Top Spots for Spring Birdwatching in Cannon Beach Oregon
By Beth Wise
Published: 04/16/2020
Thousands of Common Murres crowd the near shore rocks of Chapman Point at the north end of Cannon Beach, Oregon.
Thousands of Common Murres crowd the near shore rocks of Chapman Point at the north end of Cannon Beach, Oregon.  Photo by Gary Hayes

Spring is a great time to head to Cannon Beach to spot puffins, eagles, murres and more. Here's where to find them.

Highlighted by the return of the comical Tufted Puffin each spring, Cannon Beach offers an amazing array of bird watching opportunities throughout the year. Check out these local hotspots to see a great variety of birds on your next visit.

Haystack Rock & the Needles
Start your tour with one of Oregon's most famous landmarks. From top to bottom, Haystack Rock and its nearby Needles are a protected habitat that can feature an often-staggering variety of birds to observe. The star of the show for most is the colorful Tufted Puffins that return each spring to nest and raise their young in burrows on the grassy, north facing upper slopes of Haystack Rock. They arrive decked out in their colorful breeding plumage which includes a white face, yellow eyebrow tufts, orange beak, a squat black body and red-orange feet. Near the base of the Rock, Black Oystercatchers with pointy orange bills and red eye rings announce their presence with shrill calls. Look closely for ledge nesters like cormorants and dark Pigeon Guillemots with red feet on both Haystack and the Needles. In the turbulent waters around the near shore rocks, you may also see Harlequin Ducks and scoters swimming and diving. Listen for a large ruckus and groups of birds fleeing Haystack to indicate the presence of predators like Bald Eagles or Peregrine Falcons or scan the tree snags along the shoreline for their tell-tale silhouettes.

Pro tip: Keep an eye out for the red truck next to Haystack Rock signaling the presence of the Haystack Rock Awareness Program. Staffed with informative volunteers, these stewards of Haystack Rock occasionally set up spotting scopes for bird watching and also share helpful information about this federally protected Marine Garden and Wildlife Refuge.

Ecola Creek Estuary
The north shore at the mouth of Ecola Creek is a popular spot for Western Gulls year round and you might find groups of Brown Pelicans lingering there into summer and fall. If you're particularly lucky, you may also catch little flocks of shorebirds like Sanderlings or small groups of Whimbrels scurrying along the water's edge, along with occasional visits from other types of gulls.

Cannon Beach Nature Trail
The Cannon Beach Nature Trail follows the shore of Ecola Creek along the north side of NeCus Park and crosses the street passing through the wooded creek bank and along the east side of City. In this section of Ecola Creek, you'll often discover busy waterfowl like Common Mergansers with their distinctively long, narrow bodies perfect for diving; Northern Shovelers with their broad, flat bills; and diving black and white Buffleheads in winter and spring. Watch along the shores for chattering blue and white Belted Kingfishers and lanky Great Blue Herons fishing. You may also occasionally discover Western Grebes, Hooded Mergansers and Great Egrets. As the trail gets more wooded, listen for the songs of woodland birds like Song Sparrows and Black-Capped Chickadees. And as you pass alongside the park, keep your eyes out for American Robins, Varied Thrush and Northern Flickers hopping through the grass searching for grubs and bugs.

Settling Ponds & Little Pompey Wetland
Just southeast of City Park, you'll find the settling ponds with a small viewing platform great for observing birds including the vibrant, but elusive, Green Heron creeping along the water's edge; dozens of acrobatic Violet-Green and Tree Swallows skimming the surface of the ponds during late spring and early summer; and ducks like Gadwall, Greater Scaup and Mallards swimming alongside Canada Geese. Visit during late spring and you'll likely find dozens of little ducklings trailing behind their parents, as well. Explore the trail on the west side of the ponds and listen for the distinctive song of dozens of Red-Winged Blackbirds in the adjacent Little Pompey Wetland. Year round residents, you might also be startled by the occasional buzz of a passing Anna's Hummingbird, joined by the returning Rufous Hummingbird each spring.

Chapman Point and Bird Rocks
At the far north end of the beach, the stars of the avian show at Chapman Point are the large colonies of penguin-like Common Murres that crowd shoulder to shoulder onto nearby offshore rocks throughout the summer. With numbers easily in the thousands, you can often hear their gargling ruckus before you even get close enough to observe them.
Top Spots for Spring Birdwatching in Cannon Beach Oregon