Few activities are as easy to do with kids as bird watching. Grab a pair of binoculars and you’re pretty much set. (Raincoat and boots are, of course, optional.) Thanks to Portland’s diverse landscape (we think that’s a fancy way of saying “lots of trees and rain”), 400 species of birds make Stumptown their home throughout the year. Read on for some of the coolest, kid-friendly places to spot them:
The Audubon Society of Portland’s 150-acre nature sanctuary – just five minutes from downtown – boasts more than four miles of trails and is free to the public. Not to worry if you don’t know a thrush from a chickadee (yet), you’ll certainly run into someone here who does. The small pond offers frog and turtle sightings (and a great picnicking opportunity) as well.
Don’t miss: The on-site Wildlife Care Center, which provides permanent homes to birds unable to survive on their own in the wild. Kiddos will be mesmerized by up close sightings of owls, red-tailed hawk, and even a peregrine falcon.
5151 NW Cornell Road
Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge
Colorful songbirds in the springtime. Bald eagle sightings in the fall. And thousands of waterfowl (kid translation: “cute ducks”) have been observed in this urban refuge — a key rest stop on the Pacific Flyway — in a single winter day. (We also like the family-friendly night walks offered.)
Don’t miss: The Tualatin River Bird Festival on May 18, which will seriously put a bird on it: live bird shows, conservation exhibits, and a chance for your offspring to build (and bring home) a bird or bat house.
19255 SW Pacific Highway
Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge
Want to spot a blue heron, Portland’s official city bird? Head to Oaks Bottom Refuge, where scores of them hang out. This floodplain wetland along the east bank of the Willamette River also boasts hawks, quail, woodpeckers — not to mention a cool view of downtown Portland. The Bluff Trail, which recently re-opened after a huge makeover, now has an observation deck.
Don’t miss: The 50,000 square foot bird-centric mural overlooking the refuge. Painted on the side of a local funeral home (yep, you read that right, just go with it), it’s thought to be the largest outdoor hand painted mural in the U.S.
SE 7th Avenue and Sellwood Blvd
Ladybug Nature Walk
Designed for the tiniest of nature lovers (ages 2 to 5), these weekly hour-long walks sponsored by Portland’s award-winning Parks Department, explore parks and gardens across the city. Check the online calendar, then simply show up at the time and destination of your choosing. Registration is $3 per kiddo, and adults are free.
Don’t miss: The fact that the walks take place, “rain or shine” – three of a PDX parent’s favorite words.
Backyard Bird Shop
You can certainly stock up on suet at this locally owned bird shop, but they also offer occasional kids-only events and family-friendly guided tours to bird-busy places like Sauvie Island and the Killin Wetlands. The walks are free, (although reservations are required), and typically begin at 8 am at the “host” store. After carpooling to the location, you’ll reap 2-3 hours of expert bird info.
Don’t miss: The FAQs on Backyard Bird’s website, which provide answers to common kid questions like “How do birds stay warm in the wintertime?”
5 locations in NE, SE and SW Portland
More than 100 species of birds live in this lush forest habitat, so make sure you google images of spotted towhees and dark-eyed juncos before you go. Looking for something of a more formal nature? (Pun intended.) With a minimum of 10 people and advance notice, the nature experts at the Forest Park Conservancy (forestparkconservancy.org) will design and guide a kid-appropriate hike for you, costing $12/ adult, $8/child.
Don’t miss: Searching for one of the elusive pygmy owls known to nest here. These owls measure just six inches, but sleep at night and move around during the day, which makes them a teeny bit easier to spot.
NW 29th Ave. and Upshur Street to Newberry Road
What was the last bird you saw with your little chickadees?
Photos courtesy of Tinsley Hunsdorfer, Audubon Society of Portland and Julie Almquest, Tualatin River Bird Festival, & USFWS Mountain Prairie