Birdwatching is rapidly gaining popularity as a hobby that transcends generations and it is easy to get started right here in Clatsop County. We have many species of birds that call our shores and inland home, as well as many that stop by on their migration routes.

Birdwatching for Beginners steller jay
The Steller Jay is a beautiful and easily recognized bird for beginners. Photo credit: Andrew Mattingly

“Birding” or “birdwatching” is simply observing birds in their natural environment and, with practice, developing a knowledge about different species. The Pacific Coast is a critically important migration corridor for many types of birds and as such, allows for the observation of many species. However, for a beginner, there are a few tips to that can help your birdwatching journey be successful from the start.

According to Andrew Mattingly, a native to Clatsop County and an avid birdwatcher for over eight years, a few species that are great for beginner birdwatchers include:

  • Black-Capped/Chestnut Backed Chickadee. Often identified by its gray wings, black cap and bib with white cheeks, this small non-migratory bird is prominent in tree habitats ranging from forests to residential neighborhoods.
  • Western Scrub Jay. A songbird with a deep blue head and back with a white underside, this species is known to be vocal.
  • Steller Jay. Preferring coniferous tree habitat types, this species is often characterized by being half charcoal black along the head and half deep blue.
  • House Sparrow. Not considered a native
    Birdwatching for Beginners chickadee
    The cute little chickadee is easy to spot with his black and white head. Photo credit: Andrew Mattingly

    species, the House Sparrow is one of the most common birds throughout neighborhoods and can often be viewed in many backyards.

Andrew’s advice is to start observing wherever you can and start identifying the birds you see the most. “I got my start by becoming curious about the birds I saw on my drive to Ilwaco each day so I started pulling over and trying to get a look at them,” he shares. “My favorite place to birdwatch is my backyard.”

However if birdwatching sounds like something nicely paired with an outdoor adventure, a few local spots draw diverse bird species. The Cove in Seaside is an excellent area to observe shorebirds, Necanicum Estuary, Wireless Road in rural Astoria, backyard feeding stations and surprisingly enough- sewage treatment ponds. Cannon Beach is known for their treatment pond bird watching opportunities – there are developed trails surrounding and a viewing tower.

There are also a few tools and tricks that can help a budding birdwatcher. The best time to try to capture birds in their natural behavior is in the morning. One tip Andrew offered is that once you have a good birdwatching application or birdwatching book, it’s important to not rely on them.  “When you spot a bird do not automatically go to your reference guide, but spend a good amount of time looking at the birds, their habits and features,” Andrew explains.  Binoculars are also useful, but it is important to get the right magnification intensity or it can be hard to keep track of a bird. A great level of magnification and field of view for birding is 8×32 or 10×42.

Birdwatching for Beginners scrub jay
This vocal songbird, the scrub jay, will be heard before he is seen. Photo credit: Andrew Mattingly

Want to get more involved in the birding community?  The Clatsop County area hosts a number birding events geared towards all ages:

  • Stay on the lookout for the 12th Annual Bird Discovery Day by the Necanicum Watershed Council to learn more about the birds in our area, meet live birds, and take a guided hike.
  • Go birdwatching with a park ranger at Fort Stevens State Park. Binoculars are recommended, no birding experience is required, but experts are welcome to come and share knowledge.  Get in touch with Dane Osis at to discover when the next guided hike is!
  • 2018 Birdathon is a competitive and educational event for any level of birdwatcher in conjunction with the Audubon Society.
  • Keep your thumb on the birding news with American Birding Association’s Oregon Bird News.
  • The house sparrow is not native, but is very common and found in backyards and parking lots. Photo credit: Andrew Mattingly

    Tune in to Cannon Beach birdwatching events with local shore birding information.

  • Visit Ecola State Park and the Haystack Rock Awareness Program to become involved with seasonal bird and wildlife surveys

There are so many species of birds in your backyard, the grocery store parking lot and in an array of habitats if someone is curious enough to take the time to notice. “One of the best things about birdwatching is that you don’t necessarily have to go birdwatching,” says Andrew. “Once you become curious you realize that they’re everywhere. There are often four or five species hanging out in the Fred Meyer parking lot alone.” says Andrew. With rich species diversity and an active birding community, Clatsop County is a great place to learn to birdwatch.

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