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Birds of Lillooet

With a list of 259 birds, Lillooet offers an opportunity to see many interior and coastal birds.

Along Highway 99 towards Seton Lake are a number of trails and visitor stops that are excellent birding areas. In the spring and summer these places often yield warblers and Western Tanagers. Cayoosh Creek is a nesting area for the spectacular Harlequin Duck.

Along the Fraser River, at the historic Old Bridge, the Lazuli Bunting and the Bullock’s Oriole can be found. Listen for the melodic sound of the Western Meadowlark and watch for Chukars as you head towards Pavilion.

A hike into the alpine tundra can afford a look at White-tailed Ptarmigan. This is also a good area to see Golden Eagles and other raptors on mountain ridges.

The Fountain Valley, about 20 km east of Lillooet is a migration stopover for many birds including several artic-bound waterfowl and shorebirds. The valley is also a good place to see breeding waterbirds, especially Barrow’s Goldeneye, Horned Grebe, Canada Goose, Mallard and Spotted Sandpiper.

Heading north on Highway 99, the hayfields past Xaxli'p (Fountain) are a good place to look for the regal Long-billed Curlew. Watch the fence posts for Mountain Bluebirds. The sparsely treed slopes above the highway support Common Nighthawks and Common Poorwills in summer.

A list of birds local to Lillooet has been compiled by the Lillooet Naturalist Society. View List. (updated March 2017).  View List as Word Document. View List as PDF*


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Bird Counts
Christmas Bird Counts


Lillooet Bird Count 2023 (24th Annual) held December 26, 2023 Summary of Data

Yalakom Bird Count 2023 held December 30, 2023 Summary of Data

Lillooet Bird Count 2021 (22nd Annual) held December 26, 2021 Summary of Data


December 26th, 2021 marked the 22nd Lillooet Christmas Bird Count organized by the Lillooet Naturalists. Twenty three participants braved cold winter conditions not seen in Lillooet for some time, Minus18 degrees average and colder with the wind and at higher elevations. 56 species were seen on the day and another 8 species during count week for a respectable total of 64 species, which is about average for us. 1,694 individual birds were counted, which was lower than usual. Part of the count is recording combined effort and we logged over 24 hours walking, covering 40 kilometers, 'looking for birds' in various areas of our count circle. We also had feeder watchers adding their observations to our tally. A highlight was a Boreal owl, seen by Chris Galliazzo and Joan Gianonne. This is a new bird for our overall Christmas species list, which is now at 113.

Lillooet Bird Count 2019 (20th Annual) held December 26, 2019. Summary of Data


For our 20th annual count on December 26th we had 27 adults and one toddler participating. Three birders came from out of town to join us for the day. We covered the Lillooet ‘circle’ as in previous years. The count circle area is 24 kilometers in diameter, with our count centre at the bridge over the Seton river by the mill. The Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) started in December, 1900, as an alternative to shooting birds or side hunts, which were competitions to see how many could be killed. The CBC is the longest running citizen science effort in the world. The very first count had 27 observers in 25 locations in the U.S. and Canada. They counted 18,500 birds belonging to 90 species. On our day this year in Lillooet we also had 27 observers - we counted 1,611 birds belonging to 52 species.  During count week we added 7 species to our tally so our final tally for Audubon was 59. This is one of our lowest counts and may reflect the overall decline in bird populations. According to research published by the journal Science, wild bird populations in the continental U.S. and Canada have declined by almost 30% since 1970. In just the past 50 years more than 1 in 4 birds has disappeared across North America.

Some groups of birds are doing worse than others, with grassland species being the hardest hit with a 53% decline. There are some success stories amongst the grim statistics such as the rebound of the Trumpeter swan and Peregrine falcon, after concerted and coordinated efforts by scientists and citizens. And the Mountain bluebirds have benefitted from the nest box programs – the Lillooet naturalists have a longstanding program of helping with the bluebird nest boxes. But bold action will be required on the part of governments to turn the story around. 7 simple things individuals can do is buy shade grown coffee, use less plastic, help with citizen science, make windows safer, keep cats indoors, use native plants and avoid using pesticides and poisons.


The details of our count will be submitted to Audubon to add to the North American compilation.


Lillooet Bird Count 2018 (19th Annual) held December 26, 2018. Summary of Data.

Lillooet Bird Count 2017 (18th Annual) held December 28, 2017. Summary of Data.


Lillooet Bird Count 2016 - 17th Annual Lillooet Christmas Bird Count held December 27, 2016. Summary of Data.


Started in 1900, the Christmas Bird Count is North America's longest-running Citizen Science project. Counts happen in over 2000 localities throughout the Western Hemisphere. The information collected by thousands of volunteer participants forms one of the world's largest sets of wildlife survey data. The results are used daily by conservation biologists and naturalists to assess the population trends and distribution of birds. Each Christmas Bird Count is conducted on a single day between December 14 and January 5. Counts are carried out within a 24-km diameter circle that stays the same from year to year. They are organized, usually as group efforts, at the local level, often by a birding club or naturalist 

The Bluebird Trail
Mountain Bluebird Nesting Box Program


Back in 1987, Harry Purney started a “Bluebird Trail” on the high grassy plateaus, just north of Lillooet. The habitat of open rangeland and forest is preferred habitat for Mountain Bluebirds, during summer months and for nesting.


The Lillooet Naturalist Society started helping Harry, then took on the nesting box program in about 2000, This work dovetailed with other Nesting Box programs in BC, Alberta and beyond.


The “trail” includes the OK Ranch to the north, off the Jesmond Rd, west of Clinton and east of Big Bar. Also, a number of boxes on the Jesmond Rd. nearer Kelly Lake and to the south, on the Pavilion-Kelly Lake Rd. all along the Diamond S Ranch.


Nesting boxes have been built and are maintained by members. This includes a series of visits throughout the season: Early in May, to repair winter damage and ready boxes for the spring arrivals, Early June, to audit the success in the boxes, and then later in the summer, to clean boxes and prepare for the following year.


Census data of our boxes is under the Southern Interior Bluebird Trail Society.


Get to Know Bluebirds - A Guide for Young Nature Lovers

Book in PDF format by Myrna Pearman


Mountain Bluebird Trails Conservation Society

Lillooet Wild 


story by Christine Galiazzo


Anticoagulant Rodenticide Contamination of Terrestrial Birds of Prey from Western Canada: Patterns and Trends, 1988–2018

 Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry—Volume 00, Number 00—pp. 1–15, 2022

How Do Birds Survive the Winter - Cornell Lab of Ornothology, December 2018


Bird Song Opera (Mozart’s Magic Flute), sung by a cast of songbirds.

Owl Enhancement and Ecology Report

The Owl Enhancement and Ecology Report covers the inventory and habitat enhancement of Western Screech and Flammulated Owls in the Bridge Coastal Study Area project during the period of April 30 – June 30, 2006.

Chukar Release From Rehabilitation Centre
Nature in the Time of Physical Distancing


Website Photo Gallery: We invite you to share some photos of natural observations you may make from your home or on your solitary walks.  MJ will post them on our website for all of us to enjoy. For example, happy to see Sage buttercups in the yard this past week, and Geoff has a bobcat recorded, last week on his property.


Virtual Bird Count: As the Spring arrival of various birds occurs, maybe a note of first sightings? Mountain bluebirds and meadowlarks are here now. We suggest two ways to track these. First, entering these sightings on eBird would be terrific.  It's not hard to register and participate and it is solid citizen science.  Maybe people will find a little extra time to do this?


Secondly, sightings can be shared and posted to our ever-growing list.

View our Photo Gallery and Virtual Bird Count
Identifying Finches

Finches are hard to identify but once a few lessons are learned can be remarkably easy to ID. Purple finch is common in the wetter coast, Cassin’s in the dry Interior and House is seen in both areas.  
Females are more challenging to identify so the images here are all males.  

House Finch – commonly noted as Red-browed – that is the red does not go back over the entire head, rather it has a much redder "eyebrow" than crown.  From the side it sometimes appears as if it does, but if you watch it for awhile, you will see the brownish cap. Included is an image of a yellowish colour type that is often thought to be due to nutrition.  Cassin’s can also appear orangish sometimes.

Cassin’s finch  and Purple finch – both have a reddish head, but mostly the Cassin’s head looks like a more reddish hat with the red covering the entire head in both species.   If you are close enough, you look for a white eye ring – present, it is a Cassin’s finch. If absent it is a Purple. There is a lot written about how to tell these two apart, but the presence/absence of the  whiteish eye ring  is the only consistent finding that reliably separates them. From a distance, the Purple finch just looks much more reddish all over than a Cassin’s.

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