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Backyard Bird Watching: A Fun Addition to Your Next Walk

By Lynne Brown

With over 500 species of birds in Oregon and 420 sighted in the Willamette Valley alone, birdwatching is an activity that can be enjoyed right in our own backyards. Next time you are walking around the neighborhood, out in your backyard, or even just looking out the window, you can enjoy the adventure of spotting and identifying this variety of birds.

The most common backyard birds in the Willamette Valley include the black-capped chickadee, spotted towhee, northern flicker, American goldfinch, Anna's hummingbird, song sparrow, California scrub-jay, and the dark-eyed junco according to Portland's chapter of the Audubon Society.

If you are new to bird watching, begin by looking up images of these common birds, then head outside and see how many you can find. You can find lots of help through the Salem Audubon Society.

The Willamette Valley Birding Trail Guide highlights 138 birding hotspots on a variety of loops throughout the valley. The Santiam Loop begins along the riverfront in Albany and travels through both western and eastern Linn County-inviting you to explore bird habitats that include riverbanks, open country, and maple forests, all home to a variety of bird species. A handy checklist details 250 of the most prevalent bird species in the Willamette Valley.

Oregon hosts a number of species of raptor, including the stunning bald eagle. Some migratory raptors are just passing through, but others live here year-round and can be seen along rivers, in our Oregon forests, and in trees and posts along fields of the valley. The Cascades Raptor Center in Eugene runs a wildlife hospital and offers programs for learning more about these beautiful birds of prey. You can also learn more about these amazing raptors-and see occasional videos-on the Cascades Raptor Center's Facebook page.

Identifying birds that you can't see by the sounds they make is another option for bird "watching" in your own backyard. Bird sounds are classified as calls, which are usually just one or two notes, and songs, which are longer and contain many notes and tones. Birds use calls and songs for different purposes.

The internet and voice-activated tools like Alexa and Google Assistant can help you learn common bird calls and songs. Know a few birds by sight already? Listen to recordings of their calls and songs, then head outside and see if you can hear any of these birds in your backyard. On walks through the neighborhood, listen for the bird calls you have learned. Use your ears to locate the bird, then try to see the birds that you hear.

After you identify a bird, observe its behavior. Be curious! What is it doing? Can you figure out why? Can you identify the bird's call or song? Which sound is it making - a call or a song? Can you figure out why?

Swans float about on the water with the one in the foreground taking flight

Many bird watchers keep a record of the birds they have observed. Keeping a log of the birds you see can be a fun way to track the different birds that come and go in your neighborhood. Do you see different birds out and about in the morning? Do you see more or fewer birds in the evening? A log can help you see patterns and make observations about your neighborhood bird's behavior.

If you'd like to encourage more birds to visit your backyard, consider installing a birdbath and a couple of bird feeders. If using feeders, provide at least two kinds of food, such as suet and sunflower seeds. Be sure to keep both the birdbath and the feeders clean. Birds also need protection from predators-so having bushes, trees, or a pile of branches nearby can make your feeders and birdbath more inviting. And don't forget to keep your pets away.

Birdwatching is fun for the entire family. To engage children in backyard birding, there are many games that can be adapted to logging birds that are seen and heard. For example, create a Bingo grid, with each square containing the name or picture of a common Oregon bird. Use markers (coins, small squares of paper, or even crayon to color in the square) to indicate birds that you see. Finding five in a row - Bingo!

For more fun from home, check out live feeds from webcams near and far. From the comfort of your living room, watch the live web feed of an Osprey nest along the Willamette River in Independence or look in on the sea birds at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

On the go, or close to home, enjoy some birdwatching as a sweet addition to your next trip outside.

Your adventure begins with the official Willamette Valley Travel Guide. Request your complimentary printed guide or download a digital guide today.

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