9 Beautfiul Locations To Watch Hawks In Oregon

hawks in oregon

Oregon is one of the best birding locations for spotting hawks because of its incredibly varied landscape. From the high mountains to the prairie and wetlands, many bird species flock here during migration and breeding season.

There are not as many hawk species in Oregon as there are in, for example, Virginia. However, the species that are present are seen in large numbers.

In other words, the chance of spotting hawks in Oregon is high even though you won’t see many different kinds. The most common hawk species in Oregon are the Northern Harrier, Red-Tailed Hawk, Red-Shouldered Hawk and Osprey. Other species you might see, but to a lesser extent are the Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-Shinned Hawk and the very rare Rough-Legged Hawk and Ferruginous Hawk.

Besides hawks, there are many other raptors such as the Bald Eagle, American Kestrel and Peregrine Falcon. Oregon is also famous for its abundance of shore birds both on the lakes and by the sea.

With over 500 different species of birds in Oregon, a bird watching trip is surely fruitful. Here we list the 9 best bird watching locations in Oregon for spotting hawks.

Hawks in Oregon: 9 Incredible Locations

1. Zumwalt Prairie Preserve

zumwalt prairie preserve

Zumwalt Prairie Preserve Website | Wikipedia Page | Google Maps Location

If you want to see something truly unique then you have to go to the Zumwalt Prairie Preserve. Not only is it a rare landscape, it it also home to one of the rarest hawks in the US: the Feruginous Hawk.

Habitat

Zumwalt Prairie is an unique birding location because it is one of the largest bunch grass habitats. The Preserve itself is a 42 square mile area including nearly the entire Camp Creek watershed. Besides the vast grassland, this area also features canyons and woodlands with pine and quaking aspen trees.

Location & Accessibility

Zumwalt Prairie Preserve is in Wallowa County, near the cities of Enterprise and Joseph. Drive towards Crow Creek Road, about 3 miles from Enterprise. On this road you will see signs for Buckhorn Lookout and Zumwalt.

Best Place for Spotting: Ferruginous Hawk

ferruginous hawk

Ferruginous Hawks are unique to vast grasslands. Thus, the Zumwalt Prairie is one of the few places you can spot them. Besides the color pattern you can recognize them by the V-shape that they form with their feet during flight.

This is a large buteo species with slightly pointed wings. The light-morphed have nearly white underparts and pale head rust colored specks. The dark morph are mostly a dark brown with white panels under the wings.

Other Species Spotted Here
  • Swainson’s Hawk
  • Red-Tailed Hawk

2. Smith & Bybee Urban Wetlands

smith and bybee urban wetlands

Smith & Bybee Urban Wetlands Website | Wikipedia Page | Google Maps Location

Despite being so close to urban areas, the Smith & Bybee urban wetlands have an abundance of birds. This nature area surrounding Bybee Lake and Smith Lake is the largest urban wetland in the United States.

Habitat

Besides the lakes itself, this habitat features marshes and riparian forest. This is the perfect ecosystem for shore birds and songbirds.

The woodlands are a mixture of cottonwoods, willows and alders but there is also plenty of grassland. This combination of ecosystems attracts both accipiter raptors and fish-eating hawks.

Location & Accessibility

Smith & Bybee Wetlands Natural Area is one of the most accessible birding hotspots in Oregon. It is located in the industrial area of North Portland.

Most of the area is flat, making it accessible for wheelchairs. There is just one entrance but this is easy to find. Make use of the parking space as only hikers and bikers are allowed in.

Best Place for Spotting: Rough-Legged Hawk

rough-legged hawk

Visit the Smith & Bybee Wetlands during the winter months, between October and March. This is when most of the cold climate hawks, like the Rough-Legged Hawk, make their way south.

The Rough-Legged Hawk is a buteo but its wings and tails are longer than average. The light and dark morphs are essentially each other’s opposites in color pattern. The light morphs have pale bases with darker edges while the dark morphs have dark bases with lighter edges.

Other Species Spotted Here
  • Red-Shouldered Hawk
  • Osprey
  • Sharp-Shinned Hawk
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Red-Tailed Hawk
  • Northern Harrier

3. Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge

ankeny national wildlife refuge

Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge Website | Wikipedia Page | Google Maps Location

Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge offers wide open spaces with seasonal marshes. It is a truly unique habitats for all kinds of birds.

Habitat

During the winter, this is a vast wetlands but then the area dries up considerably during the spring and summer. During the warmer seasons, this reveals a wet prairie. Although drastically reduced in size, there are still corridors of riparian woodlands.

Location & Accessibility

Ankeny State Park is located between Albany and Salem. Take exit 243 to Ankeny Hill Road which leads directly to the main entrance and visitor’s center.

Inside the park there are several trails you can take, with a combination of boardwalks and dirt paths. The park is open year-round but we recommend going in the winter when there is an abundance of wading birds.

Best Place for Spotting: Northern Harrier

northern harrier

This is another cold climate bird that flies south to Oregon during the winter. In the winter months they prefer the wetlands and prairies.

Northern Harriers have many different color patterns so it is better to identify them by other physical features. The two most noticeable features are their owl-like face and a white rump patch.

Other Species Spotted Here
  • Red-Shouldered Hawk
  • Osprey

4. Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

ridgefield national wildlife refuge

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Website | Wikipedia Page | Google Maps Location

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge is an important wintering spot for many bird species, particularly the Dusky Canada Goose. However, each season brings with it many different species, including raptors.

Habitat

There are 5 different ecosystems in the Ridgefield Refuge. These are both seasonal and permanent wetlands, riparian corridors, grasslands and oak woods.

Location & Accessibility

There are different sections open to visitors in the refuge. This gives you the option between taking a hiking trail or the scenic auto tour route. Check the Friends of Ridgefield website for better directions to each starting point.

Best Place for Spotting: Swainson’s Hawk

swainsons hawk

Swainson’s Hawks are accustomed to many different habitats including farmland. They are a social hawk species so you are likely to spot them in groups in grasslands, wetlands or closer to the nearby farms.

Swainson’s Hawks have many different color patterns but there is one color pattern that every morph has. Their underwings and bellies are always pale while the tips of their wings are darker.

Other Species Spotted Here
  • Red-Tailed Hawk
  • Red-Shouldered Hawk
  • Sharp-Shinned Hawk
  • Northern Harrier

5. William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge

william l finley national wildlife refuge

William L. Finley Refuge Website | Wikipedia Page | Google Maps Location

Just like the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge, the William L. Finley Refuge is also located in the Willamette Valley. This wildlife sanctuary is also preserved for the wintering of wading birds like the Dusky Canada Goose.

Habitat

The habitat here is very similar to the Ankeny Refuge habitat. The area covers wet prairies and wetlands in the lower lying lands and deciduous forests and oak savannahs on higher ground.

Location & Accessibility

William L. Finley Refuge is located a few miles south of Corvallis, Oregon. The visitor center is at the north entrance on Finley Refuge Road. Inside the reserve are both graveled car tracks and hiking trails.

Best Place for Spotting: Cooper’s Hawk

coopers hawk

Cooper’s Hawks are the perfect example of an accipiter. Their bodies are smaller with broad wings and a long tail.

Cooper’s Hawks change color from when they are young to adulthood. You can recognize them by their gray feathers at the top, a white belly and a white chest with streaks of rusty red.

Other Species Spotted Here
  • Northern Harrier
  • Red-Tailed Hawk
  • Red-Shouldered Hawk

6. Steigerwald Lake

steigerwald lake

Steigerwald Lake Website | Wikipedia Page | Google Maps Location

There is no shortage of lakes in Oregon and Steigerwald lake is one of the best places for spotting hawks. Birds are the dominating wildlife here.

Habitat

Steigerwald Lake is located at the lower reaches of the Columbia river. The wetlands are controlled to offer a wintering spot for wading birds. There is also an oak woods area.

Location and Accessibility

The nearest town to Steigerwald Lake is actually not in Oregon but in Washington. The entrance is just to the east of the little town Washougal. Hiking trails are open year-round.

Best Place for Spotting: Osprey

osprey

Bird watchers know that osprey are an unique hawk species mostly found near water. This is because fish are the biggest component in their diet.

 

This is one of the easiest hawks to recognize. They have long beaks, white heads and a dark streak through their orangey-red eyes. The top feathers are a dark brown while their bodies are almost perfectly white.

Other Species Spotted Here
  • Northern Harrier
  • Sharp-Shinned Hawk
  • Red-Tailed Hawk
  • Red-Shouldered Hawk

7. Klamath Basin Birding Trails

klamath basin birding trail

Klamath Basin Birding Trails Website | Wikipedia Page | Google Maps Location

The Klamath Basin birding trails are one of the best place for spotting hawks in the south of Oregon. It is nestled between the Cascade mountains, the high desert and the Great Basin.

Habitat

The mountains are forested and home to many bird species. In the lower lying lands, closer to the lake, you have primarily wetlands. This area also features a lot of farmland.

Location & Accessibility

There is no shortage of nature refuges in the Klamath Basin. Examples include Crater Lake, Klamath Marsh Refuge and Tule Lake. Each one of these areas is easily accessible from the highway.

Best Place for Spotting: Northern Goshawk

northern goshawk

Fall and winter are prime time for bird watching in Oregon. This is when you have the best chance of spotting a Northern Goshawk. Their natural habitat is in forests so go looking in the mountains of Klamath Basin.

You know it is a Northern Goshawk if you see a mostly dark gray bird with a dark strip through their dark red eyes. These are accipiter birds that will venture to areas with lots of songbirds.

Other Species Spotted Here
  • Northern Harrier
  • Sharp-Shinned Hawk
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Red-Tailed Hawk
  • Rough-Legged Hawk

8. Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge

baskett slough national wildlife refuge

Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge Website | Wikipedia Page | Google Maps Location

Baskett Slough is another member of the Willamette Valley bird refuge. This is where northern birds, specifically shore birds, come to spend the winter.

Habitat

Like its sister refuges, Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge is a mixture of wetlands and woodlands. Here too, there is a strain between farming and nature which the refuge organizations are carefully monitoring.

Location & Accessibility

This is probably the easiest Willamette Valley wildlife refuge to visit. It is conveniently located at the junction of highway 22 and 99W with the information kiosk right by the road.

Inside the refuge there are dirt paths. There are several observation points accessible for the handicapped and wheelchairs.

Best Place for Spotting: Red-Shouldered Hawk

red-shouldered hawk

The Red-Shouldered Hawk is seen throughout the US but in increasingly lower numbers on the west coast. This species is also more difficult to spot because they prefer staying in the forest. However, their call is heard more often.

This buteo is recognized by their colorful pattern. The body is a rusty brown-red while the top feathers of their wings are black and white bars.

Other Species Spotted Here
  • Northern Harrier
  • Red-Tailed Hawk

9. Oaks Bottom Park

oaks bottom wildlife refuge

Oaks Bottom Park Website | Wikipedia Page | Google Maps Location

Oaks Bottom is a monumental wildlife refuge. It is is Portland’s first wildlife refuge and also their first migratory bird park.

Habitat

This is an urban wildlife refuge but it is still an oasis for all kinds of birds, including raptors. The area features a small lake, wetlands and oak trees forming the border between the wildlife refuge and city. The park attracts over 180 different bird species.

Location & Accessibility

Oaks Bottom Park is in Southeast Portland, on the banks of Willamette River. Look for SW Macadam Avenue. You will reach Sellwood Park where Oaks Bottom Park starts at its north end.

Best Place for Spotting: Sharp-Shinned Hawk

sharp-shinned hawk

These are one of the smallest hawk species feeding mostly on songbirds. The top wings of adults are gray while their chest is pale with light red bars on the chest. Juveniles are brown with pale bodies.

Other Species Spotted Here
  • Osprey
  • Red-Tailed Hawk
  • Cooper’s Hawk

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