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Best of Central Oregon: Birdwatching

Let Your Passions Soar!

Birdwatching is an incredible and popular way for outdoor enthusiasts to lose themselves in the splendor of nature. As enjoyable as it is to spot an eagle flying by or catch a lovely bird song, the true magic of birdwatching exposes itself with just a little bit of patience. Sit, breathe deep, and watch. You will be astounded by the level of activity that lies just beneath the surface glance of an area. 

Birdwatching is one of the fastest-growing outdoor activities, and it isn’t difficult to see why. Not only does birdwatching get you out into nature, but it is an activity that any age group can enjoy and a passion one can carry with them for their entire lives. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey, 51.3 million Americans report that they enjoy birdwatching.

We are here today to encourage a new generation of birdwatchers! Read ahead for three superb birdwatching locations in the Central Oregon area.

“To be standing together in a frosty field, looking up into the sky, marveling at birds and reveling in the natural world around us, was a simple miracle. And I wondered why we were so rarely able to appreciate it.”

Table of Contents

1. Indian Ford Campground

Indian Ford Campground is located just northwest of Sisters and is often overlooked for the incredible birdwatching opportunities it offers. At this location and because of its position in Deschutes National Forest, one can catch sight of all different types of mountainous bird species.

The best part of picking this location as your birdwatching destination, you can spend the night! This campsite offers tent and RV camping, stay overnight and see what types of birds come alive after the sun goes down!

The best time to visit this area for camping and birdwatching is between mid to late May until September. The Deschutes National Forest is no stranger to snow, and although there are plenty of bird species that do not migrate during the winter, we recommend waiting for warmer months before visiting.

Bird Species of Indian Ford Campground

Northern pygmy-owl, red-napped sapsucker, olive-sided flycatcher, Cassin’s vireo, blue grouse, California quail, chukar, ring-necked pheasant, turkey vulture, great horned owl, golden eagle, red-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk. 

2. Summer Lake Wildlife Area

Summer Lake Wildlife Area is Oregon’s first designated wildlife area and was established in 1944. This is a popular destination for hunting, wildlife viewing, and environmental education due to the area’s profound biodiversity and waterfowl populations. For individuals who are interested in optimal birdwatching, the best times of year to visit Summer Lake Wildlife Area are as follows!

  • March – April: This time frame has the highest activity rate for migrating waterfowl returning from southern lands after the harshness of winter. Some of the most popular species to see at this time include brightly colored ducks, geese, and even swans
  • April – May: This time of year is perfect for spotting migrant shorebirds and songbirds! Now that the weather is warming up even more, Summer Lake Wildlife Area is teeming with a wide array of bird species by this time in the spring. This is one of the best locations in Central Oregon to view waterbirds after their seasonal migration.
  • May – July: At this time of year, love is in the air! Anyone who is interested in prospectively seeing some baby birds waddling around after their mother, this is the perfect time of year. May through July is traditionally the mating season for a majority of these water and shorebirds.

Common Bird Species in Summer Lake Wildlife Area

Waterfowl: tundra swans, trumpeter swans, Canadian geese, white-fronted geese, mallards ducks, gadwall ducks, northern pintail, cinnamon and American green-winged teal, northern shoveler, ruddy duck.

Shorebirds: American avocet, black-necked stilt, willet, snowy plover, Wilson’s and red-necked phalarope, killdeer, long-billed curlew, Wilson’s snipe, western sandpipers.

3. Upper Klamath Lake

Upper Klamath Basin is home to some 15,000 acres of land comprised of freshwater marsh, forests, and open water habitats. This wildlife refuge is a safe haven for waterfowl, colonial nesting birds, as well as raptors who all call Upper Klamath home. Established in 1928, this refuge serves as an excellent nesting ground and brood-rearing area for a vast variety of bird species. 

Upper Klamath Basin Facts

  • Upper Klamath Basin is home to more than 350 different bird species.
  • Home to the largest population of wintering bald eagles in the Lower 48, with a record-breaking 500 individuals recorded.
  • Because of the immense diversity in species, birdwatchers can enjoy this location in virtually any season. 
  • Upper Klamath Basic is home to more than six different types of ecosystems, lending itself to host a wide array of different types of birds.
  • The Klamath Basin Birding Trail is a remarkable place to start when exploring this spectacular area.

Highlight Bird Species in Upper Klamath Lake

Bald eagles, western and Clark’s grebes, American white pelican, yellow rail, warblers, western tanagers, flycatchers, Swainson’s thrushes.

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