Sellwood Bird Fest spotlights urban wetlands

Discover why people by the hundreds migrated to Sellwood Park for this annual celebration of their feathered friends‚

Jennifer Parks, an Audubon Society volunteer, holds Finnegan, a hungry peregrine falcon.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The biggest day for birders at Oaks Bottom and Sellwood Park is the annual “Festival of the Birds” celebration.

As families, toting binoculars and telescopes glide past us, Karen Munday, Urban Wildlife Specialist at the Portland Audubon Society, is all smiles about the big turnout.

“The idea is to get people out here to celebrate International Migratory Bird day today, May 12” Munday explains. “This festival for families; we have attractions for both kids and adults. Our sponsors are hosting activities ranging from bird-plaque painting to guided bird walks every half hour.”

Siena Geren, with just a little help from her dad Mark, paints a wooden bird plaque.

The event, sponsored by U.S. Fish & Wildlife, Portland Audubon Society and Portland Parks & Recreation is put on to raise awareness about the birds that live in, and migrate through, the greater Portland area.

Sue Thomas with Portland Parks & Recreation continues, adding, “We want people to understand that parks are a place where birds can stop when whey migrate. A lot of birds rest and feed here. We need to be mindful of them. Their health is an indicator of the health of our parks.”

The Oaks Bottom wetlands, because of its varied terrain ‚Äì the Oak bluff area, grasslands, ponds, amphibians, and insects for food ‚Äì  is a great place for all kinds of birds, says Thomas. And, it’s a great place for people who want to study birds too.

“This spring, we’ve been working with Reed College students,” Thomas told us. “We’ve put in a bird garden at the bottom of the north end of Oaks Bottom. We’ve planted berries and seed plants that will attract hungry birds.”

As we walk along the bluff trail, many organizations have set up information stations and craft booths.

The Audubon Society’s Karen Munday says Oaks Bottom is a great place to visit any time of year‚ but especially during the Festival of the Birds.

Along the way, we meet Jennifer Parks, volunteer with the Audubon Society. “I’m holding Finnegan, a peregrine falcon. He was born with a deformed foot; it is turned upside down. He doesn’t have the ability to hunt. He was discovered at a nest site in the Columbia Gorge in May 2000. He’s just turning seven.”

Finnegan stares at us with a hungry look. “No, he hasn’t been fed yet, and you are standing a little closer to him than he’s used to,” warns Parks.

On the way out, we ask wildlife specialist Munday why this particular park is so special to her.

Hazel, the event guest on the arm of volunteer Ann Spencer, gives a hoot about the good work of the Audubon Society. Hazel is a Northern Oregon Spotted Owl.

“So many wonderful neo-tropical [bird] migrants spend their winters in Central America, but the come through Portland on their way north or south. We’re lucky to have great bird habitat here‚ places like Oaks Bottom‚ that act as spots for breeding and feeding for migratory birds.”

Munday adds, “Oaks Bottom is an amazing place any time of year. Portland Audubon Society holds walks all year around. Come join us!”

You can learn more about their organization by visiting

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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