Seabirds, shorebirds, and other species of birds flock to Haystack Rock and Cannon Beach due to the abundance of food and safe nesting habitat.  

The rocks and islands along the Pacific Coast provide ideal nesting habitat for over a million seabirds.



Seabirds are a diverse group of ocean-dependent birds that live off the bounty of the sea year-round, coming to land primarily to breed and raise their young. They have special adaptations to survive this cold and wet environment.  Thick, waterproof feathers keep them warm. Special glands near their eyes remove excess salt from their bodies. Sharp, pointed or serrated beaks catch and hold slippery fish and other aquatic prey. Strong, pointed wings help some seabirds “fly” underwater, while webbed feet propel others efficiently towards their prey.

In spring, seabirds return from the sea to nest on coastal islands and rocky cliffs. From April to September, Haystack Rock is shared by many colorful and charismatic seabirds. Tufted puffins can be seen on the north grassy slopes high above the tide pools. The Tufted Puffin is an iconic seabird of Haystack Rock, and lives along the west coast from California to Alaska.

Tufted Puffins and many other seabird populations have decreased dramatically at Haystack Rock and around the world. Their populations are in trouble and more research and actions are needed to understand why, and how to stop the decline.

• Tufted Puffins •

• About 100 Tufted Puffins nest on Haystack Rock.

• Most of the puffins have already found their lifelong partners and return to the same protected burrow they used the previous year to raise their young.

• The puffling leaves the burrows 38 to 59 days after hatching with no additional parental care.

• In mid-August, Tufted Puffins return to their life on the open ocean until the following spring.


• Cormorants •

• There are three species of cormorants that nest at Haystack Rock: Brandt’s, Double-crested, and Pelagic.

• The Brandt’s cormorant is the most common along the coast, but the Pelagic cormorant is the most common at Haystack Rock.

• Their nests are composed of grasses and marine debris cemented with guano and are attached to ledges and cliffs.

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• Common Murre •

Common Murre; photo by Roy Lowe

• The common murre is a large auk that breeds in high density colonies.

• They are sometimes confused with the Tufted Puffin; however, they have a white belly and black beak.

• They lay eggs on the bare rock near the puffin burrows at Haystack Rock.

• They are Oregon’s most abundant nesting seabird.

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• Other Seabirds •

Pigeon Guillemot; photo by Roy Lowe

Several other seabirds can be seen at Haystack Rock, including the Pigeon Guillemot, Western Gull, and Rhinoceros Auklet.

More from Oregon Marine ReservesMore from the Bird Alliance

Additional Birds of Haystack Rock

• Black Oystercatchers •

• The Black oystercatcher is a species of shorebird that makes its living on rocky shores.  It is listed by the USFWS as a species of concern though populations have stabilized in Oregon.

• Black oystercatchers are a species of shorebird that makes its living on rocky shores.  They are listed by the USFWS as a species of concern though populations have stabilized in Oregon.

• In the summer, these loud and conspicuous birds nest just above the high tide line at Haystack Rock. This makes their eggs and chicks vulnerable to off leash dogs, other predators and human disturbance.

• Black oystercatchers remain paired year-round and often fly in duets over the ocean giving their pleasant whistling calls.

• They lay 1-4 eggs and the hatchlings are downy and active within days.

• Contrary to their name, in Oregon they do not eat oysters but instead dine on mussels, limpets, and other small tide pool invertebrates.

Learn MORE ABOUT Black Oystercatchers

• Harlequin Duck •

• This sea duck is unique among North American waterfowl. It uses clear, fast-flowing rivers and streams for breeding and moves swiftly in turbulent water as it searches for prey.

• Most of the year you can see them at Haystack Rock where they rest and feed in the shallow intertidal areas. Snails, small crabs, barnacles, fish roe, and more is their favored prey here.

• There are various serious threats to Harlequin Ducks throughout their  population. Overhunting, disturbance, and habitat loss have contributed to major declines in their numbers.

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• Brown Pelican •

Brown Pelican flying; photo by Roy Lowe

• Brown pelicans plunge headfirst into water, scooping up fish with its expandable throat pouch.

• In 2009, The US Fish & Wildlife Service removed brown pelicans from the endangered species list.

• They sleep on land either while standing on both their feet or resting on their breast and belly their head sideways on their shoulder with their beak tilted towards the side.

• The brown pelican is a casual visitor to Cannon Beach.

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• Bald Eagles •

Bald eagle pair; photo by Roy Lowe

• Bald eagles that nest in the surrounding forests visit seabird colonies frequently to feed their young from March through the end of summer.

• They typically eat fish but will also hunt birds and scavenge for food.

• Numbers have soared in the past few years with more than 570 nesting pairs in Oregon.

• Bald eagle nests are huge, with some adding more than 2 feet of nest material each year.

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• Peregrine falcons  •

Peregrine Falcon; photo by Roy Lowe

• Peregrine Falcons can reach speeds of more than 240 mph in a dive for prey.

• Peregrine Falcons typically nest on rocky cliffs or manmade structures.

• In the Coast Range, they may use offshore rocks and islands as nest sites.

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