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Feeding Frenzy in One Oregon Coast Town Could Mean Humpback Whales Coming

Published 08/22/22 at 6:39 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Feeding Frenzy in One Oregon Coast Town Could Mean Humpback Whales Coming

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(Seaside, Oregon) – Pelicans in the north Oregon coast town of Seaside are having a field day at the mouth of the Necanicum River and the estuaries, according to local residents. There's a bit of a feeding frenzy going on, with a good run of anchovies, which brings out the birds in droves. (Photo courtesy Seaside Aquarium / Tiffany Boothe)

It's the appearance of large amounts of baitfish like anchovies – along with herring and such – that can often be a sign something much bigger is on its way. Humpback whales have a habit of showing up on the north Oregon coast this time of year, following large runs of baitfish. They're often seen around Astoria's riverfront and as far down as Cannon Beach.

Meanwhile, the large run of birds chomping on the baitfish is cause for great birdwatching and sometimes moments of crazy, frenetic action as they wrestle in the water with the fish. What's going to happen after this is up in the air, however.

Necanicum estuary, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

Seaside Aquarium's Tiffany Boothe said there's much to check out in the natural world on the north coast.

“It is not like in past years where we've had large concentrations of anchovies clog the rivers but there is a decent run right now,” she said. “The pelicans are sticking to the north end of town and can be seen in the estuaries feeding. Most likely they will stick around for a few days to a couple weeks while the baitfish are present, then move on.”

If you're looking for large birds, Seaside isn't the only spot.

“You can see pelicans off of Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach and along the beaches north of Seaside (Gearhart, Delray, Sunset, and Fort Stevens),” Boothe told Oregon Coast Beach Connection. “While there are a lot, we have had years where we've seen many more. The pelicans tend to follow the food. White pelicans have been seen in the Columbia River near Astoria.”

When it comes to the spectacular runs of Humpbacks, Boothe said “we'll have to wait and see.” In the past, Astoria's encounters have included the whales zipping around between boats on the bay, creating some dramatic moments.

“I have not heard of any sightings yet,” she said.

Humpbacks and boats in Astoria, photo Seaside Aquarium / Tiffany Boothe

Indeed, the Facebook groups for Oregon coast whales haven't noted anything but gray sightings.

Whatever the case, it's a good time to keep looking for whales in the region, and certainly excellent bird watching on the last 20 miles of the Oregon coast.

Boothe noted that it wasn't too long ago that brown pelicans nearly disappeared from the Oregon coast.

“Their population was decimated due to the use of DDT, a popular pesticide until it was banned in 1972,” she said. “In 1970 only about 5,000 breed pairs remained, and they were put on the Endangered Species List in both the U.S. and Mexico. Since then, their population has rebounded and in 2009 they were taken off the Endangered Species List. Today, there is an estimated population of about 100,000 breeding pairs.” MORE PHOTOS BELOW (COURTESY SEASIDE AQUARIUM)

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