Over 250 bird species can be sighted on the island
Sauvie Island offers outstanding bird watching opportunities year-round. A designated “Important Bird Area,” the island offers an abundance of migrating ducks, geese, cranes, and waterfowl during the late fall and winter months, including Canada, Cackling and Snow Geese, Sandhill Cranes, Tundra and Trumpeter Swans, Great Egrets and the Portland city bird, the Great Blue Heron, whose rookeries can be spotted at various locations on the island.
Many seasonal and year-round songbird species are also present, including finches, chickadees, nuthatches and sparrows, as well as Bald Eagle and many species of hawk and woodpecker. In springtime migrating warblers and other songbirds visit the island on their way north to breeding grounds. Summer residents include Bullock’s Oriole, Black-headed Grosbeak, Western Wood-Pewee, Cedar Waxwing, Willow Flycatcher, a variety of swallows and many other bird species.
The southern half of the island consists primarily of farm fields. In winter these fields pond, attracting ducks and geese. In summer, look for osprey and kestrel near the phone wires and purple martins along Multnomah Channel near the floating homes. But the real attraction is the northern half of the island, which is wildlife refuge. Here one can see and hear geese and ducks in the thousands, together with swans, cranes, bald eagles, northern harrier and other raptors. A daily or annual parking pass is required, and public accesses are limited during the hunting and nesting season from October 1 through April 30.
Premier birding locations are described below. All of these sites have portable toilets available. To maximize your birding experience bring hiking shoes and a good pair of binoculars with you. A spotting scope also comes in handy, especially at Coon Point and the Viewing Platform. This link goes to the Columbia Loop pdf.
Wapato Access State Greenway
About three miles down Sauvie Island Road from the bridge, on the left. Open year round, with a two-mile loop trail. Habitats include Virginia Lake (waterfowl), marshy areas, oak-covered uplands and forested land along the Multnomah Channel. Look and listen for ducks, woodpeckers, jays and songbirds like chickadees, nuthatches, bushtits, wrens, flycatchers and sparrows. Good year-round.
Turn left onto Oak Island Road past Milepost 1 on Reeder Road and drive about three miles into the refuge. At the fork past the dike, go left. Open May 1-September 30. Nesting birds include Slender-billed Nuthatch, Black-headed Grosbeak, Cedar Waxwing, American Goldfinch and Western Wood-Pewee. A lovely two-mile loop trail takes visitors along fields and through oak forests.
A viewpoint located near Milepost 3 on Reeder Road, open year round, with hiking permitted during the summer months. Look for swans, waterfowl and a variety of raptors in this area. Best in winter.
Located beyond Milepost 7 on Reeder Road, on the left side past the trailer park. Open year round. A terrific location for viewing ducks, geese and raptors in winter. Check out the sky as well as the water.
A gravel road located 10 miles down Reeder Road on the left. The road is open year round, but trails at the end of the road are open only May 1-September 30. A great location for viewing sparrows, geese, Sandhill Cranes, Bald Eagles and hawks, especially in winter. Walking the road is recommended.
If time permits, walk the grounds around the Bybee-Howell house on Sauvie Island Road (nesting Slender-billed Nuthatch) and check the beaches along the Columbia River off Reeder Road (osprey). Along the roads and watercourses look for Spotted Towhees, Dark-eyed Juncos, Red-tailed Hawks and Mourning Doves and listen for Belted Kingfisher.
Download the Sauvie Island bird checklist of birds known to occur on Sauvie Island Wildlife Area, compiled by the Sauvie Island Habitat Partnership.