s website. Here, you can find information on Birders’ Nights, access an official checklist of birds in Oregon, and the chance to partake in the annual Dean Hale Woodpecker Festival held in Sisters, Oregon, every June. And, stop by the Bend Visitor Center to pick up a free copy of the Old Mill District and Deschutes River Corridor Birding Checklist and other detailed forest and road maps to help you plan your trip.
From identifying serenading songbirds in nearby neighborhoods to spotting Red-Tailed Hawks and majestic Bald Eagles on the Deschutes River or catching them on exhibition at the High Desert Museum, birders of all skill and fanatic levels will enjoy the massive variety of winged beauty here in Central Oregon.