Bird Photography in the Winter

by David Lilly
October 4, 2014




Blue Jay by Dave Lilly ©


Blue Jay

Many bird photographers are challenged to find birds to photograph in the winter. However, there are many birds to photograph in winter in all parts of Canada. For example, there are an average of 150 birds in every province in Canada in the winter, except Newfoundland.


Snowbunting by Dave Lilly ©



I call it winter when most of the migrating birds have gone south of the 49th parallel. In Alberta by late October most of the migratory birds have passed through. So, what birds are left for photographers?


Rough-legged Hawk by Dave Lilly


Rough-legged Hawk

In 2011 I photographed the Snow Bunting and a Surf Scoter on October 26. Two birds only seen in winter in Southern Canada. Snowy Owls will make there appearances around mid November by can be seen as early as the end of September in Alberta. By mid October Rough Legged Hawks have made their long trip south and winter in southern Canada. Not to far behind are the Red-polls, American Tree Sparrows and Hoary Red-polls.


Common Redpoll by Dave Lilly ©


Common Redpoll



Winged Crossbills, Bohemian Waxwings, Cedar Waxwings will be seen munching on cones at the top of trees during the winter months. Many of the smaller owls are present all winter in Canada and are easier to to spot with no leaves on the trees. The Hawk Owls return in the winter and are usually easy to see because they sit on the top of spruce trees.


Bohemian waxwing by Dave Lilly ©


Bohemian Waxwing


Last winter I finally photographed a Northern Goshawk.


Northern Goshawk by Dave Lilly ©


Northern Goshawk


The above birds are some of the birds we only see in the winter. However, there are many year-round birds that call Canada home even in the frigid weather. The beautiful Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal, Both the White and Red-breasted Nuthatches. All three chickadees can be photographed during the winter months.


Rouffed Grouse by Dave Lilly ©

Ruffed Grouse

I have photographed many winter birds at bird feeders. Open water in rivers are good places to photograph ducks and geese in the winter. Snowy Owls can be seen in the more open areas on the Prairies.



Snowy Owl



Common Mergansers by Dave Lilly ©


Female and male Common Mergansers


Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers are my favourite winter birds, they are easy to find and photograph in most wooded areas.


Hairy Woodpecker by Dave Lilly ©


Hairy Woodpecker


Downy Woodpecker by Dave Lilly ©


Downy Woodpecker


For a complete list of winter birds by province see the following link.


David Lilly portrait


David Lilly is a professional nature photographer living and working in Calgary, AB he also teaches photo workshops. His photos have been published in PhotoLife, Calgary's Natural Parks, Alberta Nature Magazine and Fine Scale Military Modeler. Dave shoots with Nikon equipment. This is Dave's 10th article for the Canadian Nature photographer. David is also founder of the Calgary Camera Club.

David Lilly
Web site:

Phone: 403 236-8587 (Cell)

This is David Lilly's 9th article for the Canadian Nature photographer.


See David's other Bird Photography articles on the Canadian Nature photographer

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