Osoyoos Oxbows

Country/territory: Canada

IBA Criteria met: -
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 1,400 ha

Birds Canada / Nature Canada

Site description
The Osoyoos Oxbows are located in the South Okanagan Valley in southcentral British Columbia. The oxbows wind along both sides of the Okanagan River channel from the north end of Osoyoos Lake to Road 18, Oliver. Most of the site lies along the Okanagan River channel, a canal-like structure with gravel dykes. The old river channel winds back and forth across the flat floodplain, which is about 1 km wide. Water birch woodlands line the oxbows, while a cattail-bulrush marsh lies east of the river mouth where it empties into Osoyoos Lake. This marsh once extended to the west side as well, but has largely been drained or filled on that side. Arid, sandy bench-lands lie directly to the east of the floodplain, extending at one spot to an outlying rock bluff with associated talus.

Key biodiversity
The Osoyoos Oxbows support one of the most significant populations of Yellow-breasted Chats in British Columbia. This population is designated as nationally endangered. In 1999, at least 8 birds were recorded, which represents about 13% of this population. Three other nationally Special Concern species are present at this site: Barn Owl (2+), Long-billed Curlew (4+) and Lewis' Woodpecker (4+). Burrowing Owls (nationally endangered) were formerly present at this site. Other noteworthy species that are present at this site include Western Screech Owl (2+), Prairie Falcon (2+), Lark Sparrow (40+), Grasshopper Sparrow (5+), and Bobolink (50).

The marshes at the north end of Osoyoos Lake represent one of the last remnants of a once significant chain of wetlands found in the valley bottom of the Okanagan. These wetlands harboured species such as American Bittern, Northern Harrier, Virginia Rail and Yellow-headed Blackbird. The easy access along Highway 97 and the high diversity of birds and habitats makes the Osoyoos Oxbows one of the premier birding sites in Canada. After Vaseux Lake (about 20 km to the north), it has the best cross-valley connectivity of natural habitats in the Okanagan Valley.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Osoyoos Oxbows. Downloaded from on 22/03/2023.