Bird Watching

Feeding frenzy in an Oregon coastal town could mean the arrival of humpback whales

Feeding frenzy in an Oregon coastal town could mean the arrival of humpback whales

Posted 8/22/22 6:39 PM PST
By the staff of the Oregon Coast Beach Connection

(Seaside, Ore.) — Pelicans in the northern Oregon coastal town of Seaside are playing at the mouth of the Necanicum River and estuaries, according to local residents. There is a bit of a feeding frenzy, with a good run of anchovies, which brings out the birds in droves. (Photo courtesy of Seaside Aquarium/Tiffany Boothe)

It’s the appearance of large amounts of baitfish like anchovies – as well as herring and the like – that can often be a sign that something much bigger is on the way. Humpback whales are used to appearing on the northern Oregon coast at this time of year, after large sets of baitfish. They are often seen around the riverfront from Astoria and up to Cannon Beach.

Meanwhile, the great race of birds munching on the baitfish is cause for great birdwatching and sometimes moments of crazy, frantic action as they struggle in the water with the fish. What will happen after this is up in the air, though.

Necanicum Estuary, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

Tiffany Boothe of the Seaside Aquarium said there was a lot to discover in the natural world of the North Shore.

“It’s not like years past when large concentrations of anchovies clogged the rivers, but there is decent racing going on right now,” she said. “Pelicans stick to the north end of town and can be seen in estuaries feeding. Most likely they will stay a few days to weeks while the bait fish are present and then move on .

If you’re looking for big birds, Seaside isn’t the only place.

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

As for the Humpbacks’ spectacular runs, Boothe said “we’ll have to wait and see.” In the past, Astoria encounters have included the whales moving between boats on the bay, creating dramatic moments.

“I haven’t heard of any sightings yet,” she said.

Humpback whales and boats in Astoria, photo Seaside Aquarium/Tiffany Boothe

Indeed, Facebook groups for Oregon coastal whales noted only gray sightings.

Either way, it’s a good time to keep looking for whales in the area, and certainly great birding on the last 20 miles of the Oregon coast.

Boothe noted that not too long ago, brown pelicans had 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, there were only about 5,000 breed pairs left and they were listed as endangered species in the United States and Mexico. Since then their population has rebounded and in 2009 they have been removed from the endangered species list. Today there is an estimated population of around 100,000 breeding pairs. MORE PHOTOS BELOW (COURTESY SEASIDE AQUARIUM)

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