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  • Writer's pictureSpeyside Wildlife

5 Key Winter Species of the Cairngorms

Winter can be a quieter time of year for wildlife with many of migratory birds away and the weather more unpredictable. There is plenty to look out for however and these are just five key species to look out for on a visit to the Cairngorms.

Crested Tit in snow (Kate M)

Crested Tit

One of our smallest and most popular birds to see in the Cairngorms, the Crested Tit is a resident bird found in the forests. It can only be seen in Scotland in the northern side of the national park and areas to the north of Inverness making it a favourite to see in the UK. On the coldest of days, they can be seen on bird feeders for easy food, such as at RSPB Loch Garten. It is worth getting to know their calls as a way of locating them, their chirpy trilling call being a unique sound. Click here to listen to their call.

Mountain Hare (Duncan M)

Mountain Hare

A favourite for wildlife photographers during the Winter months, the Mountain Hare can look very photogenic as they sport white fur. In the snow this makes them camouflaged to any Golden Eagles looking for a meal, but our recent mild weather means they are in danger of being seen against the brown moorland. There are a few places in the Cairngorms where these mammals can be seen, and if you book a day guide with us you may be lucky to see one.

Red Squirrel (Kate M)

Red Squirrel

With their long bushy tails and long ear tufts, the Red Squirrel certainly have the ‘cute’ factor. You can often see them jumping through the trees in search of cones, or on local feeders such as Anagach woods or Loch Garten. Their thicker coats give them extra warmth in the Winter and the rich orange colour make them desirable to be photographed.

Ptarmigan (Mixed Plumage)


Ptarmigan rely on the snow in the mountains to give them camouflage in the Winter, moving to a higher altitude if snow is scarce. Their furry feet give them their extra warmth and act as snowshoes so they can move swiftly along snow surfaces. They can become invisible by hunkering down in the rocky terrain. The Cairngorm mountains and Glenshee can be a good place to look for these birds whilst they are in their winter plumage.

Snow Bunting (Kate M)

Snow Bunting

Our last winter species can also be seen in the mountain areas or occasionally on coastal beaches in the Winter. The Cairngorms have a small flock of resident Snow Bunting that move down the mountain to the car park during the Winter as they know that humans may leave food. Snow Bunting are very active birds and often let the wind of the Winter storms carry them to where they go. If you sit patiently, they can come very close as they search for food. Booking a day guide with us can give you the opportunity to look for any of these key species.

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