North American Birds

Oregon and Washington2022-06-17T20:28:40-04:00

Oregon and Washington

Eric Heisey, Adrian W. Hinkle, and Christopher Hinkle, Regional Report Compilers

The Oregon & Washington region is known for its coastal temperate rainforests, but the glacier-capped Cascade Mountains separate the lush west side from a vast high desert studded with oases to the east. Such a range of habitats accounts for remarkable avian diversity. Oregon’s 544 species is the fifth highest in the U.S., and Washington’s 521 ranks eighth; together, they total of over 570.

A majority of the region’s 12 million people live between Seattle on the Puget Sound and Portland at the northern end of the Willamette Valley. These temperate lowlands are rainy in winter and dry but well-watered from mountain snowmelt during summer. The valleys are dominated by agriculture but still have some marshy bottomlands, which are excellent for wintering waterfowl.

The sparsely populated and under-birded 450-mile coastline offers excellent birding from Cape Blanco near the California border to Neah Bay at the northwestern tip of Washington. Estuaries fill with shorebirds during migration and waterfowl in winter, while seawatching and pelagic trips are world-class. Coastal towns and riparian patches attract vagrants from eastern North American and Asia, and a backdrop of thick coniferous forests is filled with northwestern specialties such as Sooty Grouse and Chestnut-backed Chickadee.

The eastern two-thirds of the region lies in the rain shadow of the Cascade Range. This vast outback of Ponderosa woodland, grassland, and sagebrush steppe is scattered with marshes that teem with breeders, migrants, and, occasionally, vagrants. Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is the area’s crown jewel. Temperatures across the high desert plummet in winter, wetlands freeze over and winter finches appear from north and uslope.

Big Year records (381 for Oregon, 373 for Washington) and Big Day records (228 for Oregon, 208 for Washington) are testaments to the region’s high bird diversity. Nearly half the region’s 170,000 square miles is public land. Primarily National Forests and BLM-managed high desert, it affords exceptional access to the region’s avifauna.

The ABA gratefully acknowledges the contributions of Eric Heisey, Adrian W. Hinkle, and Christopher Hinkle, to promoting knowledge and understanding about the birdlife of the continent.




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