Fall migratory Birds in Central Oregon

Sep 17, 2018
Oregon is a wonderful place to watch fall bird migration in action because the state is on the migration path for many birds as they head north to south. Here are five migratory birds to look for this fall in Central Oregon.

by Marina Heppenstall

The days are getting shorter, temperatures are dropping, and fall is in the air. However, humans are not the only ones who notice these changes! Birds also feel these cues and are beginning their fall migration to warmer climates. Temperature, day length, or a change in food resources can all signal to birds that it is time to migrate. While it may seem like a waste of energy to pick up and move (sometimes thousands of miles) twice a year, birds do find a payoff because they follow food availability.  

Oregon is a wonderful place to watch this migration in action because the state is on the migration path for many birds as they head north to south. Some migratory birds leave Oregon to head south for the winter, others settle here for the winter, and some move from higher elevations to lower elevations within the region. Below are a few of our favorite migratory birds to look for in Central Oregon this fall.

Five migratory birds to look for in the fall in Central Oregon

A rufous hummingbird. Photo: Kris Kristovich
A rufous hummingbird. Photo: Kris Kristovich
Rufous Hummingbird: The Rufous Hummingbird makes one of the longest migratory journeys compared to its body size. Some travel all the way from Alaska to their wintering grounds in southern Mexico--about 3,000 miles one way! Rufous hummingbirds are common to Central Oregon from April to early October, either nesting here or passing through on their migratory journey. Unfortunately, climate change and development threaten these little hummingbirds. Populations have declined 62% from 1966 to 2014. Some research suggests that this is due in part to drought which reduces the plant growth that the birds rely on for food and habitat.

Juvenile flammulated owl. Photo: Jim Anderson
Juvenile flammulated owl. Photo: Jim Anderson
Flammulated Owl: A favorite of the Land Trust staff (see We Love Flammulated Owls!), Flammulated owls (“flammies” for short) weigh in at just under 2 ounces. Though they are difficult to spot, the deep hoot of the flammulated owl can be heard in the pine forests of Central Oregon during the summer months. In the winter, they head to the U.S. southwest, Mexico and even down to Central America. The Land Trust is working to preserve habitat for these sensitive species at some of our protected lands.


Vaux’s swift: 
These swifts migrate through Bend and other parts of Central Oregon in the spring and fall. During migration, they roost by hundreds or sometimes thousands, in trees or old chimneys. To see them in Bend, head to The Boys and Girls Club on a September evening and watch as they circle then dive into the chimney at dusk.  For an even larger display visit Chapman Elementary school in Portland during the month of September to watch their evening show.

Yellow-Romped warbler. Photo: John Williams
Yellow-Romped warbler. Photo: John Williams

Yellow-rumped Warbler:
These beautiful little warblers are common at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve. Some call Central Oregon home for the spring through summer, while others pass through on their migration in the spring and fall. Look for them through October until they migrate to either the milder Pacific coast or all the way to Mexico and Central America. To attract them to your bird feeder, put out sunflower seeds, raisins, suet, and peanut butter.


Rough-legged hawk:
Rough-legged hawks are different than many other bird species found in Central Oregon because they reside here in the winter then migrate to the northern Arctic to breed in the summer. Though they are most common from November to early April, early migrators can be seen in Central Oregon in the fall. Look for them in open fields east of the mountains. They can be identified by their beautiful black and white tail and underwing patterns while soaring or sitting on fence posts, slender treetops, and utility poles.


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