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Puffins Have Returned to Oregon Coast, Especially Cannon Beach

Published 4/15/24 at 5:15 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – On time and as if on cue, tufted puffins are back on Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock. (Photo Friends of Haystack Rock)

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It first happened back on April 6, according to Haystack Rock Awareness Programs (HRAP).

“We are puffin’ with joy to announce we've spotted the first tufted puffins of the season,” they said on April 6. “This morning, our Director and Education and Volunteer Coordinator hit the beach to try and spot the first arrivals. While none were seen lingering outside of their burrows, they did observe three tufted puffins mingling with a raft of common murres beyond the waves! Needless to say, we will be keeping our eyes glued to the Rock for the rest of the week.”

Haystack Rock is the closest you can get to them on the Oregon coast, and the best they can be viewed in the area. HRAP said that right now tufted puffin burrows can be spotted in the grassy meadow on the north and western face.

From April to August, the little "flapping footballs" (as one group on the south coast called them) can be seen at Haystack Rock - the largest publically visible colony of these birds in the state.

Friends of Haystack Rock

You can get some help seeing them. HRAP is on the beach just about every day for the next few months, usually starting between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. (each day is different) and going until around 3 p.m. or so. They are there to answer questions about the rock's ecosystem and to help you spot the puffins. See the schedule.

In fact, Cannon Beach goes into celebration mode each April in honor of the graceful, colorful bird. The town just held its puffin event this weekend.

Puffin numbers have dropped drastically in the last twenty years, especially in the southern portion of their range. Some of the reasons why tufted puffins are declining include climate change, loss or damage of their habitat, more predators, and less food.

The upper latitude of the North Pacific Ocean is where the famed and beloved tufted puffins (Fratercula cirrhata) live. They breed in a wide range of areas, from California to Alaska, and from Japan to Siberia. Tufted puffins are seabirds, living on the open ocean, about 150 to 200 miles away from shore.

Bandon's Face Rock area is another spot they show up but they are more difficult to see. South Oregon coast experts from the Shoreline Education for Awareness, Inc. (SEA) often hold a puffin watching day there as well, though that is not happening this year. However, while nothing from them is listed as official, they did tell Oregon Coast Beach Connection they'll be at the Face Rock area first weekend in May with scopes in hand, and then some Saturday and Sunday mornings through the summer.

According to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), tufted puffins show up in various spots around the Oregon coast as well. Coos Bay's Simpson's Reef is among the most visible spot on the southern coast, but ODFW reports they can also be spotted at times at Coquille Point, also at Bandon. MORE PHOTOS BELOW


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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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