Skagit Bird Festival | Birds of Winter | Skagit County, Washington

Skagit Birds of Winter Experience

December 2022 Avian Influenza Update: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologists recently responded to reports of sick or dead waterfowl in western Skagit County on and around Skagit Bay, as well as in northwestern Snohomish County and on Camano Island and Port Susan in Island County. WDFW continues to ask members of the public who find sick or dead birds to report them immediately using this online form  and not touch them. You can also report by calling 1-800-606-3056.

We invite you to explore the variety of habitats and view the diversity of bird life that makes the Skagit Valley such a treasured birding destination during the Skagit Valley Birds of Winter Experience!

The farmlands and wetlands, estuaries and marine waters, prairies and forests of this valley provide the wintertime habitat needs for hundreds of bird species.

Skagit Birds of Winter Experience – Winter Birding at Its Best

One of Washington’s most spectacular events is the return of the migrating birds to the Skagit Valley. The rich farmlands provide these birds with a natural feeding ground as they build up the energy required for the long return flight.

Video Taken by Blanchard Mountain Farm

Skagit Bird Festival - Birds of Winter

Landing Trumpeters by Lee Mann

Skagit Eagle Festival

Skagit Eagle Festival is a month-long celebration during eagle-watching season in eastern Skagit County. Activities take place in Concrete, Rockport and Marblemount every full weekend in January.

Tours & Workshops

Skagit Guided Adventures offers birdwatching tours from the Salish Sea to the North Cascades. Stay tuned for more tour & workshop information!

Featured Website – Birds of Winter

Visit our Birds of Winter website to learn more about Ethical Birding, Learning Opportunities and the Birds of Winter Event Calendar.  Learn more about the 6 different clusters and more than 20 birding sites! The clusters include Butler Flats, Fidalgo Island, Skagit Flats, Upper Skagit River, Samish Flats and Nookachamps Basin.

skagit_bird_festivalThe Butler Flats cluster covers the Central Samish Valley watershed and Butler Hill area. It includes several recently restored wetlands along Thomas Creek and the Samish River as well as Warner Prairie. During the winter months, you will see numerous waterfowl, including swans, as well as Bald eagles. Kestrels, Merlins and Peregrine falcons also frequent this area.

The Fidalgo Island cluster is part of the Great Washington Birding Trail, and for good reason. The island has a rich array of fresh and saltwater and easily accessible woodlands. The rocky beaches, tide flats, and marshes provide both novice and advanced birders a variety of ways to see our feathered friends.  On a winter day, one might see surf scoters, western grebes and buffleheads bobbing in the water, or belted kingfishers flying along the salty shoreline. Along the forestland trails, keep an ear open for chestnut-backed chickadees, kinglets, spotted towhees, and red-breasted nuthatches that flit within the safety of the brush. Stay on the lookout for bald eagles, resting high in the treetops.

The Skagit Flats cluster is a good place to see Snow Geese, Trumpeter, and Tundra Swans, as well as raptors, Western Meadowlarks. Jensen Access – geese, shorebirds, sea ducks, eagles, Snowy Owls. North Fork Access – Short-eared Owls and Northern Harriers. Skagit Bay- Skagit Wildlife Area – Wylie Slough Area – woodpeckers and other terrestrial species, Great-horned Owls, Northern Shrike.

The Upper Skagit River cluster is home to The Skagit Eagle Festival:  a month-long celebration during the eagle-watching season in Skagit County. Activities take place in Concrete, Rockport, and Marblemount every full weekend in January. The festival features a variety of free tours, walks, and educational programs where you’ll learn not only about these majestic birds but also about a variety of wildlife and the beautiful areas along the Skagit River where they live or return each year.

Special presentations will teach you about a year in the life of an eagle, how to photograph wildlife and scenery, and much more. You and your family will have the opportunity to enjoy arts & crafts, wine tasting, river rafting, music, dance and a wide variety of other outdoor activities. Bring your camera, dress for unpredictable winter weather, and come join us for one of the most uplifting and entertaining events of the year!

The Samish Flats cluster has many raptors, waterfowl, and passerines. Good area for Snowy Owls (some years), Short-eared Owls, Peregrines, Gyrfalcons. Prairie Falcons, Merlins, and Kestrels are also present making this a target area for finding 5 falcon species. Red-tailed -Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, Northern Harriers, and Bald Eagles are common. Herons, Canvasbacks, large flocks of Dunlins, Black-bellied Plovers, dabbling ducks including large numbers of Eurasian Wigeons among flocks of American Wigeons are some of the possibilities.

The Nookachamps Basin cluster: Draining fields and hills to the east of Mount Vernon into the Skagit River, the Nookachamps Basin connects Big Lake, Clear Lake, and the seasonal Barney Lake, the location where Trumpeter Swans were first identified wintering in the valley. The tall cottonwoods along the Skagit hold a number of eagle nests, and it is not uncommon to spot Peregrine falcons patrolling the skies.

Ethical Birding Four Priorities During the Skagit Bird Festival | Birds of Winter

The Mindful Birding project identifies four areas where birders should be attentive as they observe the natural world (click on the messages for more information):

  1. Mindful of Wildlife. How aware are you of the “bird” in birding? We should always be aware of the needs of birds and minimize disturbance to wildlife.
  2. Mindful of People & Safety. Are your actions causing stress or creating hazards for others? We should always be attentive to the way our actions impact others, strive to keep ourselves and others safe and make sure that the outdoor experience is harmonious for all.
  3. Mindful of Personal Birding Experience. Is your birding experience rewarding? Remember to take your time, plan ahead and be patient. And don’t forget, birding is meant to be fun!
  4. Mindful of Nature Conservation. Birds are special creatures and they require special habitats and healthy ecosystems to survive. Human development has put enormous pressure on bird populations, but there are many things that we can do, from smart waste management and carpooling to staying on designated trails and landscaping with native plants.

Birdwatching Areas, Interpretive Centers, Visitor Information, and Skagit Farm to Pint

Trek the Skagit Farm to Pint Ale Trail, collect stamps, and win prizes! Grab your Ale Trail passport at Skagit Valley Breweries, NorthWest Brewers Supply, Skagit PUD office, Tulip Festival office, or any Skagit Valley Visitor Information Center!

Collect all the stamps and score a souvenir pint glass at the centrally-located Burlington Visitor Info Center, open M-F 8:30 – 5:00 and Sat/Sun 10-4. Cardinal Craft Brewing Academy is a bonus stamp because of the limited hours. Complete the passport with the Cardinal Craft stamp and pick up a bonus prize.

Skagit Valley’s deep and fertile alluvial soils are rated by USDA as among the best in the world. The Skagit Valley farmers grow the barley varieties, Skagit Valley Malting takes these new varieties to bring out taste and flavor, and then Skagit Valley Breweries use the malt to make great craft beer!