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Tufted Puffins Return to Oregon Coast - Cannon Beach, Bandon, Coos Bay

Published 04/18/21 at 6:05 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Tufted Puffins Return to Oregon Coast - Cannon Beach, Bandon, Coos Bay

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – Eagerly awaited every spring, they are back on the Oregon coast. Those beautiful, graceful and thoroughly enchanting tufted puffins have returned, at least at Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock and likely a few other spots. (Photo courtesy Ram Pampish)

The Friends of Haystack Rock and the Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) both gleefully announced the return earlier this month, with HRAP providing volunteers on the beach to point them out to you as well as posting various puffin trivia on their Facebook page. See the HRAP schedule.

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The southern Oregon coast has them as well, along with a few other spots along these beaches, but they're not nearly as accessible as Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock. They've been known to linger at Simspon Reef near Coos Bay, where they're a little closer than most areas down south.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) said they can also be found at Coquille Point, although not every year, but more prominently in Bandon.

“From May to August, tufted puffins nest on islands at Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach and Face Rock in Bandon. Remember to bring binoculars or a spotting scope to see them,” ODFW said. “A great time to check out the coast for offshore pelagic seabirds is after a large storm.”

In the Tillamook County area, tufted puffins can be seen at Three Arch Rocks at Oceanside. There is no firm confirmation of sightings in areas other than Cannon Beach, but it's common by this time of year.

Last spring, the Oregon coast was still under quarantine and beaches were closed, so HRAP was not operating – and visitors could not check out the new batch on Haystack Rock. This time around, the adorable black, white and orange creature is back in full view, as are the volunteers.

Face Rock in Bandon, courtesy Manuela Durson

Even in Cannon Beach you'll need optics to zoom in on the rock and properly see the puffins.

Some of the near-shore rocks at Bandon also host quite a few, but that part of the south coast has had more issues with people treading on nests. ODFW said that if a human steps on or near one of their burrowed nests the tufted puffin may not even return to that area for a whole year or longer.

The bird is not considered rare, but it's certainly scare to human eyes. However, ODFW and HRAP have told Oregon Coast Beach Connection their numbers are in serious decline. Some figures have their numbers down more than three quarters of what they were in the ‘80s, from around 5,000 in Oregon down to below a thousand.

Shawn Stephensen, a biologist with US Fish and Wildlife out of its office in Newport, explains further.

“Historically, along the Oregon coast we've had 5,000 but we're down to a few hundred," he said. "They're also found in California, Washington and Canada along the coasts. In Alaska, there's a huge population: thousands of colonies of tufted and horned puffins in Alaska. We only get tufted puffins along the Oregon coast, although occasionally a horned puffin washes onshore from somewhere out on the ocean.”

A funny thing about Puffins is that many don't know they're here in Oregon, and even when experts like HRAP present the idea some folks are so skeptical they even reject the idea. It actually takes some convincing at times.

“That's the reaction that we get all the time, just about every time,” HRAP told Oregon Coast Beach Connection in 2019. “They find out there are puffins here and then there is shock and awe. And then sometimes they think they're not actually there.” MORE PUFFIN PHOTOS BELOW

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Photos above courtesy Ram Pampish

Below: Puffins at Cannon Beach, courtesy Friends of Haystack Rock

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