Common Birds of Hells Canyon & Other Western Rivers

Bird watching from a raft or dory offers a unique and unobtrusive way to view songbirds, aquatic birds and raptors in their natural environment.

Here are a few of our favorites that you’re likely to see on almost any river trip in the West.

Bald Eagle

Once driven to near extinction due to DDT poisoning, the bald eagle has become a common sight on our river trips. Watch for the distinctive white head and tail feathers as it roosts above the river in old-growth trees.

Great Blue Heron

This large blue-grey wading bird is the largest of the herons. It can be seen standing perfectly still in shallow water hunting its preferred meal: small fish, or flying gracefully on its broad wings to its tree-top nest.

Canyon Wren

Found throughout the dry mountain country and canyons of western North America, the Canyon Wren lives near rivers where it can feed on insects and spiders. It has a distinctive song made up of loud, musical whistles.

Belted Kingfisher

The Belted Kingfisher is easily identifiable by its ruffled blue crest feathers and long beak. Look for the kingfisher sitting atop ‘watchposts’ hunting for fish, insects and amphibians. The birds nest in tunnels along the river bank.


Smaller than the bald eagle, the osprey (or fish eagle) is an accomplished fisher and will dive from great heights to catch its prey. Listen for its distinctive, loud, repetitive chirp as it guards its tree-top nest.

Common Merganser

A large diving duck, the Common Merganser is often found along rivers in Western North America. Adept swimmers, Common Mergansers are one of the few birds to swim through rapids.

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