We would like to acknowledge, with gratitude and appreciation, that the land on which we walk and live is the traditional territories of the Sinixt, the Syilx, and the Ktunaxa peoples, and is home to many other indigenous persons, including the Inuit and Metis.

Take a peaceful journey through the stunning landscapes of British Columbia to Nelson and Kootenay Lake which offers an exceptional birdwatching experience. Nestled amidst diverse ecosystems including lakes, forests, wetlands, and alpine meadows, this region is a haven for bird enthusiasts. The tranquil waters of Kootenay Lake and the surrounding marshlands create a rich habitat for a wide variety of avian species.


Embarking on a birdwatching adventure here means immersing oneself in the local charm and hospitality of Nelson and its neighbouring communities. The area boasts an array of independent cafes, farm-to-table dining, and artisanal experiences that cater to every taste. Exploring the birding hotspots of the area is not just about observing feathered creatures; it’s a journey through the heart of the Canadian wilderness, steeped in natural beauty and a sense of serenity unique to the region. 


Whether you’re strolling by the lakeside or trekking through alpine trails, each moment is an opportunity to connect with nature’s marvels in this picturesque corner of British Columbia.

Spring birding in Nelson and Kootenay Lake

Spring in Nelson and Kootenay Lake heralds the return of migratory birds and vibrant avian activity. Watch for the Western Tanager, with its vibrant red head and yellow body, as it flits among the blossoming trees. Listen for the haunting calls of the Common Loon echoing across the pristine lakeshores. Keep your binoculars ready to spot the acrobatic Rufous Hummingbirds as they arrive to feed on nectar. Spring also brings majestic Bald Eagles back to their nesting grounds. Witnessing this seasonal resurgence of birdlife is a captivating experience.

Summer birding in Nelson and Kootenay Lake

Summer in Nelson and Kootenay Lake offers a birdwatching spectacle like no other. Energetic birdlife abounds, from keen Ospreys diving for fish in lakes to the melodious calls of the Western Meadowlark in open fields. Keep an eye on shorelines for American White Pelicans and the speedy Belted Kingfisher. Hiking trails may reveal the secretive Northern Pygmy Owl, while the lush forests are home to the Black-headed Grosbeak. Summer here is a paradise for birdwatchers, filled with a diverse array of avian wonders.

Fall birding in Nelson and Kootenay Lake

During the Fall in Nelson and Kootenay Lake, birdwatching enthusiasts are in for a treat. This region becomes a hub for migratory birds, making it a prime spot for observing avian diversity. As the days grow shorter and cooler, look out for the majestic Sandhill Cranes, known for their distinctive calls as they gather in large flocks to migrate. Scan the skies for the graceful Northern Harriers and their elegant hunting maneuvers over the wetlands. Keep an eye on the water, and you might spot the Hooded Merganser with its striking black-and-white crest. Fall birdwatching in this area promises an enriching experience for all nature enthusiasts.

Winter birding in Nelson and Kootenay Lake

Winter in Nelson and Kootenay Lake unveils a unique bird watching experience. Despite the colder temperatures, the region remains a haven for various bird species. On the lakes, keep an eye out for Buffleheads, easily distinguishable by their striking plumage. Winter also welcomes a handful of majestic Trumpeter Swans to local water bodies. Listen for the melodious tunes of the Golden-crowned Sparrow and be on the lookout for the deceptive Northern Shrike, a charming yet predatory songbird. Winter birdwatching here offers surprising encounters and breathtaking sights.

Nelson: a Hidden Gem

Nestled in the Selkirk Mountains, the vibrant artist hub of Nelson serves as a bustling basecamp for your adventures with fantastic waterfront, alpine and urban opportunities for bird-watching right on it’s doorstep. Be sure to stock up on essentials along historic Baker street before departing for your next destination.

Overlooking Nelson - Photo: Thomas Nowaczynski
  • 1
    Lakeside Park and Nelson Bridge
    910 Second st, Nelson, BC V1L 5X4

    This favourite community gathering spot hosts stunning gardens, wide promenades, a beautiful beach and is a great location for families to enjoy a summer afternoon. A stroll through the Lakeside Park and across the Nelson Bridge will reward birders with an array of waterfowl viewing opportunities.

  • 2
    Cottonwood Falls Park
    199 Carbonate St, Nelson, BC V1L 4P1

    This hidden gem is host to a stunning waterfall, Japanese Gardens and a seasonal Saturday farmers market. An early spring destination to catch sight of nesting American Dippers, visitors later in the year should keep an ear out for the whistling song of the Pacific-slope Flycatcher as they flit through the town’s uphill greenery.

  • 3
    Whitewater Ski Resort - BirdQueen Trail
    4798 Whitewater Ski Hill Rd #4784, Nelson, BC V1L 5R3

    The BirdQueen Trail at Whitewater Ski Resort offers up a challenging hike into the subalpine and rewards with a host of unique species. From the moment you arrive, keep your eyes peeled for Townsend Warbler, Gray Jay, Mountain and Boreal Chickadees, Fox Sparrows and other mountain dwellers. As you proceed up into the subalpine, more sought after species such as the Northern Hawk-Owl, Boreal Owl and raptors such as Golden Eagle become possibilities for the adventurous hiker.

Photo: Joy McAdams
Photo: Joy McAdams
Kayaking on Kootenay Lake - Photo: Joy McAdams
Photo: Jesse Schpakowski
Mountain Biking near Nelson - Photo: Zoya Lynch
Photo: Elaine Balestra
Photo: Jesse Schpakowski
 Visitor Centre
Cycling around Nelson - Photo: Tamarack Media

North to Balfour: exploring Kootenay Lake's iconic West Arm

Departing Nelson, follow the northern shoreline of Kootenay Lake and revel in the stunning scenery of Kokanee Creek Provincial Park as you make your way towards the community of Balfour. Take the opportunity to cross the lake to the communities of Harrop and Proctor to potentially encounter wayward migrants in the carefully restored wetlands.

Kokanee Creek Provincial Park - Photo: Lucas Jmieff
  • 31
    Kokanee Creek Provincial Park
    BC-3A, Kokanee Creek, BC V0G 1C0

    Famous for it’s annual run of Kokanee Salmon, visitors during August and September can catch a glimpse of these colourful fish as they spawn and the myriad bird species arriving to feast on the eggs and eventually, the fish themselves. Reported sightings include eagles, mergansers, mallards, gulls along with woodland residents such as Cassin’s Vireo, Hammond’s Flycatcher, MacGillivray’s Warbler, American Redstart, Black-headed Grosbeak and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

  • 32
    Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park
    Ainsworth, BC V0G 1A0

    Offering a number of hiking trails to view some sought after birds, Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park is worth the challenging road access to get here. From forest dwellers such as the Pacific Wren and Varied Thrush to true-alpine species such as the American Pipit and White-tailed Ptarmigan, the many trails span a diversity of habitats that reward the adventurous, though some require fitness and preparation so be sure to plan ahead.

Hiking in Kokanee Glacier Park - Photo: Nadine Premont
  • 33
    Sunshine Bay Regional Park
    Sunshine Bay Wharf, 6774 Harrop Procter Rd, Nelson, BC V1L 6R2

    Make the short 3 minute crossing on the Harrop-Proctor Ferry to explore the variety of habitats at this regional park spanning 3 locations. The patchwork of fields yield species such as the Vesper Sparrow, Western Meadowlark, American Kestrel and Black-billed Magpie while scanning the exposed shoals offers ducks and gulls at lower water levels. This low-traffic hotspot is known for unique sightings, especially during spring and fall as a pinch in the valley can funnel migrants to the area.

Photo: Joy McAdams
  • 34
    Harrop Wetlands
    6375 Erindale Road, Harrop, BC

    This newly restored wetland habitat is a key habitat for blue listed species such as the Great Blue Heron, Western Toad and Painted Turtle.

  • 35
    Balfour & Queens Bay

    The community of Balfour is a fantastic shoreline location to look for the aerial escapades of the Osprey who breed in the region. As you make your way north to the townsite of Queen’s Bay, use one of the many shoreline pullouts to set up the scope and search for grebes – especially the Horned Grebe, which winters in the area.

Harrop - Photo: Tamarack Media
  • 37
    Dock 'n' Duck Pub & Grill
    7924 BC-3A, Balfour, BC V0G 1C0

    Enjoy a comforting meal at this lakeside lodge offering Lunch and Dinner 7 days a week. Be sure to keep an eye out from the patio for the resident Osprey family often seen here during the summer.

Birdwatching near Harrop - Photo: Tamarack Media
 Visitor Centre
  • 40
    Kokanee Creek Nature Centre
    4902 Hwy 3A, Nelson, BC, Canada, British Columbia

    Stop in at the Kokanee Creek Nature Centre to speak with the Naturalist on duty and learn about upcoming seminars and recent wildlife sightings. ( Open each year from May to September). In August and September the spawning channel comes alive with thousands of Kokanee Salmon returning to the channel each year to lay their eggs.

Kaslo & North Kootenay Lake

Proceeding north along the western shore of Kootenay Lake, the urban environment gives way to a  spectacular mountain wilderness. Kaslo and the North Kootenay lake area play host to a dizzying array of species, offering unbelievable wildlife viewing opportunities, pristine landscapes and friendly small communities along the way.

Hiking near Kaslo - Photo: Tamarack Media
  • 41
    Kaslo - Lakeshore and Riverside Trails
    314 D Ave, Kaslo, BC V0G 1M0

    Offering lakeshore and riverside habitat, taking some time to explore the area rewards birders with a variety of species virtually any time of year. Take some time to wander amongst the diverse forests that teem with nesting birds during the spring and summer months, and enjoy the water-fowl that gather along the shoreline during the migration seasons.

  • 42
    Lardeau Regional Park
    Central Kootenay, BC V0G 1B0

    This quaint community juts out into the north end of Kootenay Lake offering a welcome respite for birds using the lake as a throughway during migration. A number of interesting birds have popped up here over the years, and while migration may be the more prominent time to visit, it is a worthwhile stop any time of year as it provides a distinct habitat from the surrounding forests that attracts different species.

Photo: Cierra and Mike Dowie
  • 43
    Lardeau - The Nature Trust

    Just north of Lardeau, birders will find a thick patch of old-growth riparian forest protected by The Nature Trust where the colourful Magnolia Warbler can be found breeding. Also in these woods are Least Flycatcher, Northern Waterthrush, Great Horned Owl, Red-naped Sapsucker and Veery. Anytime you are along the shores of Kootenay lake, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the fast moving Peregrine Falcon, although the North end is primarily the best place to find them. 

Photo: Tom Weager
Photo: Elaine Balestra
Photo: Elaine Balestra
Kayaking on Kootenay Lake near Kaslo - Photo: Tamara Elliot
 Visitor Centre

East Shore: Crawford Bay and Duck Lake

Departing Balfour on the longest free ferry ride in the world, you arrive in the community of Crawford Bay, notable for the birders paradise that is the Crawford Bay Wetlands. As you make your way south towards Duck Lake, you can expect to encounter a variety of exciting species along Kootenay Lake’s eastern shore.

Photo: Joy McAdams
  • 56
    Crawford Bay Wetlands
    Peters Rd, Crawford Bay, BC V0B 1E0

    Be sure to drop by the Crawford Bay Visitor centre and pick up your ‘Birding in Crawford Bay’ pamphlet before heading to this birding hotspot in search of some of the over 92 species sighted here. The unique wetland habitat serves as an important stop over for migrants, but also serves as a significant breeding site for ground-nesting birds. This 62 hectare park offers a good overview of the valley-bottom species occurring in the Kootenay Lake area. Mountain Bluebird, Violet-green Swallow, Western Tanager and Yellow-headed Blackbird might be the most picturesque of the bunch, but surprises such as Lewis’ Woodpecker and Bobolink could show up at any time. For the adventurous, you can rent a canoe or kayak and take your search to the water. 

  • 57
    Pilot Peninsula Shoreline Trail
    Kootenay Bay, BC V0B 1X0

    If you find yourself in search of further waterfowl sightings, this easy shoreline hike allows access to pebble beaches and the adventurous can continue on further, ensuring quiet enjoyment of the scenic surroundings.If you find yourself in search of a quick woodland stroll, a visit to the nearby Pilot Bay Lighthouse is sure to turn up some interesting sightings.

Photo: Kaitlyn Foot
  • 58
    Lockhart Creek Provincial Park
    BC-3A, Central Kootenay A, BC V0B 1A0

    This provincial park is a great site to visit in the spring as the lakeside Douglas-fir, western red cedar and ponderosa pine forest plays host to a number of nesting migrants. Across the road is the Lockhart Beach park offering excellent vistas across the lake and the seemingly ever-present opportunity to scan for interesting waterfowl as your cruise the eastern shores of Kootenay lake.

  • 59
    Duck Lake

    At the southernmost portion of Kootenay Lake lies one of the top birdwatching hotspots in western Canada, Duck Lake. The shallow and productive waters of this RAMSAR-designated wetland complex plays host to the only significant mudflats within hundreds of kilometres, making them an exciting destination during migration season.  In spring through fall the lake plays host to tens of thousands of migrant waterbirds including Canvasback, Common Goldeneye, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, American White Pelican, three species of teal and one of the few nesting colonies of Western Grebe in the province. Rare grassland species such as American Bittern and Short-eared Owl are elusive but possible. This area is British Columbia’s only nesting site for the gorgeous Forster’s Tern, but similar species including Black, Common and Caspian Tern also appear. Nearby Channel Road is a great place to find Wood Duck and Blue Jay. Bring mosquito repellent in June and July! While in the area or doing the entire loop, don’t forget to check out the open waters at the south end of Kootenay Lake – from a spectacular roadside pull-out viewers can observe loons, gulls and eagles from an unmatched vantage.

Photo: Jesse Schpakowski

Explore More

Great Northern Rail Trail

A part of the TransCanada Trail system, the Great Northern Rail Trail is a multi-use recreation trail suitable for hiking, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing.

Explore More
Pulpit Rock Trail

This iconic Nelson hike is a fairly steep 1.8km trail offering fantastic views of Nelson and Kootenay Lake.

Explore More
Salmon Spawning in Kokanee Creek

If you are in the area during August and September, the Kokanee Creek spawning channel is a must visit. Thousands of Kokanee Salmon return to the channels for the annual spawning season, attracting a variety of wildlife to the region.

Explore More
Kaslo River Audio Tour

Come along on a journey along the Kaslo River Trail that flows beside the lively Kaslo River with mossy banks, bright bridges and hidden sculptures, all unveiled to capture your curiosity. Download the app to learn fun facts about the trail and Kaslo’s history as you walk.

Kaslo Lookout Trail

A short switchback trail with a bench at the top and lovely view over Kaslo Bay.

Explore More
East Shore Bike & Trail Association

The East Shore hosts many of the most beautiful trails in the Kootenays. With a wide variety of hiking and mountain bike trails as well as awe inspiring alpine peaks the East Shore has it all!

Explore More