Last Spring we wrote an article about the “Best Birdwatching Spots in Castlegar” and it was so popular, we’re revisiting the topic. This time, we’re listing the most interesting species to look for in Castlegar during the winter months.

As we mentioned in our previous article, birdwatching has seen a big rise in popularity in Castlegar in the past five years. This is partly due to the web-based app eBird, which allows local birders to document the number of species they’ve seen. As of this writing, 238 different species have been spotted in and around the city, which is second only to the 250 seen in Osoyoos, the most popular birding spot in the British Columbia interior. The reason Castlegar is such a hot spot is because the confluence of the two rivers provides excellent habitat and resting grounds for migratory species. This is also the case during the snowy months because Castlegar’s mild weather and plethora of food in the form of seeds and winter berries makes it the perfect zone for taiga (aka subarctic and treeline) species to overwinter. Plus, the confluence of two huge rivers provides guaranteed open water for wintering waterfowl from grebes to swans.

“There is so much more activity and diversity [of birdlife] in Castlegar compared to other areas around the West Kootenay during the winter,” says local birder Craig Sandvig. He provided his five favourite birdwatching areas in the city in our previous article and he says these are still the best sites during the cold months, although Dove Hill sees decidedly less action than in the summer. They are:

  • Selkirk College Hiking Trails
  • Waldie Island
  • Syringa Provincial Park
  • Mel DeAnna Hiking Trail
  • Dove Hill

Nelson-based birder and professional birdwatching guide Steve Ogle agrees those spots are the best in Castlegar. His favourite is Selkirk College because of its proximity to both the Columbia and Kootenay rivers and he likens it to “the Mexico of the North” for a lot of species. For example, “It’s balmy here for a Bohemian Waxwing and there are a lot of ash and crab apple trees that they can feast upon.” Other birds come down from the cold to winter in Castlegar include Common Redpolls, Northern Shrike, and Northern Hawk-Owl. And because the local rivers remain flowing during the cold season, this area is also a good zone to spy such diving ducks such as Buffleheads and Goldeneye.

Below is an alphabetical list of bird species that can be spotted in Castlegar during the winter months. Compiled by Craig Sandvig and Steve Ogle, it includes birds that are more commonly seen in the area. There have been instances when a Hoary Redpoll, Iceland Gull, or Short-eared Owl have been spotted around Selkirk College but these sightings tend to be rare.

Take this list along with you the next time you and the kids go for a hike and see how many you can spot!


28 Bird Species to Spot in Castlegar This Winter

 American Goldfinch                                              Bald Eagle                              Barrow’s Goldeneye   


Boreal Chickadee                                                  Black-capped Chickadee             Bohemian Waxwing



Brown Creeper                                                     Bufflehead                                    Chestnut-backed Chickadee                   



Common Goldeney                                          Common Merganser                                 Common Redpoll                          


Evening Grosbeak                                     Golden-crowned Kinglet                                                          Merlin



Mountain Chickadee                        Northern Hawk Owl                                                  Northern Pygmy Owl


Northern Shrike                                 Peregrine Falcon                                                    Pileated Woodpecker                 



Pine Grosbeak                                 Pine Siskin                                                      Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Nuthatch                                Red-tailed Hawk                                        Townsend’s Solitaire



White-winged Crossbill