John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Birds At John Day Fossil Beds National Monument


Birds remain the most visible animals found at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

The changing of the seasons add to the variety of birds seen as migrants pass through and summer species leave for warmer climes.

Over 50 species of birds can be seen at the monument with some sightings being a once in a lifetime while others are a daily occurrence. The riparian zones found along the rivers and streams as well as the rocky outcroppings and other geologic features add to the variety of birds that can be seen. Sightings of red-tailed hawks, American kestrels, and an occasional turkey vulture or prairie falcon are common in the summer.

Great horned and western screech owls, along with common nighthawks, take up their hunting during the night hours. Bald eagles move into the valley during the winter to hunt along the John Day River. Great blue herons will hunt for fish, frogs, and even field mice as they reside here year round.

Nesting geese and their goslings are becoming quite common during the summer around Picture Gorge. As the geese leave and return each year, an occasional flock of sandhill cranes or swans will be seen flying overhead on their yearly journey.

California quail with 8 to 10 young in tow are a common sight around the agricultural fields while the call of chukars can be heard as they move up and down the hillsides in each unit of the monument. Mourning doves feed on the abundant weed seeds along the river while they make their sad call.

Common flickers have found the aging wood of the Cant Ranch House and surrounding historic buildings to be a great place to send out a rat-a-tat-tat for a mate.

An occasional Rufous or black-chinned hummingbird will use the lilac and other flowers growing around the visitor center. Say's phoebe, yellow warblers, western meadowlarks, gray-crowned rosy finches, and American goldfinches all add a splash of color and sound to the trees overhead.

Visitors heading up one of the many trails in the monument may be welcomed by the call of a canyon wren, a mountain bluebird, a mountain chickadee, or a lark sparrow. They too may be scolded by a raven, black-billed magpie, or a Stellar's jay for interrupting a meal or nap. Stops at Goose Rock or the Clarno Palisades will often be rewarded with an aerial feeding show by violet-green, barn, or cliff swallows.

The Monument's continuing efforts to restore the natural processes of fire, river meanders, cottonwood gallery establishment, and native plant succession should greatly benefit the expanding use of the monument by birds and the opportunity for visitors to see them in a healthy environment.


The Visitor Center at the Sheep Rock Unit is located on Highway 19 between the towns of Dayville and Kimberly, 2 miles from the junction of Highway 26 and Highway 19.

The Painted Hills Unit is located 9 miles northwest of of the town of Mitchell, just off Highway 26. There is no visitor center at this unit.

The Clarno Unit is located 20 miles west of the town of Fossil. along Highway 218. There is no visitor center at this unit.