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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


Waterfowl (ducks, geese and swans) vary in size and appearance but share some of the same characteristics; they have webbed feet, flat and rounded bills, and are mainly water birds. Their feathers are waterproof with a thick layer of down underneath to keep them warm. Waterfowl habitat is as diverse as the birds themselves, varying from ocean surf to fields and open meadows to upland streams. Their diets range from freshwater fish to grasses, seeds, and insects to mollusks and other invertebrates. By the summer's end, once the eggs have hatched and both parents have molted, the families will migrate together in flocks. Most waterfowl do migrate, sometimes forming a V-shaped pattern in the sky.

Aleutian Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) - This white-cheeked goose breeds in the Aleutian and Semidi Islands of Alaska. The Semidi Island Aleutian Cackling Goose winters on the Oregon coast at Nestucca Bay NWR along with a few thousand Aleutian Cackling Geese. This rather small Cackling Goose was once on the U.S. Endangered Species List until it recovered and was removed from the list in March 2001. This dramatic recovery happened after the species was reduced to less than 1,000 birds. The Aleutian Cackling Goose feeds in the pastures at Nestucca Bay and roosts in the ocean or on Haystack Rock in Pacific City. Like other white-cheeked geese, the cackling goose likes pastures where grass and wetlands are present but they can also be found in freshwater, bays, and marshes. On the Aleutian Islands in Alaska they nest on the ground near water in a nest lined with their down. They typically lay four to eight eggs with a month long incubation period. It can take six to ten weeks for the young to fly.

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Dusky Canada Goose
Dusky Canada Goose
(Branta canadensis occidentalis) - Dusky Canada Goose, also a subspecies, breeds in Alaska and the Middleton Islands and winters in Washington and on the Oregon coast at Nestucca Bay NWR and Oregon Islands NWR. Habitat is similar to the Aleutian Cackling Goose, grazing in wet pasturelands. These geese are the first to arrive in the fall settling at Nestucca Bay and several offshore rocks and islands. On their arctic breeding grounds their nests are made on the ground near water and they line it with down. The birds lay four to eight eggs with a month long incubation period. Young geese can fly after six to ten weeks. The diet of the Dusky Canada Goose is mainly plant matter. In 1964, the breeding grounds for the Dusky Canada Goose in the Copper River Delta of Alaska were forever changed when an earthquake of magnitude 8.3 caused enormous uplift and as a result altered the habitat and predation balance threatening the future existence this subspecies.

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American WigeonAmerican Wigeon (Anas americana) - The American Wigeon's breeding grounds span the Canadian territories, Alaska, the western states of America, the Atlantic coast, and the northern portion of the US It can be found wintering along the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf coasts of North America. This goose-like duck falls into the group of ducks called dabbling ducks. Dabbling ducks stay mostly in shallower fresh waters like ponds and marshes. They feed by "dabbling" the surface of the water or tipping instead of diving. They can take to flight by lifting directly off the water. Their diet is mostly plants of which they steal from other birds when resurfacing. Unlike other dabbling ducks, they spend time in bays and lakes, and graze like geese in pastures. Laying begins in May with a clutch size of six to ten eggs and an incubation lasting three weeks. Young fledge five to six weeks after hatching. American Wigeons scare off very easily, so spotting them must be done with care.

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(Bucephala albeola) - Buffleheads breed in Alaska and Canada as well as Buffleheadseveral western states including Wyoming, Montana, and Washington. Seldom breeds in the mountains of Oregon. They winter along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, interior river valleys, and throughout Oregon. This smaller sized duck can be found near fresh and salt water bodies, usually in estuaries or wooded lakes. Buffleheads are cavity nesters, using old woodpecker holes or vacated cavities. Clutch size ranges from six to twelve eggs in a down-lined nest that can be up to twenty feet high off the ground. Incubation lasts about one month and the young fledge fifty days after hatching. Buffleheads are diving ducks. They dive to substantial depths to feed and can travel a considerable distance underwater. Their diet is primarily invertebrates, fish, and some plant life. On the Oregon coast, the Bufflehead is known to eat herring eggs. Unlike other diving ducks who "run" across the water before becoming airborne, Buffleheads take flight by lifting off the water. Their population is considered sensitive due to continuing habitat loss and human disturbance. Look for them at Siletz Bay NWR, and Nestucca Bay NWR.

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A Male and Female Green-Winged TealGreen-Winged Teal (Anas crecca) - One of the smallest dabbling ducks, the Green-Winged Teal moves fast and erratically through the air resembling a shorebird rather than waterfowl. This species breeds in Alaska, parts of Canada, the western states and east to New York and Massachusetts. Although not a common breeder in western Oregon, large numbers winter along the coast in bays and estuaries, mudflats, and flooded agricultural fields. Clutch size ranges from six to eighteen eggs. The incubation period is three weeks and the young will fledge thirty days after hatching. The Green-Winged Teal feeds mainly on plant matter, seeds, and less often, invertebrates. One of the most common ducks next to mallards, these species are often overlooked, but the males whistle-like call is unmistakable.

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Wood DuckWood Duck (Aix sponsa) - The colorful Wood Duck breeds in British Columbia south to California, and in most areas of the US with the exception of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains. In Oregon the wood duck breeds in the valleys, interior rivers and lakes, and coastal areas. Wintering occurs mostly in western Oregon, in wet wooded areas. Similar to the Bufflehead, Wood Ducks are cavity nesters, often using nest boxes, previously used cavities, or old Pileated Woodpecker holes. Wood Ducks will occasionally have two broods in a season, with a clutch size of eight to fifteen eggs and an incubation period lasting over thirty days. The young fledge at eight to ten weeks, and soon after jump into the water. The main food sources are acorns, fruits like berries and grapes, nuts, and plant material. In the early part of the twentieth century, Wood Ducks were nearly hunted to extinction for their meat and plumage which was used for flying ties for fishing. Now their population continuously increases with the addition of artificial nesting structures. They can be found at Bandon Marsh NWR where a pair recently had a brood in a nest box.

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Common MerganserCommon Merganser (Mergus merganser) - The Common Merganser's breeding grounds extend from Alaska east to Newfoundland and south across most of the northern portion of the US Wintering grounds extend more south into parts of northern Mexico. These diving ducks can be found in almost every part of Oregon where open water is present. The Common Merganser is a cavity nester, often utilizing nest boxes, as well as hollow trees or rock ledges. Laying begins in April or May with a clutch size ranging from six to twelve eggs. Incubation period is four to five weeks, and the young will fledge two to three months after hatching. Common Mergansers live on both lakes and rivers, and can also be found on estuaries and occasionally on salt water. They eat marine and fresh water fish depending on the feeding area. Their diet may include juvenile salmonids, sculpin, trout, shrimp, and insect larvae. Their bills are specially designed for catching slippery fish, having a fine serrated edge that can grip the fish. The Common Merganser can be found at Siletz Bay NWR, and Bandon Marsh NWR.

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
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Site last updated November 16, 2012