Birds

On this page I show birds that are my most common drift line finds, and ones I can most easily photograph on the exposed coast of northern Oregon. For ID help I consult the Audubon Guides Bird App, the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, and my birder friends. Identification mistakes are mine.

Let’s check out some birds!

Brant
I read that old timers around Yaquina Bay, Oregon used to call brant china goose, but I haven’t heard this myself. In Oregon, we think of them mostly wintering on the estuaries with eelgrass beds, but there are always a few birds summering singly or in small groups on the exposed outer coast. Bald eagles take advantage of summering brant which are vulnerable during the molt. I came across this lone bird in late June. I love that early morning shadow.

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Short-tailed albatross
This rare find is from March 26, 2021. Folks that know say it’s a short-tailed albatross.

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Northern fulmar
Fulmar carcasses are common in the winter drift line.

Dead northern fulmar with breast meat eaten
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Murphy’s petrel
This rare Oregon beach find was made on January 16, 2021. Folks who know say it’s a probable Murphy’s petrel.

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Fork-tailed storm petrel
When I found this carcass on a large drift log, I noticed the head was missing. I’ve been told owls favor the the heads. Thus, I wonder if this one was taken by an owl.

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Peregrine falcon
Peregrines cruise the beaches year round. They take advantage of drift logs for perches.

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Surfbird
Surfbirds winter on rocky intertidal shores. They are featured in Surfbirds Live Up to Their Name on the Winter Range. Can you spot a black turnstone or two lurking in the back of this flock?  You will often find these two species together during the winter.

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Red Phalarope
These fragile little birds take the fall storms hard. In Europe they’re called gray phalaropes which is an apt description of the winter birds we’re most likely to see in the drift line.

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Black-legged Kittiwake
A pelagic gull. You might find a carcass in the winter drift line. Look for wing tips that seem to have been dipped in black ink; black legs.

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Heermann’s Gull
I came across this trio in June.

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Western Gull
Pink legs, dark mantle, and black wing tips; it’s probably a western gull.

Three adult western gulls on the beach
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Olympic Gull
Olympics are western gull x glaucous-winged gull hybrids. I think this is one, so I wrote a few words about Olympics in Waiting Out High Tide With an Olympic Gull. We see a lot of Olympics here. We’re in that transition zone where western gulls breed mostly south of us and glaucous-winged gulls breed north of here, so we get a lot of mixing.

Olympic Gull leaping off a fence post, over Pacific Ocean
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Common Murre
Murre carcasses are common in the drift line.

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Pigeon Guillemot
Though they are common on their northern Oregon breeding grounds, I see few guillemots in the drift line.

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Cassin’s Auklet
Sometimes dead Cassin’s wash ashore in great numbers. Fall 2014 was such a case. I can’t get over those blue legs.

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Marbled murrelet
Not too common in the drift line. This is a winter plumage adult from January.

Dead marbled murrelet on the beach
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Rhinoceros Auklet
Fairly common in the drift line, this is a winter adult. The other thing you see here is the breast meat has been eaten. You’ll see that a lot. Gulls and ravens go for the breast meat first.

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Tufted Puffin
I don’t see many puffins in the drift line. Puffins have deciduous bill sheaths that drop off during the winter which is why this one doesn’t have the big and brightly colored bill you see in the typical photos of breeding birds.

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American crow
Crows love a low tide as much as I do. This one was so intent on the hunt it didn’t notice me for a while.

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This page was updated on August 21, 2021