Osoyoos is a delightful desert town offering Canada’s Warmest Welcome. Osoyoos is surrounded by deserts, vineyards, and mountains in the Okanagan Valley region. The region provides a uniquely mild climate and a variety of bird habitats, making it an ideal year-round road trip destination.
Desert Delights and Birding the Oxbows
To the west of Osoyoos Lake lies Main Street and the town’s eclectic downtown core full of unique local shopping and dining opportunities. But adventurous birders that head east along the Crowsnest Highway are presented with some truly exceptional birding opportunities.
It’s easily accessible from most of BC, with about a 4-5 hour drive from Vancouver and 2 hours from Kelowna. For American visitors, Osoyoos is just across the border from Washington state, and about a 5-hour drive from Seattle.
Where to See the Birds
Over 300 different species have been recorded in the region. One of the most productive birding areas is at the north end of Osoyoos Lake. The oxbows of the river and surrounding dykes are a fantastic habitat for birdwatching, with over 250 different species recorded in just this area.
Osoyoos Lake is popular for waterfowl such as Cinnamon Teals, Green-winged Teals, Redheads, and Northern Pintails. Common and Barrow’s Goldeneyes, and Common and Hooded Mergansers can also be found on the lake. Along the shores, keep watch for the magnificent Long-billed Curlews, as well as Wilson’s Snipes, and the constantly-bobbing Spotted Sandpipers.
The Osoyoos Desert Centre
North of Osoyoos, the Osoyoos Desert Centre focuses on preserving the unique antelope-brush ecosystem. Enjoy a guided or self-guided tour along the 1.5 km boardwalk, explore hands-on displays in the interpretive building, and stroll through the native plant garden.
As you follow the trails, you may be lucky enough to stumble upon a California quail darting across the path. Western bluebirds are a more common sight on the tops of posts and branches with the introduction of nesting boxes throughout the Osoyoos Desert Centre area.
For more birding opportunities, watch the skies. Raptors like American Kestrels and Northern Harriers can be spotted hovering and diving throughout the desert landscape.
Osoyoos Oxbows Trail
Located at the north end of Osoyoos Lake, the Oxbows are a unique wetland and Important Bird Area (IBA). One of the few remaining wetlands in Osoyoos, it is home to many rare and threatened species of birds, amphibians and insects. The trailhead at Road 22 leads through fantastic birding habitats around the oxbows and dyke.
Several swallow species can be found around the area: Barn, Tree, Violet-green, Bank, Cliff, and Northern Rough-winged can be seen darting around over lakes and fields. In the trees, there are lots of colourful birds to see! American Goldfinches, Western Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Lazuli Buntings, and Bullock’s Orioles, just to name a few. Red-winged and Yellow-headed blackbirds can be spotted among the brush along the water. Bald eagles and Osprey are also in the skies searching for prey, and sometimes battling each other for air space!
Check out the self-guided itinerary of the Osoyoos Bird Trail Outpost to plan a birding adventure to best suit your ideal vacation.