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Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex
Pacific Region

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

Where to Watch

Using a scope at Coquille PointThe three marine and three estuarine National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) located on the Oregon Coast are part of a network of over 540 NWR's, areas set aside specifically for the conservation, management, and protection of wildlife. Oregon Islands NWR and Three Arch Rocks NWR together provide breeding and nesting habitat for an estimated 1.2 million seabirds. Three Arch Rocks NWR and the rocks, islands and reefs of Oregon Islands NWR are designated National Wilderness Areas. No public access is allowed but the seabirds and pinnipeds there can be viewed from many points onshore, such as Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area in Newport, Cape Arago in Charleston, and Coquille Point in Bandon.
Cape Meares NWR offers cliff habitat for a nesting pair of Peregrine Falcons. Bandon Marsh NWR has well-developed public access to the Coquille River Estuary, an area renowned for the viewing of thousands of migrating shorebirds. Raptors and waterfowl frequent Siletz Bay NWR which is accessible to the public only by canoe or kayak down the waterway, while Nestucca Bay NWR provides wintering habitat for the only coastal population of Dusky Canada geese and the entire population of Semidi Islands Aleutian Canada geese.

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When to Watch

Tufted PuffinSpring

Spring is one of the best times to visit the Oregon Coast. Thousands of shorebirds migrating north during April and May, stop in Oregon wetlands to rest and feed. Nesting seabirds, including common murres, tufted puffins, pigeon guillemots, and Brandt's, pelagic and double-crested cormorants arrive on coastal rocks and islands for their breeding season. Northward-migrating gray whales are visible from March through May from the same viewpoints overlooking Oregon Islands NWR. Watch for endangered brown pelicans beginning to arrive during this time.



Harbor SealSummer

Seal and sea lion numbers peak around mid-July and late August. Young seabirds fledge in July and August. Raptors such as peregrine falcons and bald eagles hunt the nesting seabirds and waterfowl that migrate along the coast. These birds of prey can be seen at Cape Meares, Nestucca Bay, Siletz Bay NWR, and Bandon Marsh NWR.

A Flock of ShorebirdsFall

Fall migration is a great time view spectacular flocks of shorebirds flying swiftly and erratically through the sky. Shorebird numbers peak in September as they fly south to wintering areas. Nestucca Bay, Siletz Bay, and Bandon Marsh are excellent places to watch for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl. Waterfowl that will winter along the coast begin to arrive at this time.



Dusky Canada GeeseWinter

Sea ducks and waterbirds are most abundant during the winter. Common species include surf, white-winged and black scoters, harlequin ducks, common and Pacific loons, and western, horned, and red-necked grebes. Estuaries host wintering ducks, geese and a variety of raptors. Gray whales migrate south in December and January on their way to calve in the coastal lagoons of Baja Mexico and can be seen from shore. For more information about the geese that can be found at Nestucca Bay NWR please see our geese identification sheet (189 KB).


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How to Watch - Wildlife Viewing Tips

Here are a few tips to make watching wildlife enjoyable and rewarding:

  • Print out a Watchable Wildlife map (443 KB) to locate hotspots for wildlife or look for the wildlife Binocularsviewing area sign. Plan your visit according to the season, tidal phase, and time of day. Wildlife is generally more active in the mornings and early evenings than in the afternoon.
  • Download a copy of the Oregon Coast Birding Trail guide.
  • Keep voices down while approaching a viewing area to avoid scaring wildlife away before you get there. Although animals may disappear when you arrive, they often return shortly if you are quiet and still.
  • Use binoculars and spotting scopes to bring animals "closer" to you without disturbing them.
  • Bring a field guide to help you identify various species and the habitats they prefer. But, remember the goal is to identify with the wildlife, not just identify it.
  • Often a close look reveals more. Look up look down. Or, peer through a hand lens to enter the world of insects. Animals come in a range of sizes and occupy a variety of niches.

Avoid Disturbing Wildlife

Public use at the Oregon Coast Refuges is restricted to limit disturbance to wildlife and their habitats. ALL COASTAL ROCKS AND ISLANDS ARE CLOSED TO PUBLIC ACCESS AND ALL WATERCRAFT SHOULD STAY AT LEAST 500 FEET AWAY.


Coastal areas, with their steep cliffs, strong currents, and heavy surf, can be extremely dangerous. Exercise caution during your visit. Stay away from cliff edges, and observe posted warnings. Avoid climbing on drift logs as they can roll in the surf at any time. Consult weather forecast and tidal charts before boating, canoeing, or kayaking.


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Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex, 2127 SE Marine Science Drive, Newport, OR, 97365
Phone: 541-867-4550. Email:
Site last updated November 3, 2011