Bird Murals: The Many Birds of Portland’s Street Art

By Ali Berman, Communications Manager

Portland’s murals are scattered across the city, elevating blank walls into works of art. They add to the beauty of our streets, tell the stories of our neighborhoods, and ask us to look deep into our history and at important social justice issues.

Anyone who pays attention to mural culture in Portland may notice a common theme that shows up again and again: birds. Whether as a centerpiece or an accent, birds are a staple on Portland’s street art. They represent everything from environmental health to freedom to a sense of place. In these 12 murals, you’ll find artists, nonprofits, companies, and individuals coming together using birds to tell their stories, from the Great Blue Heron to the Western Meadowlark. 

Mural of the endangered Streaked Horned Lark

Streaked Horned Lark at Artists & Craftsman Supply

Address: Artists & Craftsman Supply, 2906 N Lombard St, Portland, OR 97217
Artist: Roger Peet and Sarah Farahat

Artists and Craftsman partnered with the Center for Biological Diversity to create this mural of the endangered Streaked Horned Lark as part of the Endangered Species Mural Project. The project, spearheaded by Portland artist Roger Peet, has murals from Alaska to Arizona featuring wildlife from birds to insects. 

Peet said about his Portland mural, “The diversity of wildlife around us helps define our communities, By painting larger-than-life endangered species in cities and towns across the country, I hope to raise awareness of the connection between conservation and community strength.”

A mural in N Portland showing a large Great Blue Heron in flight.

Great Blue Heron at Cascadian Terrace Apartments

Location: Cascadian Terrace Apartments, 5700 N Kerby Ave, Portland, OR 97217
Artist: Jesse Hazelip

Jesse Hazelip, a Brooklyn based artist, created this mural featuring a Great Blue Heron and the written word in collaboration with homeless youth at p:ear mentor. Jesse told us, “The writing on the column is from writing they made addressing what it feels like to live outside. I chose the heron because of their solitary nature.”

The project was a part of p:ear’s mission to build positive relationships with homeless and transitional youth through education, art and recreation.

The mural is painted on Cascadian Terrace Apartments, a low income housing unit with 103 affordable pet-friendly apartments. Jesse shared, “I really enjoyed the entire experience and hope that more low income housing facilities can incorporate murals into their structures.”

A mural of a Great Horned Owl on Groundworks Coffee in NW Portland.

Great Horned Owl at Groundwork Coffee

Location: Groundwork Coffee, 2355 NW Vaughn St, Portland, OR 97210
Artist: Jeremy Nichols @plasticbirdie

If you’ve driven past Groundwork on NW Vaughn, you’ve probably noticed the giant bear. If you look a little closer and off to the right, you’ll also see a stunning Great Horned Owl.

While he’s always been a nature lover, artist Jeremy Nichols has only recently started incorporating wildlife into his murals. During a project with other artists in The Dalles, he was challenged to take on the mammals and found he really enjoyed it. “I want to paint birds,” explained Jeremy. “Birds are fun and easy and different. The feathers and textures and everything.”

And people have been responding with great enthusiasm to his new wildlife murals. Especially when he mixes in some abstract elements, bridging the natural and urban world, and making his work just a little bit funkier.

A Western Meadowlark perches on top of a rainbow cactus on the Q Center in Portland.

Western Meadowlark at The Q Center

Location: The Q Center, 4115 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 97217
Artist: Stefan Ways

The Q Center on N Mississippi is the largest LGBTQ community center in the Pacific Northwest. With more than 30 peer-led groups meeting at the center each week, they provide a safe and inclusive space for the LGBTQ2SIA+ communities of the Portland Metro Area and Southwest Washington. And outside their doors sits a beautiful mural by artist Stefan Ways, featuring a rainbow cactus with a Western Meadowlark at its center. 

Ways writes on his website about the mural, “I chose the imagery of a rainbow cactus (this one based off a prickly pear), as a symbol for the LGBTQ community. To me, it represents the thick skin we have grown, our ability to survive harsh (social) environments, our perseverance to become untouchable, (our thorns), and the flowers represent the beauty so many of us bring to this world. The Western Meadowlark is Oregon’s state bird, a good ally to the cactus?”

The mural on Black United Fund of Oregon shows a Great Egret and Black leaders like mural features Coretta Scott King, Angela Davis, Ruby Bridges, Maya Angelous, and Ruby Dee.

Great Egret on Black United Fund of Oregon

Location: Black United Fund of Oregon, 2828 NE Alberta St, Portland, OR 97211
Artists: Mehran Heard @Eatcho and Jeremy Nichols @Plasticbirdie

In 2014, organizations Vox Siren, Black United Fund of Oregon, and Portland artists Mehran Heard and Jeremy Nichols collaborated to create this 25 by 100 foot mural that celebrates historically significant black women. Situated on the Black United Fund of Oregon building on NE Alberta, an area that has undergone tremendous gentrification, the mural features Coretta Scott King, Angela Davis, Ruby Bridges, Maya Angelous, and Ruby Dee.

Kimberlee Sheng, former executive director of Black United Fund of Oregon, said she hoped the mural would spark conversation and serve as a call to action, inspiring the public to explore their vital work. The organization provides resources to low income areas and communities of color through grants, scholarships, mentorships, and partnerships.

As for the bird? We asked Mehran why he chose to include the Great Egret as such a significant feature. “I wanted a depiction of something that is local while being in relation to figureheads that were pivotal to the civil rights movements. A bird is always a symbol of freedom, having those wings to fly, taking on the challenge of the sky.”

He also talked about the common theme of displacement, making parallels between both wildlife and people. “We depict birds in statues, but that doesn’t reflect how we actually treat the animal kingdom. This egret is pretty much displaced in areas so there is this weird irony that you pay homage to something that is struggling.”

Learn more about this mural through this video by Vox Siren.

A mural on Chown Hardware that shows two white doves and red flowers.

White Doves on Chown Hardware

Location: Chown Hardware, 333 NW 16th Avenue Portland, OR 97209
Artists: David Rice and youth with Color Outside the Lines

For Chown Hardware’s 140th birthday (quite a feat in a state that’s only 160 years old), they celebrated by adding a mural by artist David Rice. David and the Chown family worked together to come up with the imagery to serve as a memorial to Eleanor Chown and her late husband. The doves were purposefully chosen based on a pair of ornamental doves that belonged to the couple. And the flowers, Anthurium, were a favorite of Eleanor’s.

Chown and Rice collaborated with Color Outside the Lines, an organization that strives to empower and inspire foster children and at-risk youth by providing opportunities for self-expression and creativity. Anna Barlow, founder of Color Outside the Lines, told Fox 12, “It’s a really positive experience for them because they’re able to return to it through the years and feel a sense of self-worth and have an impact on the city through artwork. It’s so fun for them to come and get creative on the wall.”

David’s interest in birds extends beyond this project. “I often include birds in my work because of the mystery and majesty they evoke in me,” said David. “They can defy gravity and experience the world through a totally unique perspective. It is easy for the viewer to connect with these animals. The variations within the species make for a ton of unique subjects to explore.”

A mural of wetland birds including an Egret, Great Blue Heron, Osprey and Wood Duck on the Portland Memorial Mausoleum.
Photo by Mike Houck

Wetland Birds on Wilhelm’s Portland Memorial

Location: Wilhelm’s Portland Memorial, 6705 SE 14th Ave, Portland, OR 97202
Artists: Mark Bennett, Shane Bennett, and Dan Cohen

It all started in 1991 when Mike Houck, Urban Greenspaces Institute founder and then Urban Naturalist for Bird Alliance of Oregon, saw a beautiful mural of Blitz Weinhard beer on West Burnside. Mike shouted up towards the scaffolding to find out more and was directed to ArtFX Murals just around the corner. He stopped in and left a note saying that he was looking for a volunteer to paint a Great Blue Heron on the Portland Memorial Mausoleum overlooking Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. That evening ArtFX owner Mark Bennett called Mike to say he was in.

That was the very beginning of what was to become the largest hand-painted mural in the country. The mural started with one 70 foot Great Blue Heron, and only grew from there. In 2008, artists Shake Bennett (Mark’s son) and Dan Cohen finished the project, adding an Osprey, Great Egret, American Coot, Wood Duck, Hooded Merganser, and more. All birds that can be found at neighboring Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. The mural occupies more than 40,000 square feet, and and can be seen from passersby on the Springwater Corridor Trail and drivers heading south on Interstate 5.

A worker squats on while holding a tool surrounded by flighted songbirds.

Birds on Do It Best Hardware

Location: Do It Best Hardware, 3734 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202
Artists: Mural created by Lapiztola. Painted by Patricia Vasquez, José Gonzalez, and Eric Ssonko

This mural is part of a larger project by the Voz Workers’ Rights Education Project called “Working Makes Me Important”. VOZ is a worker-led organization, the only one of its kind in Oregon, working with the day laborer community. The organization empowers diverse day laborers and immigrants, helping to improve working conditions and protect civil rights through leadership development, organizing, education and economic opportunity.

The art for the mural was created by Lapiztola, an art collective in Mexico that highlights important social justice issues through their art. The piece was also used in posters and postcards, and was painted by MLK Worker’s Center members Patricia Vasquez, José Gonzalez, and Eric Ssonko. The mural was a collaborative experience, created from conversations Lapiztola had with Eric.

Mural of children and crows flying below the St. John's Bridge.
Photo by Adam Ciresi

Crows on a Private Home in St. Johns

Location: N. Mohawk & N. Jersey
Artist: Adam Ciresi

This mural, titled “Let Dreams Soar” was commissioned by Amy and Ted Occhialino as a gift for both their kids and their neighborhood. Standing at 30 feet tall and 45 feet wide, the mural shows both children and crows soaring through the sky beneath the iconic St. Johns Bridge. Ted, Amy and Adam wanted a mural that would inspire creativity and imagination in children and, of course, still be an inspiring site for adults. Why crows? Ciresi had read a story about a girl leaving food for crows, and crows leaving gifts for her in return.

“Here in Portland, we all (hopefully) know well of the vast amount of crows throughout the city, who come to roost in huge droves at certain points of the year,” explained Ciresi. “I personally feel that crows are some of the most beautiful birds, between the level of their intelligence, social abilities, and also the sheer splendor of deep colorful hues in their plumage if you get a chance to see one up close. I like to imagine our children attempting to forge more and more bonds with the crows, and in return, the crows sharing all sorts of gifts with the kids, possibly even keys to boundless imagination and creativity.”

A 70 foot mural of a woman with her hands in prayer. A Cuban Trogran perches on her shoulder and her hair is made of living plants.

Cuban Trogan on SolTerra Building

Location: SolTerra Building, 959 SE Division St suite 130, Portland, OR 97214
Artist: Fin DAC

It’s impossible to miss the 70 foot mural of a woman with her hands at her heart in a pose of gratitude in SE Portland. With more than 1,000 plants for hair, this mural was created by SolTerra, a company that specializes in eco roofs and eco development. Fin DAC, the London based artist, featured elements from each of the businesses that inhabit the retail space. Of course, we’ll start with the bird. The Cuban Trogan that sits atop her shoulder represents the Cuban restaurant on the ground floor. The marijuana leaves on her waistband were put there for a prospective tenant, and SolTerra’s logo is a pattern you can see in her clothing.

Fin DAC told the Pamplin Media Group, “I didn’t grasp how big it was until I got there. I thought ‘This is going to take longer than five days!’ It took 12. We went from dawn to dusk, the majority of those days being full-on sun, being battered by 90 degree heat. But it was a lot of fun too.”

Mural of an owl with its wings extended in front of an orange background.

Owl on Lowbrow Lounge

Location: Lowbrow Lounge, 1036 NW Hoyt St, Portland, OR 97209
Artist: Ashley Montague

The Lowbrow Lounge has been a fixture in NW Portland since the late 1990s. When artist Ashley Montague and the owner brainstormed ideas for the mural, they both agreed that an owl would be most fitting to represent this longstanding part of Portland’s downtown. And the bird achieved Montague’s intention to create movement and speed through the mural. Don’t try to find a direct ID for this owl. Montague chose elements from many species to create one unique bird.

Our favorite part of the mural? Ashley had very specific reasons for choosing the height of the talons. He told us, “The fun thing about the placement of the owl is that its talons are out and is the perfect height on the wall where if a young child of let’s say four to five years old stands below the mural, they fits right in his claws!”

Mural of Honey Eater on SE Alder and 12th

Honeyeater on Audio Professionals NW

Location: Audio Professionals NW, 636 SE 11th Ave, Portland, OR 97214
Artists: @klutcho, @dominatah, and @apeseven

Three artists collaborated to create this mural in SE Portland. Portland Artist @klutcho created the clouds, @dominatah created the geometric shapes, and @apeseven, an Australian artist, created the bird. Apeseven chose the honeyeater, a bird native to Australia, as an inspiration, and altered the bird’s traditional color palette.

Apeseven played with the similarities between plants and animals. He told us about his inspiration for the piece, “At the time I was dealing with transmutation studies between birds and plants. So many of their respective structures can be swapped, transposed and yet seem like one new cohesive functioning creature.”

We highlighted twelve incredible works of art, but there are far more bird murals scattered around Portland. Which of your favorites did we miss?

For even more bird murals, check out birder Audrey Addison’s look back in 2017.