Southeastern Manitoba has become one of the premier locations on the continent for locating northern boreal forest owls. The list of owls present during most winters is very impressive; Great Gray, Great Horned, Snowy and Northern Hawk-owl, with always a possibility of Eastern Screech-owl, Short-eared Owl and Northern Saw-whet Owl. Numbers of each species, and their locations, fluctuate from year to year, but March is a very good time to be searching for several of these owls as courtship is beginning and the pairs can be very vocal on still nights.
Our leaders on our Manitoba Owls birding tour are local naturalists who will have a very good handle on where each species can be found. In some years, the numbers of owls can be quite amazing. Other boreal species could also be present, including Sharp-tailed Grouse, Spruce Grouse and Black-backed Woodpecker. Songbirds we hope to see include Boreal Chickadee, Canada Jay, Evening Grosbeak, redpolls and crossbills.
Read trip reports and checklists from past tours below.
Day 1 - Arrival in Winnipeg
Participants will be arriving in Winnipeg throughout the day. For those that arrive early enough, there are opportunities for birding on your own in and around Winnipeg. Alternatively, there are some great museums worth visiting in the city (Manitoba Mueseum, Winnipeg Art Gallery, and the Museum of Human Rights). We meet in the evening at our hotel for dinner and to discuss the plan for the days ahead based on the weather and the latest sightings. Night in Winnipeg near the airport.
Day 2 - Winnipeg/ Lac du Bonnet / Riding Mountain National Park
After breakfast we leave the hotel. Where we go depends upon where the most reliable locations are for finding our target owls. We usually first head north and southwest of the city to look for Snowy Owls. En route we keep our eyes peeled for Gray Partridges and Snow Buntings. If the weather is right for diurnal raptor migration, we may next spend some time at a hawk watch site just south of Winnipeg, where we should see Bald Eagles and other raptors, including possibly Northern Goshawk.
Next we head into the city where we hope to locate an Eastern Screech-Owl at a roost. Late in the afternoon we continue our search for owls and other boreal specialties and may be fortunate in finding Sharp-tailed Grouse en route. After dinner, if the weather is calm, we drive still farther east into the boreal forest to listen for any owls that may be calling.
Alternatively, we may head west to Riding Mountain National Park, should reports of Great Gray Owls be regular there, or we may head north to Hecla Island. We may stay in Winnipeg, Lac du Bonnet, Pine Falls or Riding Mountain National Park.
Days 3 and 4 - Winnipeg/ Lac du Bonnet / Riding Mountain National Park
Our day outings typically start around 8 a.m., but we may also opt to go out earlier and have a late breakfast. We cover roads and trails at the edge of the boreal forest, where we have the greatest chance of seeing Great Gray Owls. These birds are usually quite tame and should allow for great photo opportunities. We have a good chance of seeing Northern Hawk Owls also, which are even more confiding than Great Gray Owls. Plus Bald Eagle, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Shrike, Canada Jay and Boreal Chickadee.
There are usually a number of small towns and cottages in the area where we visit feeders to look for Common Redpoll and Evening Grosbeak. At this time of year there are usually still some Hoary Redpolls around and we have a slim chance of spotting a late lingering Pine Grosbeak. Crossbill numbers fluctuate enormously; with luck we may see some.
Other target birds include Spruce Grouse and both “three-toed” woodpeckers, but finding these species is often more a matter of luck than anything else. Lunches will be in the field or at local restaurants. Weather permitting, and if people are up for it after a long day in the field, we’ll try again for owls on the evening of Day 3. Great Horned, Barred, Boreal and Northern Saw-whet Owls are all possible. We may stay in Winnipeg, Lac du Bonnet, Pine Falls or Riding Mountain National Park for Day 3. Late afternoon on Day 4 we return to Winnipeg, where we have dinner and spend the night in Winnipeg near the airport.
Day 5 - Departure, Winnipeg
Our Manitoba Owls birding tour ends today and you are welcome to leave anytime.
Departures & Prices
Tour Price Includes
- Good quality accommodation
- Breakfast and lunches
- Ground transportation
- 4 - 8 Participants will be guided by one guide. 9 - 12 participants will be guided by two guides
- All park, conservation and entrance fees
Tour Price Does Not Include
- Flights to and from Winnipeg
- Evening meals
- Travel Insurance
- Items of a personal nature
- Taxes (5% GST)
What to Expect
What to Expect
Our days on our Manitoba Owls birding tour start with an early morning breakfast, and then we drive to areas where owls and boreal forest species of birds have been seen recently or are known locally as productive birding locations. The habitat varies from forest to open agricultural areas. The amount of daylight is not long at this time of the year, and we will likely be back at our accommodation by 5 p.m. Accommodation quality will be good.
Weather conditions are likely to be cold, with the possibility of snow or rain. It is best to dress in clothes that are appropriate for subzero Celsius (32 degree Fahrenheit) weather, although in recent years we have encountered above freezing temperatures for the duration of the tour. Walking will be limited to short walks on mostly level ground along roads; most of the time we will be inside the heated vehicle. Strong, waterproof footwear is advised and head gear to keep you warm is essential.
There will be opportunities for photography, as many birds and other wildlife allow close approach. Lunches will typically be at a restaurant, but we may need to have a packed lunch because restaurants can be few and far between. In the evening we eat at a local restaurant or at the hotel or lodge where we are staying. At this time we discuss the day’s activities, review the list of birds and other wildlife that we have seen and heard, and prepare for the next day.
Even though we cannot guarantee a sighting of the animals below, we feel quite confident that an encounter with the ones listed below is quite likely.
- Great Gray Owl
- Northern Hawk-Owl
- Snowy Owl
- Sharp-tailed Grouse
- Gray Partridge
- Spruce Grouse
- Black-backed Woodpecker
- Boreal Chickadee
- Bald Eagle
- Evening Grosbeak
- Red Fox
- White-tailed Jackrabbit
Past Tour Checklists
Past Tour Checklists
View the list of birds and other wildlife we encountered on our past tours.