Rare Bird Alert

Updated every Thursday, the Rare Bird Alert covers the entire state and details where and when rare birds have been spotted. This could be anything from an east coast bird that flew off course to an Oregon bird found in an unlikely location.

Have you seen a rare or out of place bird? Contact Brodie Cass Talbott to report your sighting: bcasstalbott@audubonportland.org.

April 8

YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER Swamp Sparrow
Yellow-headed Blackbird Great-tailed Grackle
Mountain Bluebird LESSER NIGHTHAWK

Notes on Sightings

Bold: Local rarity | CAPS: Statewide rarity

The topline bird of the week is the YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER reported from Scappoose on Wednesday afternoon, the second Columbia County record for the species. Other notable Columbia county birds this week include early Black-throated Gray Warbler and Purple Martin (both of which were reported sparingly across the region), as well as a late Swamp Sparrow that continues on Rentenaar Road. 

Other early birds include Vaux’s Swifts a couple weeks ahead of schedule at Oaks Bottom, where the same birder last saw them in November, a shockingly late date for these aerial insectivores. Yellow-headed Blackbird has returned to Vanport Wetlands, one of their few local breeding locations. Meanwhile, “McGrackle,” the Great-tailed Grackle residing at the Columbia Blvd McDonald’s, continues his watch.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, photo by Tom Murray.

Mountain Bluebirds continue their on-again-off-again pattern at Powell Butte, being seen again on Wednesday, and having been reported sporadically for three weeks, but never reliably. 

Statewide, the big news of the week was a LESSER NIGHTHAWK reported from Tillamook Bay. A third state record, it is the first since 2010, and the first outside Harney County.

That’s most of it for this week. For reports, corrections, and tips, email Brodie Cass Talbott at bcasstalbott@audubonportland.org.

April 1

Brant Black-bellied Plover
Black-necked Stilt Yellow-headed Blackbird
Cliff Swallow Common Yellowthroat
Black-throated Gray Warbler GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE
Harris’s Sparrow Vesper Sparrow
Northern Mockingbird

Notes on Sightings

Bold: Local rarity | CAPS: Statewide rarity

Migration seems to be heating up, with several notable reports of short-staying birds, including an impressive combo of Brant (one day) and Black-bellied Plover (less than one day) being reported from Broughton Beach, and a Black-necked Stilt pair showing up at Fernhill (one day). A also showed up at Vanport Wetlands. 

Early returners this week include a Yellow-headed Blackbird at Vanport Wetlands; Cliff Swallows in Washington County; and a Common Yellowthroat at Reed College. Reports also came in of a Black-throated Gray Warbler but, rather than being an early migrant, is said to have been visiting a feeder in Oregon City for the last two months, one of only a small handful of wintering records. 

Black-bellied Plover, photo by Mick Thompson.

Meanwhile, a longevity battle is underway between a few long-staying birds. The GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (in its 20th straight week on this report) was reported again from the Columbia Ave. McDonald’s, but reports also came from Vanport Wetlands and Elrod Slough. This prompted speculation of multiple birds, but most likely represents growing restlessness from McGrackle, who has yet to find a replacement mate for the female last reported in November. Meanwhile the Rentenaar Road Harris’s Sparrow continues for the 13th consecutive week, once again being visited by the Vesper Sparrow. The Pleasant Valley Road Northern Mockingbird remains the longevity record holder, however, having been consistently reported for a whopping 32 weeks. 

That’s most of it for this week. For reports, corrections, and tips, email Brodie Cass Talbott at bcasstalbott@audubonportland.org.

March 25

Black-throated Gray Warbler Barn Swallow
Bonaparte’s Gull Say’s Phoebe
Northern Mockingbird Vesper Sparrow
Harris’s Sparrow Canyon Wren
GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE

Notes on Sightings

Bold: Local rarity | CAPS: Statewide rarity

The slow trickle of early migration continues, with multiple reports of Black-throated Gray Warbler and a couple reports of Barn Swallow. A Bonaparte’s Gull was reported from the mouth of the Sandy River, representing a very rare spring find for the species. 

Other new notables for the week include a Say’s Phoebe along Pleasant Valley Rd. where the Northern Mockingbird continues. 

A Vesper Sparrow continues to keep the Harris’ Sparrow company on Rentenaar Rd, while the Canyon Wren continues to be heard and seen on the Multnomah Falls trail, and the Great-tailed Grackle continues at the Columbia Blvd. McDonald’s.

That’s most of it for this week. For reports, corrections, and tips, email Brodie Cass Talbott at bcasstalbott@audubonportland.org.

Black-throated Gray Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler, photo by Hayley Crews.

March 18

Prairie Falcon Mountain Bluebird
Swainson’s Hawk Common Yellowthroat
Canyon Wren Black-backed Woodpecker
Harris’s Sparrow Black-crowned Night Heron
American White Pelicans Great-tailed Grackle

Notes on Sightings

Bold: Local rarity | CAPS: Statewide rarity

The most unusual find of the week goes to the Prairie Falcon photographed at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge on Wednesday, one of only a handful of records for Washington County.

In the “right on schedule” department,  Mountain Bluebird was reported from the Sandy River Delta on March 16. In the “way ahead of schedule” department, a dark morph Swainson’s Hawk was reported flying over a SE Portland home this week, possibly six weeks early for this most strongly-migratory member of the Buteo family. Other northbound migrants reported this week included a slightly early Common Yellowthroat from Clark County.

Prairie Falcon, photo by Wendy Miller.

In the “rare resident” department, a birder found both a Canyon Wren and Black-backed Woodpecker uphill from Multnomah Falls, where the Eagle Creek fire is thought to have created more habitat for both of these hard-to-find species. 

In the “fan favorites” department, the Rentenaar Harris’s Sparrow, St. John’s Black-crowned Night Heron, Sauvie’s Island American White Pelicans, and Smith & Bybee Sora all continued this week, as did the Great-tailed Grackle, but at Elrod Slough instead of its normal haunt at the Columbia Blvd. McDonald’s.

That’s most of it for this week. For reports, corrections, and tips, email Brodie Cass Talbott at bcasstalbott@audubonportland.org.

March 11

Say’s Phoebes Harlan’s Red-tailed Hawk
Red-breasted Merganser Canyon Wren
Yellow-headed Blackbird Great-tailed Grackle
Black-crowned Night Heron Harris’s Sparrow
American White Pelican

Notes on Sightings

Bold: Local rarity | CAPS: Statewide rarity

Mid-March is the traditional time for migrant Say’s Phoebes to pass through the region (although this year has seen two birds uncharacteristically winter in the area), and, right on time, one was found at Scappoose Bottoms. A Harlan’s Red-tailed Hawk was also seen in the area. 

In the Columbia Gorge, a Red-breasted Merganser was found at Rooster Rock, while a Canyon Wren was heard along the Wahclella Falls trail. They seem to be becoming more reliable in the area in winter. In North Portland, Yellow-headed Blackbird continue at Rivergate, while the Great-tailed Grackle continues on Columbia Blvd, and Black-crowned Night Heron continue their dusk transit through the St. John’s neighborhood.

Harris’s Sparrow and American White Pelican continue to be seen on Sauvie Island.

That’s most of it for this week. For reports, corrections, and tips, email Brodie Cass Talbott at bcasstalbott@audubonportland.org.

Red-breasted Merganser, photo by Adam Stunkel.

March 4

American White Pelicans Harris’s Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow Black-crowned Night Heron
Sora Great-tailed Grackle
Townsend’s Solitaire WINTER WREN
COMMON GRACKLE

Notes on Sightings

Bold: Local rarity | CAPS: Statewide rarity

Early spring migrants continue to trickle in, including widespread reports of Turkey Vulture and Rufous Hummingbird, and a report of Western Bluebirds at their traditional location of Powell Butte on their traditional date of March 1. Rare birds were hard to find this locally this week, but many overwintering rarities continued, including American White Pelicans on Sauvie Island; Harris’s Sparrow and Vesper Sparrow on Rentenaar Road; the nightly Black-crowned Night Heron flyovers in St. John’s; the Smith & Bybee Sora; the Great-tailed Grackle at the Columbia Blvd. McDonald’s; and sporadic reports of Townsend’s Solitaire.

Winter Wren (the actual one spotted), photo by Noah Strycker.

Statewide, the biggest news of the week was of a WINTER WREN reported outside of Corvallis. These birds were once considered the same species as our native Pacific Wren, but were separated years ago based on slightly different plumage and vocalizations. Presumed to be accepted, this would be a first state record. 

Additionally, on Wednesday a COMMON GRACKLE was found in Sun River.

That’s most of it for this week. For reports, corrections, and tips, email Brodie Cass Talbott at bcasstalbott@audubonportland.org.

February 25

Black-bellied Plover American White Pelicans
Harris’s Sparrow Sora
Eared Grebe Great-tailed Grackle
Townsend’s Solitaire

Notes on Sightings

Bold: Local rarity | CAPS: Statewide rarity

While not rare, much of the excitement this week has been the early returning migrants, including reports of Rufous Hummingbird, Turkey Vulture, and Violet Green Swallows. Spring is imminent! 

True rarities were harder to find this week, but Black-bellied Plover were reported from Fern Hill Road in Washington County. On Sauvie Island, American White Pelicans continue to be reported, as does the continuing Harris’s Sparrow on Rentenaar Road, and a few Ring-necked Pheasant, which are released annually on the island for hunting. 

Many of our rare wintering birds continue, including the Smith & Bybee Sora; the Eared Grebe at the mouth of the Sandy; the Great-tailed Grackle at the Columbia Blvd. McDonald’s; and a Townsend’s Solitaire on NE 24th Ave. 

That’s most of it for this week. For reports, corrections, and tips, email Brodie Cass Talbott at bcasstalbott@audubonportland.org.

Townsend’s Solitaire, photo by Charles Gates

February 18

SNOWY OWL Ross’s Goose
Red-breasted Merganser Eared Grebe
Townsend’s Solitaire Say’s Phoebe
Northern Mockingbird Rufous Hummingbird
Western Tanager YELLOW-BILLED LOON

Notes on Sightings

Bold: Local rarity | CAPS: Statewide rarity

For most birders, just seeing any birds was enough for this week, which saw some of the most extreme winter weather in decades in the region. One NE Portland birder did make the most of the Great Backyard Bird Count, reporting a SNOWY OWL flying over her house, being harassed by a large group of crows. It was not photographed, unfortunately, and has not been refound. 

The Ross’s Geese reported last week at Sauvie Island have not been refound after the snow. A single Red-breasted Merganser was reported from Broughton Beach, while the Eared Grebe continued near the mouth of the Sandy River. Townsend’s Solitaire continues to be reported from the Laurelhurst neighborhood. Noticeably absent this week were reports of both the Orchard Oriole and Great-tailed Grackle.

Snowy Owl, photo by Tara Lemezis.

In Washington County, the Gaston Say’s Phoebe and Pleasant Valley Road Northern Mockingbird both continue. 

Early returners this week include reports of Rufous Hummingbird and Western Tanager. Meanwhile, a juvenile YELLOW-BILLED LOON was reported from Foster Reservoir in Linn County, fueling speculation of it being the same bird that was at Hagg Lake at the beginning of the year. 

That’s most of it for this week. For reports, corrections, and tips, email Brodie Cass Talbott at bcasstalbott@audubonportland.org.

February 11

Ross’s Goose American White Pelican
Vesper Sparrow Great-tailed Grackle
Harris’s Sparrow Northern Mockingbird
Townsend’s Solitaire Say’s Phoebe
Black-crowned Night Heron Yellow-headed Blackbird
Sora ORCHARD ORIOLE

Notes on Sightings

Bold: Local rarity | CAPS: Statewide rarity

Two Ross’s Geese have been reported by multiple observers from Sauvie Island. As with almost all of our other local records of this diminutive white goose, they were seen mixed with a large, roving goose flock (in this case, Snow Geese, making their detection even more of a challenge). American White Pelican also continue to be reported from multiple locations on the island, reflecting a seeming trend of these becoming a wintering bird in the region. A single Vesper Sparrow was once again reported from Rentenaar Road, where they have been sporadic in winter over the last couple of years.

Ross's Goose, photo by Mick Thompson.

Besides some early returning swallows, most other rare birds reported across the region were continuing winter birds, including the Columbia Blvd. Great-tailed Grackle; the Harris’s Sparrow on Rentenaar Road; the Northern Mockingbird on Pleasant Valley Road; the Townsend’s Solitaire near Laurelhurst Park; the Say’s Phoebe in Gaston; the nightly Black-crowned Night Heron flyovers in St. John’s; the Yellow-headed Blackbird at Rivergate; and the Sora at Smith & Bybee. The ORCHARD ORIOLE in SE Portland, while seen as recently as the 6th, has not been seen since, despite dedicated effort from multiple observers.

That’s most of it for this week. For reports, corrections, and tips, email Brodie Cass Talbott at bcasstalbott@audubonportland.org.

February 4

ORCHARD ORIOLE Sora
Eared Grebe Great-tailed Grackle
Northern Mockingbird Townsend’s Solitaire
Say’s Phoebe Black-crowned Night Heron
Sora Surf Scoter
PAINTED BUNTING

Notes on Sightings

Bold: Local rarity | CAPS: Statewide rarity

The most notable birds in the Portland area this week were mostly in the “Continuing” column; the ORCHARD ORIOLE at its feeder route in Woodstock; the Great-tailed Grackle at its McDonald’s on Columbia Boulevard; the Eared Grebe in the Columbia River just downstream of the mouth of the Sandy River; the Harris’s Sparrow on Rentenaar Road; the Northern Mockingbird on Pleasant Valley Road; the Townsend’s Solitaire near Laurelhurst Park; the Say’s Phoebe in Gaston; the nightly Black-crowned Night Heron flyovers in St. John’s, and the Sora at its pint-sized pond at Smith & Bybee. For good measure, a Surf Scoter was reported along the Willamette River in Clackamas County, where they are a hard to find species. 

Just down the valley, the real star of the week showed up: a male PAINTED BUNTING was photographed visiting a feeder in east Salem. With dedicated effort, a few birders have been able to relocate the bird. Amazingly, this seems to be the same bird that was seen visiting a feeder in Corvallis in early January, but unreported for the fear of the crowds it would attract. 

That’s most of it for this week. For reports, corrections, and tips, email Brodie Cass Talbott at bcasstalbott@audubonportland.org.

Painted Bunting photo by Shell Game

January 28

Black-crowned Night Heron Sora
Yellow-headed Blackbird Tri-colored Blackbird
ORCHARD ORIOLE Great-tailed Grackle
Townsend’s Solitaire Barn Swallow
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD Harris’s Sparrow

Notes on Sightings

Bold: Local rarity | CAPS: Statewide rarity

Black-crowned Night Herons have been intriguingly elusive in Multnomah County ever since they last abandoned a roost along Marine Drive in 2014, with only sporadic reports of short-staying birds since. This week, birders learned they may have been here the whole time, just cleverly hidden. Night Herons have been reported multiple times this week, up to ten at a time, flying through the St. Johns neighborhood (where at least one has been confirmed roosting) at dusk, towards their presumed nighttime foraging location at Smith and Bybee lakes. The main roost has yet to be discovered.

Another elusive but local marsh bird was also reported from Smith and Bybee this week (by the same birder, no less) in the form of a very confiding Sora that has been foraging in one of the entrance ponds.

Photo of Sora by Becky Matsubara

Nearby at Rivergate, Yellow-headed Blackbird was added to the list of irregular icterids occurring in the Portland area recently, where it was seen in the same flock that Tricolored Blackbirds were reported in. The ORCHARD ORIOLE and Great-tailed Grackle continued at their respective spots. A Townsend’s Solitaire was reported along Cesar Chavez boulevard and seen by many. 

In Washington County, Barn Swallows were seen at Fernhill, and the NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD continues near TRNWR, and in Columbia County, the Harris’s Sparrow continues on Rentenaar Road.

That’s most of it for this week. For reports, corrections, and tips, email Brodie Cass Talbott at bcasstalbott@audubonportland.org.

January 21

Brandt’s Cormorant Orchard Oriole
Great-tailed Grackle Tri-colored Blackbird
Say’s Phoebe Black-crowned Night Heron
Turkey Vulture Red Phalarope
Vesper Sparrow Clay-colored Sparrow
Northern Mockingbird Glaucous Gulls
Harris’ Sparrow TUFTED DUCK

Notes on Sightings

Bold: Local rarity | CAPS: Statewide rarity

Last week’s Brandt’s Cormorant went from the unconfirmed to confirmed column, as several observers were able to obtain views good enough to certify what is the first inland record for Oregon, as well as only the fifth documented inland record for the species across its range. After leaving its roost on the interstate bridge on Thursday, it was not seen again until a birder spotted it upriver at the mouth of the Sandy River, where it was seen again on the 20th, along with an Eared Grebe. 

A flyover group of Black-crowned Night Heron were reported on an evening walk through St. Johns by a pair of keen observers. A Turkey Vulture in Gresham was one of only a handful of January records for that species. On the Icterid front, the Orchard Oriole, Great-tailed Grackle, and Tri-colored Blackbird were all reported again this week from their respective haunts, as was the Say’s Phoebe near 33rd Drive.

Tufted Duck

Many of Washington County’s rarities also continued into the week, including the Red Phalarope from Hagg Lake, the Vesper Sparrow and Clay-colored Sparrows near Fernhill, and the Pleasant Valley Road Northern Mockingbird which has returned for its third winter. 

Glaucous Gulls were reported this week both near Fernhill, and on Sauvie Island (Multnomah), where one had been reported a few weeks ago. Further north on the island, the Harris’ Sparrow continues on Rentenaar Road. 

In Clark County, a TUFTED DUCK continues, along with their slough of other long-lasting rarities.

That’s most of it for this week. For reports, corrections, and tips, email Brodie Cass Talbott at bcasstalbott@audubonportland.org.

January 14

Brandt’s Cormorant Vesper Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrow Rusty Blackbird
Tri-colored Blackbird Barrow’s Goldeneye
Red Phalarope Say’s Phoebe
Great-tailed Grackle Orchard Oriole
Townsend’s Solitaire American White Pelican

Notes on Sightings

Bold: Local rarity | CAPS: Statewide rarity

The most unusual bird of the last week was reported as dusk was falling at press time: A potential Brandt’s Cormorant, a Multnomah County first, roosting on the pilings of the I-5 bridge. While Pelagic Cormorants are infrequently seen in the Portland area, there are no verified records of Brandt’s upriver of Clatsop County, although a suspicious, unconfirmed bird was photographed in Columbia County last week. 

Washington County, mourning the departure of its rockstar Yellow-billed Loon, is now embracing Sparrow Fever, with a Vesper Sparrow joining a Clay-colored Sparrow in a neighborhood near Jackson’s Bottom. It has been a banner winter for Clay-colored, with birds reported in three different Portland-area counties. The RUSTY BLACKBIRD continued at its stakeout near Verboort, and a Tri-colored Blackbird was observed in the same flock. A Barrow’s Goldeneye was reported near Fernhill, and a Red Phalarope was reported at Hagg Lake on Wednesday, likely blown in by the powerful storm. 

A Say’s Phoebe was found near Gaston, joining the continuing bird near the Sunderland Golf Course in NE Portland. Portland’s Great-tailed Grackle and ORCHARD ORIOLE also continued through the week. Multiple Clay-colored Sparrow and Townsend’s Solitaire were reported in SE Portland, while multiple American White Pelican have been reported in areas near the Columbia this week.

That’s most of it for this week. For reports, corrections, and tips, email Brodie Cass Talbott at bcasstalbott@audubonportland.org.

Brandt’s Cormorant

January 7

Yellow-billed Loon Rusty Blackbird
Say’s Phoebe White-winged Scoter
Surf Scoter Tree Swallow
Orchard Oriole Great-tailed Grackle
Clay-colored Sparrow Western Tanager
Townsend’s Solitaire Pelagic Cormorant
Harris’s Sparrow Glaucous Gull

Notes on Sightings

Bold: Local rarity | CAPS: Statewide rarity

Holiday birders successfully stole the limelight from the 95th Annual Portland Christmas Count this week, finding a YELLOW-BILLED LOON at Hagg Lake on New Year’s Day. A first record for Washington county, it has remained long enough for many viewers to see. To sweeten the pot, a birder returning from seeing the loon found a RUSTY BLACKBIRD on the road to Hagg Lake, making a nice one-two for many chasers. 

The Portland CBC was a successful affair, with Say’s Phoebe, White-winged Scoter, Surf Scoter, and Tree Swallow joining the remaining ORCHARD ORIOLE, Great-tailed Grackle, Clay-colored Sparrow, and Western Tanager as the top rarities for the count. The Towsend’s Solitaire reported in NE Portland on the first was not relocated for the count. 

The Gresham CBC also turned up a nice bird in the form of a Pelagic Cormorant at the Sandy River Delta, in the same area where one was seen last year. Pelagic Cormorant was also reported from Rainier City Park in Columbia County. In Scappoose, the Snow Bunting is still being seen near the CZ trail. 

On Sauvie’s Island, the Harris’s Sparrow continues on Rentenaar Road, and an immature Glaucous Gull was reported from Racoon Point. 

That’s most of it for this week. For reports, corrections, and tips, email Brodie Cass Talbott at bcasstalbott@audubonportland.org.

Western Tanager
Western Tanager, photo by Scott Carpenter