The unique character of the Okanagan flows from its glacial past. A chain of deep lakes left by glaciers lie in a low valley carved 1000 metres below the plateau. Semi-arid grassland is nestled in a rain shadow between the foothills of the Cascade range and the Okanagan highlands.
At low elevations in the south part of the valley is one of Canada's most unique habitats. These grasslands are dominated by bunchgrasses, Antelopebrush and Sagebrush. They are home to iconic Great Basin species like Sage Thrasher, Brewer's, Lark, Grasshopper and Clay-coloured Sparrow, Chukar, Gray Partridge, Long-billed Curlew, Mountain Bluebird, Golden Eagle, Western Kingbird, Northern Harrier and Western Meadowlark. These beautiful and species rich landscapes are the backbone of any Okanagan birding trip.
Riparian cottonwood groves, thickets, lakes and marshes are home to an array of species. We search here for Bullock's Oriole, Gray Catbird, Yellow-breasted Chat, Eastern Kingbird, Western Screech and Long-eared Owls, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Bobolink, Veery, Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat, Osprey, Bald Eagle and water birds such as Great Blue Heron and 5 species of grebe. Colourful ducks abound like Ruddy duck, Cinnamon, Green-winged and Blue-winged teal. Trumpeter Swan and Wilson's Phalarope are also possible.
On the benches and hills just above the valley bottom are the dry, open forests of Ponderosa Pine. This forest type is found nowhere else in Canada. Regional specialties found here are Lewis’ Woodpecker, Cassin's Finch, Pygmy Nuthatch, Lazuli Bunting, Cassin’s Vireo, Dusky and Gray Flycatcher, Red Crossbill, Vesper Sparrow, House Wren, Black-headed Grosbeak, Western Bluebird, Townsend's Solitaire, Nashville Warbler, Dusky Grouse, Western Tanager, Common Poorwill, Flammulated and Northern Saw-whet Owl.
These high elevation forests resemble those of the northern boreal forest. Dominated by Lodgepole Pine, Spruce, Larch and Fir, they give way to alpine meadows on the highest peaks. Summer visitors include Wilson's, MacGillivray's and Townsend's Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Williamson's and Red-naped Sapsucker, Swainson's, Hermit and Varied Thrush, Pacific Wren, Hammond's and Olive-sided Flycatcher, Common Loon, Northern Pygmy, Boreal and Barred Owl. They join resident Northern Goshawk, Pileated Woodpecker, Pine Grosbeak, Boreal Chickadee, Canada Jay, Spruce Grouse and White-tailed Ptarmigan.