Pacific Flyway: Bird Migration in British Columbia

by RunningMan

The most important migratory bird stopovers in British Columbia.

The Pacific Flyway is the major migration route for over 350 species of birds in North and South America. Stretching nearly 15,000 km (9,000 miles) from Alaska to Patagonia, millions of birds travel the route each year, including Long-billed Dowitchers, Lesser Snow Geese and Western Sandpipers.

British Columbia’s position on the Pacific Flyway makes it an ideal rest stop for migratory species. Each year, over 8 million waterfowl and 20 million shorebirds utilize BC’s wetlands to nest, to spend the winter and to rest during migration to other parts of the continent.

Esquimalt Lagoon

Blue Heron Fishing in Esquimalt LagoonThe Esquimalt Lagoon is a federally protected migratory bird sanctuary on the outskirts of Victoria, British Columbia. The Lagoon itself belongs to the province of British Columbia, but it’s managed by the Federal Canadian Wildlife Service, who officially designated the area a federal sanctuary in 1937.

The most common birds spotted are waterfowl, including Pintails, Green-Winged Teals, American Widgeons, Coots and Mallards, but it’s not unusual to also see Blue Herons, Western Meadowlarks, Black Oystercatchers and American Golden Plovers.

Bird watching in the Esquimalt Lagoon is great at any time of year—it’s even an attractive habitat in the winter because it has a mild climate, is sheltered and has an ample food supply—but the best times are the spring and fall, when the migratory birds take up residence.

Tip: Bring your walking shoes, because the Esquimalt Lagoon is bordered by a beautiful 2 km long spit that affords spectacular views of the downtown Victoria, the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

360 Interactive Tour of Esquimalt Lagoon: Courtesy of Birds of a Feather B & B

Delkatla Wildlife Sanctuary

Delkatla Bird SanctuaryThe Delkatla Wildlife Sanctuary, located near the town of Masset on Haida Gwaii, is a 228 hectare region that provides a refuge for over 150 species of migrating and resident birds. There are viewing platforms, shoreline access viewpoints, some short walking trails and gravel road access to the sandy ocean beaches. On a clear day you can see Alaska!

Like all sanctuaries within the Pacific Flyway, the bird population at Delkatla changes with the seasons, but throughout the year you can expect to see Trumpeter Swans, Bald Eagles, Sandpipers, Fox Sparrows, Sandhill Cranes, Peregrine Falcons and Sharp-Shinned Hawks. More rare bird sightings include Cattle Egrets, Tufted Ducks, Bar-tailed Godwits, Wood Sandpipers, Smith’s Longspurs and Bramblings.

Fun Fact: John Kerry, a famous ornithologist, documented Canada’s first sharp-tailed Sandpiper at what would later become the Delkatla Wildlife Sanctuary.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird SanctuaryThe George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary is one of the top bird-watching sites in Canada. It’s located on Westham Island in the Fraser River Estuary and is just a one-hour drive from Vancouver. The Sanctuary consists of nearly 300 hectares of managed wetlands, natural marshes and low dykes and attracts millions of birds during their annual migrations along the Pacific Coast.

The fall migration, from October to early December, is the best time to see large flocks of waterfowl. Look for ducks, geese and swans, including Lesser Snow Geese, whose population in the Sanctuary can reach upwards of 100,000 individuals.

In the spring, millions of Western Sandpipers pass through the region. This time of year is also a great time to see eagles, cormorants, ospreys and hawks as they follow schools of migratory salmon. Snow Geese stop by in the winter, and the summer is perfect for spotting Lesser Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitchers and more uncommon species.

Tip: Hike up the 10-metre high observation tower for the best views of the shallow ponds.

Updated: 07/12/2012, RunningMan
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MBC on 10/24/2015

Well written and informative! I've been to the Pacific Flyway way down South at the Salton Sea.

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