I recently returned from a ski/birding trip to Whistler – maybe my 8th trip to the area? Each time I visit, I research where the best spots are for birding. Rather than having to redo the research each time, I figured it was about time to compile my knowledge into a blog post! If you’re looking to do some Whistler birding in winter, here are the best spots.
Birding Whistler Village
Map of Whistler birding locations
The valley trail is a network of over 40km of trails that connect Whistler’s neighborhoods. If you are staying in the village and don’t have a car, you can easily join the trail across the Sea to Sky highway from the Aava hotel. You can also access the trail from Blackcomb – the trails runs alongside Fitzsimmons Creek and around Lost Lake.
What birds you see will depend on the type of winter Whistler is having (how much snow, how cold), which finches are present and what part of the winter you are there. Species may include: Chestnut-backed, Mountain and Black-capped Chickadees, Steller’s Jay, Pine Siskin, Red Crossbill, Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon subspecies), Northern Flicker and Pine Grosbeak. I recently visited at the beginning of April and also saw Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Varied Thrush.
Village Park runs through the middle of Whistler Village North. The same species are possible and the location is convenient.
On the Mountain
If you are on skis, Blackcomb mountain is great for Gray Jays. They will feed from the hand at various chair lifts, particularly the Symphony Express. Also look out for Clark’s Nutcracker and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches around the Horstman Hut and Rendezvous Lodge.
I saw my lifer Sooty Grouse on Whistler mountain just below the Roundhouse. There were two running across a run visible from the Big Red Express Chairlift. From my research, they are expected on Whistler mountain in this area so are worth looking for.
White-tailed Ptarmigan are also possible in the alpine, but I have never been successful seeing one. Look for prints in the snow and keep your eye on eBird reports.
Whistler Area Birding
Valley Trail – Lorimer Road to Rainbow Park
The start of the trail is a 30 minute walk from Whistler village, or you can park at the trail head. The trail follows a variety of habitats and is productive for birding. Similar species to Whistler village are possible, with the addition of waterfowl on Alta Lake and American Dipper in the creek beside the trail (if there is open water). Golden-crowned Kinglets are also possible.
The Whistler Naturalists club does a free bird walk here on the first Saturday of every month.
Nicklaus North Golf Course, Fitzsimmons Fan Park and Green Lake
I park at the Golf Course (there don’t seem to be parking restrictions there in winter). If there is open water, look for waterfowl as well as songbirds around the trails in the area. You can also rejoin the Valley trail in this area.
For a greater variety of species and better birding, I recommend heading to Squamish. It’s well worth the 40 minute drive from Whistler (or a convenient stop on the way to/from Vancouver).
Map of Squamish birding locations
Squamish River Estuary and Spit
This a fantastic birding area and easily accessible by car. You can drive the length of the spit and there are a few walking trails off the side of the road. Expect a good variety of waterfowl, raptors and gulls. Along the trails and in the trees alongside the road before you get to the dyke, look for songbirds. Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Anna’s Hummingbirds, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Spotted Towhee and Fox Sparrow. It’s also a beautiful area, so non-birders won’t mind too much if you request a stop here 🙂
This area of Squamish is known for its high numbers of over-wintering Bald Eagles. The peak season is from November – January, but I would check reports before visiting as numbers of Bald Eagles can fluctuate season to season. More information about Bald Eagle viewing can be found here.
I have a blog post dedicated to Vancouver winter birding, but my suggestion for passing through on the way to/from Whistler is to stop in Stanley Park. You drive through the park on your way to Whistler and it’s a great spot with easy to see birds (better than Whistler for bird photography). The two areas I have most enjoyed are Lost Lagoon and along the western seawall (visit the seawall in the morning, otherwise you will be looking into the sun). The Lost Lagoon area has friendly Spotted Towhees, Golden-crowned Sparrows, Fox Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Anna Hummingbirds, Black-capped and Black-capped & Chestnut-backed Chickadees. There are often cooperative Wood Ducks, Lesser Scaup and Raccoons in this area too.
Along the seawall, the birding gets even more exciting with Black Oystercatchers, Harlequin Ducks, Horned Grebes, Pelagic Cormorants, Surf Scoters, Pacific Wrens and more!
Whistler Birding Resources
Also on Facebook
Pique Newsmagazine sometimes reports on the Whistler birding and nature scene.
Birdfinding in British Columbia by Richard Cannings and Russell Cannings has a good section on Whistler and the surrounding area.
Know of a good spot for Whistler birding that I haven’t mentioned? Please leave me a comment!