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Winter Birding Checklist

It’s time to check off your winter birding checklist! Siskiyou is home to several amazing winter watching spots, but the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge and nearby Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge draw visitors from around the world to photograph and observe wildlife.

These vast wetlands are home to nearly 500 species of wildlife including waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds, raptors, big game, small mammals and aquatic life. Hundreds of bald eagles also migrate to the area from November through April – in fact, it has historically been the largest concentration of wintering bald eagles in the contiguous United States. Some years more than 1,000 of these majestic birds have been present. Be sure to check in at the visitor’s center when you arrive for current information on where the best viewing is! (For a handy PDF timeline to help you plan for when the average peak periods are, see our seasonal wildlife calendar.)

You can also try your luck at the Butte Valley Wildlife Area near Macdoel and Dorris, which is known for its excellent raptor-viewing – including the remarkable Swainson’s Hawk which migrates 12,000 miles each year between this area and the pampas in Argentina (to read more about a long-term local study on this amazing bird, visit here). Also of interest are  Rough-legged and Ferruginous Hawks and many unique color morphs of Red-tailed Hawks in this area. The area encompasses approximately 13,400 acres of wetlands, sage flats, and farmlands, as well as the 4,000-acre ephemeral Meiss Lake that dries every 10-15 years. If you stick around after dusk, you might even catch a glimpse of numerous types of owl, including great horned owls, short-eared owls, and long-eared owls. (To read more on Siskiyou’s spectacular Birds of Prey, visit here.)

The top 5 types of birds to look for in east Siskiyou between November and March generally are:

  1. Bald Eagles
  2. Hawks
  3. Swans
  4. White Geese
  5. Ducks

You can purchase a birding guide by the Klamath Basin Audubon Society here. For a more comprehensive winter birding checklist of the more than 274 regularly occurring bird species, visit here.

And, to make a weekend of it, stay at the historic Winema Lodge, a legendary favorite with birders and duck hunters, or the Golden Eagle Motel in Dorris, which is closest to Meiss Lake. Weed also offers a great base camp from which to explore the area. For more inspiration on what to see and do, visit here!

Photo Credit: FWS Dave Menke