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Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex
Pacific Region
Wildlife

Visiting the Refuges along the Oregon Coast is rewarding year-round, because each season brings different wildlife viewing opportunities.

Photo of a sea lion on the rocksPhoto of a pigeon guillemot in flight.Photo of two deer, a doe and fawn, at the shoreline. Photo of several common murres on a steep rock face.
Photo credits: USFWS

Wildlife Viewing Highlights
Download a Watchable Wildlife Map for the Oregon Coast

Shorebirds

Shorebirds include the avocets, oystercatchers, phalaropes, plovers, sandpipers, stilts, snipes, and turnstones. In general, they have long and thin legs with little to no webbing on their feet. They are usually small bodied with long thin bills. The differences in their bill lengths and shape allow the different shorebird species to forage for food within their habitat either on dry soil, mud, or in shallow water. They can be found in inter-tidal mudflats, estuaries, or salt marshes. Shorebird migration spans a great distance. The migratory paths are influenced by geography, wind, and weather patterns. During the spring, summer and fall migration, shorebirds rest and feed at stopover locations including the coast of Oregon. Shorebirds eat a variety of invertebrate prey such as worms, insect larva, amphipods, copepods, crustaceans, and mollusks.


Black OystercatcherBlack Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani) - Black Oystercatchers are a species of shorebird that inhabits the rocky intertidal areas along the Pacific coast from the Aleutian Islands to Baja Mexico. They are territorial, solitary nesters. They feed among the rocky intertidal areas where they live and build their nests above the high water mark in a natural shallow rock depression. Nests are lined with bits of collected pebbles and shell and are often used again year after year. They begin laying a three egg clutch, in early May. Incubation is shared by both sexes for a period of 26 - 27 days. The young are fed limpets and shellfish and will fledge at about five weeks. Despite the name, Black Oystercatchers do not eat oysters, nor do they "catch" their food. Instead they use their long bright reddish-orange beaks to find black mussels and retrieve it with quick jabs. Oystercatchers will also chip small holes in the shells of limpets and mussels to reach their prey. They will dislodge limpets and chitons from rocks with quick jabs of their bills. Their diet consists of bivalves and other mollusks, crabs, sea urchins, and barnacles. Longevity record is 15 years. Black Oystercatchers can be seen year-round in Oregon at Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Simpson Reef overlook and Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.

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Western SandpiperWestern Sandpiper (Calidris mauri) - The Western Sandpiper breeds mostly in Alaska and winters along the coast from California to South America. They are the most common migrating shorebird seen on the Oregon coast. These shorebirds are found in estuaries, beaches and mudflats, feeding and resting before resuming their migration. Western Sandpiper belongs to the small shorebird group called the "peeps." They make their nest in a depression in the tundra and line it with grasses. Their clutch size is four eggs, with an incubation period lasting approximately twenty days. The young fledge within nineteen to twenty days after hatching. Their diet consists mostly of aquatic invertebrates and crustaceans. In Oregon, Western Sandpipers are found at Bandon Marsh NWR, Siletz Bay NWR, and most other bays, marshes, and estuaries.

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Least SandpiperLeast Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) - The Least Sandpiper breeds in Alaska across Canadian territories, wintering in British Columbia south along the coast to California. These birds can often be found on mudflats with the Western Sandpiper but will also feed in wet grassy areas. Compared to the Western Sandpiper, these shorebirds are much smaller. In fact, the Least Sandpiper is the smallest peep worldwide. A nest is made from moss and grass in a depression or hummock in the tundra. Clutch size is four with a twenty day incubation period. They feed mainly on invertebrates they find in the mud, but will also eat plant materials and insects. These shorebirds can be seen in Oregon estuaries, inlets, flooded fields, and inland grassy areas. They are found at Bandon Marsh NWR, Siletz Bay NWR, and Nestucca Bay NWR.

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Black TurnstoneBlack Turnstone (Arenaria melanocephalia) - Often seen with Ruddy Turnstones (A. interpres) and surfbirds (Aphriza virgata), these three species are part of the group commonly called the “rock-pipers.” In non-breeding plumage, ruddy tunstones are lighter brown in color, slightly smaller and have a lower pitched call than the black, and the surf birds are more uniformly grey and the largest of the rock-pipers. All three species breed in coastal Alaska and winter on rocky coasts from British Columbia to Baja California. Ruddy turnstones have a much larger range, nesting in Alaska and northern Canada, and wintering on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. They feed by using their short stout bills to turn over stones and clumps of seaweed. Rock pipers have varied diets including crustaceans, mollusks, worms and barnacles. Each of the three species seen on Oregon Islands NWR has a slightly different diet that allows them to occupy different niches on Oregon’s rocky coasts.

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DunlinDunlin (Calidris alpina) - Formerly called the Red-Backed Sandpiper, the Dunlin breeds in the Alaska tundra east to Hudson Bay. Dunlins have a prominent black belly with their breeding plumage but are otherwise similar in appearance to other peeps. They winter along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and are the last to migrate through Oregon in the fall due to the late molting of their flight feathers. Dunlins can be found on beaches, mudflats, and inland shores. A large number also winter in inland river valleys. The clutch size is normally four eggs with twenty days of incubation and the same number of days for the young to fledge. They occasionally have two broods per season. Their diet is mostly invertebrates. Although hard to spot you can see them in the Necanicum Estuary in Seaside, Bandon Marsh NWR, and Yaquina Bay in Newport.


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Semipalmated Plover Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) - The Semipalmated Plover can be found breeding in Alaska and east across Canada to Nova Scotia. While a rare breeder in Oregon, it winters along the coast from British Columbia to South America. This shorebird rests and eats on sandy beaches, mudflats, and salt marshes. Unlike other sandpipers, this shorebird does not probe the sand or mud for food. Instead, the semipalmated plover with its shorter bill eats from the surface in quick bursts stopping to scan for the next run. They feed primarily on mollusks and crustaceans. Although rare, Semipalmated Plover's that do breed in Oregon use dune habitat and build a nest out of shell fragments in sandy soil. Clutch size is four eggs with a twenty day incubation time. The young fledge at about twenty to thirty day after hatching. They can be found at Bandon Marsh NWR and on most sandy beaches.

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Western Snowy PloverWestern Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) - The Pacific Coast population of the Western Snowy Plover breeds from southern Washington to Baja California. The population was federally listed as threatened in 1993. Historic records indicate that nesting Western Snowy Plovers were once more widely distributed throughout their range. There were between 24 and 28 breeding sites in Oregon. Now only nine exist, primarily as a result of habitat loss. Today, approximately 100 breeding adults are found in Oregon. Most remain year-round, with some migrating north or south in the winter. These birds use sandy coastal beaches and dry mudflats for breeding and non-breeding habitat. Like the Semipalmated Plover, the Western Snowy Plover does not probe into the substrate for food. Instead it relies on sight to forage, scanning the ground for invertebrates. Nests are generally made in open, sandy areas. A typical clutch size is three, with chicks requiring 30 days to fledge. Adults will use distraction displays to lure predators away from chicks. Public use at some beaches on the south-central coast of Oregon is restricted from March 15 to September 15 to protect nesting habitat. For more information on how you can help the Western Snowy Plover, view the Sharing the Beach brochure.

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WhimbrelWhimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) - One of the larger shorebirds, the Whimbrel breeds on all continents except for Antarctica. In North America the Whimbrel breeds in Alaska and Canada, and can be found wintering along the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf coast. These shorebirds like open mudflats, sandy beaches, and pastures. The Whimbrel's loud distinct call make its presence known. Like most other shorebirds, each clutch consists of four eggs. The incubation period is about thirty days and another thirty to forty days to fledge after hatching. Whimbrels eat mostly invertebrates, crabs, worms, and fish, but while breeding, fruits are part of their diet. These shorebirds can be seen at Siletz Bay NWR, Bandon Marsh NWR, flooded pastures, and up and down the coast on open beaches.

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DowitcherLong-Billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus) - Long-Billed Dowitchers breed on the Arctic tundra and migrate along western North America, wintering from British Columbia to south of Mexico. During migration, this is the most abundant dowitcher in Oregon. The habitat of the Long-Billed Dowitcher consists of mudflats and shallow marshy pools, though this dowitcher prefers freshwater habitats. Unlike the plovers, the Long-Billed Dowitcher is a probe eater, its diet consisting mainly of aquatic invertebrates, amphipods, bivalves as well as earthworms if feeding in flooded pastures. Each clutch consists of four eggs, with a twenty day incubation period. This shorebird can be seen in most inland areas as well as estuaries and bays.

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KilldeerKilldeer (Charadrius vociferus) - Killdeer breed in Alaska and east across the continent to Newfoundland and south as far as Mexico. They can be found wintering from British Columbia across the U.S. into parts of South America. The Killdeer is common in areas west of the Cascades in Oregon and is one of the only shorebirds that breeds in Oregon and is present year-round. The habitat preferred by these birds are flooded agricultural fields, vacant lots and golf courses as well as mudflats, sandy areas, and short grass prairies. In Oregon, laying begins in March. Killdeers lay their clutch of four eggs on bare ground and if threatened while nesting, will display an elaborate show of faking an injured wing then flying off followed by their distinct loud call. Incubation lasts approximately thirty days and the young fledge twenty-five days after hatching. Killdeer typically have two broods in a season. These shorebirds have more of a terrestrial diet rather than aquatic. Their diet includes grasshoppers, earthworms and other insects found in open fields. Killdeer are inconspicuous in their nesting areas but once spotted, their double black breast bands give them away.

All migratory birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which applies to all migratory birds and their parts including eggs, nests, and feathers and forbids the taking, killing, or possessing any migratory bird, any part, nest, or eggs.

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Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex, 2127 SE Marine Science Drive, Newport, OR, 97365
Phone: 541-867-4550. Email: Oregoncoast@fws.gov.
 
Site last updated March 8, 2011