This short check-list is intended for visiting birders who would like to find Vancouver specialties, by which we mean species that, while rare or non-existent elsewhere in Canada, are fairly easy to find around Metro Vancouver. Greater details are given in The Birder’s Guide to Vancouver and the Lower Mainland (2001), but this publication is no longer in print. A new edition is expected in the near future. Directions to reach the birding sites mentioned in the species list are listed after the species.
Alcids. Pigeon Guillemots, Marbled Murrelets and Common Murres can sometimes be seen around Vancouver. Try Stanley Park West seawall, Iona Island South jetty (scope), Lighthouse Park or Whytecliff Park in West Vancouver, or the South shore of Point Roberts. The summer ferry from Sydney harbor on Vancouver Island to Sydney Island is usually reliable for these species, with the additional possibility of Cassin’s Auklet, Rhinoceros Auklet and Tufted Puffin.
Anna’s Hummingbird. Now regular year-around in Vancouver, especially near forested park areas such as Pacific Spirit Park, Fraserview Golf Course and Musqueam Park. Look for hummingbird feeders at nearby homes.
Bald Eagle. Common or abundant, especially near water. Try Spanish Banks, UBC, West Dyke in Richmond (near the Golf Course), Westham Island including Reifel Refuge, Brunswick Point, Boundary Bay. The concentration of hundreds or even thousands of Eagles near Brackendale in late January and early February is famous. Look anywhere along the Mamquam or Squamish Rivers; the eagles are feasting on the carcasses of dead salmon. Also, from the Tsawassen-Schwartz Bay ferry watch for Eagles when going through Active Pass. Whales may also show up here.
Barn Owl. Common resident in agricultural areas South of the city, including Richmond South of Steveston Highway, between No. 3 and No. 4 Roads. Anywhere in Delta including Westham Island. Crepuscular and nocturnal, Barn Owls will often come to squeaking.
Barrow’s Goldeneye. Much less common than formerly, but still seen on salt water anywhere around the city. Try Stanley Park West seawall, Iona Island South jetty, Tsawassen ferry jetty, Ambleside Park, Lighthouse Park or Whytecliff Park in West Vancouver.
Black Oystercatcher. Anywhere on rocky seashores. Stanley Park West seawall, offshore islands visible from Klootchman Park (near Lighthouse Park, West Vancouver). A few breed on the Tsawassen ferry jetty, and can be seen from the turnout from the West-bound lane to the ferries. Watch for fast traffic.
Black Turnstone. Stanley Park East seawall, usually near Deadman Island; Point Roberts South shore; a small flock feeds around the Tsawassen ferry terminal pilings, and may be seen from a ferry before departing.
Black-throated Grey Warbler. Deciduous forest, e.g., Pacific Spirit Park, Stanley Park near Beaver Pond, Minnekhada Regional Park, Campbell Valley Regional Park, etc. Listen for song, which resembles Townsend Warbler’s, but less rocking.
Brandt’s Cormorant. Possible around Stanley Park seawall; Maplewood Conservation Area; Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver. Reliable in winter in Active Pass, from the Victoria ferry. Watch also for Pacific Loons.
Brant. Wintering flocks at Boundary Bay Regional Park in Tsawassen (may be far offshore); also common between the Tsawassen and Point Roberts jetties.
Bullock’s Oriole. Colony Farm, East of Vancouver, is fairly reliable, May-July. Also the Nature Trail at Grant Narrows Regional Park (Pitt Lake area), which may also have Eastern Kingbird, Catbird, Osprey and other species not commonly seen in Vancouver.
Bushtit. Quite common resident in parks and gardens, usually in flocks of 10-20 birds (except while breeding). Listen for fussy twittering and watch for small birds flying one after another from tree to tree.
Chestnut-backed Chickadee. Perhaps 1-2% of chickadees seen here will be Chestnut-backed, which are more common in evergreen than deciduous forests. Hike any trail on the North Shore, such as Lighthouse Park, Cypress Park, Baden-Powell Trail, etc. A few are present on the East side of the Loop Trail in Campbell Valley Regional Park.
Golden-crowned Sparrow. Less common than formerly. Most often seen in Winter, on grass near shrubs. Try Stanley Park, Jericho Beach Park, Queen Elizabeth Park. The gate at the entrance to Brunswick Point from River Road in Ladner usually has these sparrows.
Harlequin Duck. A few are usually present in Winter along the West seawall in Stanley Park. Lighthouse Park in Point Roberts also usually has some; walk along the beach East of the lighthouse. But the best spot is along the beach West of the pier at White Rock. Keep off the train tracks, which can have fast trains at any time.
Heerman’s Gull. Regular fall visitor to Point Roberts West shore. Try around the pub. Sydney Beaches on Vancouver Island are also good. This species is seldom seen in Vancouver itself.
Hutton’s Vireo. A regular resident in forested areas around Vancouver. Musqueam Park is a good place to find them. Listen for the song, “reep.” Active early in the spring, but usually silent later. Be careful not to confuse these vireos with Ruby-crowned Kinglets.
Northwestern Crow. Abundant throughout the area. All crows here are this species, not American Crows (but the two may be lumped some day).
Pacific Loon. Possible from Lighthouse Park in Point Roberts. Usually to be seen in Winter from the Victoria ferry, in Active Pass.
Pelagic Cormorant. Commonly seen from the Stanley Park seawall, Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver, Point Roberts, and the Tsawassen ferry jetty pilings.
Red-breasted Sapsucker. Forested areas throughout. Listen for rhythmic drumming. Stanley Park, Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver, Pacific Spirit Park, trails on the North Shore.
Shorebirds in general (migrating). The Lower Fraser Valley is on the Pacific Flyway, so migrating shorebirds, ducks and geese are regular in Spring and Fall. Large numbers (100,000 plus) of Western Sandpipers can be seen in late April and Early May (peak date about April 29) on the mudflats at Brunswick Point and Boundary Bay, just after high tide (usually early morning). A few Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers and other species may also be seen. For variety, Boundary Bay Regional Park is good either Spring or Fall. Dunlin and Black-bellied Plovers winter here in some numbers, but the Westerns mostly leave for more Southern climes. The sewage ponds at Iona Island are a famous spot for unusual waders, but access is now a problem.
Snow Goose. Migrate from Siberia, through the Vancouver area and on to the USA. Snow geese occur in big noisy flocks from Thanksgiving until mid December; best observed from the West dyke in Richmond (try Terra Nova Park and up and down the dyke from there). Also large numbers on Westham Island. Spring migration is much more hurried.
Snowy Owl (outbreak years). These owls can occur in fair numbers in some years, but are mostly absent in other years. The place to see them is on the foreshore at Brunswick Point or Boundary Bay (park at the foot of 64th Street in Delta, and walk East past the Greenhouses).
Sooty Grouse. Common in forest, mostly above 2,000 feet. Booming males are easy to hear in late Winter and Spring, but can be very difficult to see. Females with young are sometimes found along mountain trails.
Surfbird. Not easy to find. Sometimes seen at the far end of the Iona Island South jetty. The beaches East of Sechelt sometimes have surfbirds, black turnstones, etc.
Townsend’s Warbler. Common breeder in the canopy of evergreen forests up to 4,000 feet elevation. Can be hard to see, but scratchy, rollicking song is easily heard. Try Lighthouse Park in West Van, trails in Cypress Provincial Park (parking fees in effect), Mountain Highway in North Van, etc.
Trumpeter Swan. Wintering flocks can be seen on Westham Island, Brunswick Point, and elsewhere on agricultural fields in the Fraser delta. Occasionally a Tundra Swan or two may be included in the flock.
Western Grebe. Much less common than formerly. Try the Stanley Park west seawall, or Dundarave seawall in West Van. Also Westham Island bridge (Mar.-Apr.) and Boundary Bay (far out) from Oct. to Nov.
Western Sandpiper. Large migrating flocks can be seen on the mudflats at Brunswick Point and Boundary Bay, mid April to early May. Best time is an hour after high tide, which occurs in the early morning at this time of year. Fall migrants from July to Sept. in the same locations. (Few Westerns spend the winter here; the flocks you see then are almost exclusively Dunlin.)
Directions to the Birding Sites
AmblesidePark. Cross the Lions Gate Bridge from Vancouver and head West on Marine Drive, past the Park Royal Mall. Turn Left on 13th Street and then Left again to the Park.
Blackie Spit. Looks out on the Boundary Bay mudflats from Crescent Beach. Follow Hwy 99 South from Vancouver, and exit at Crescent Beach/White Rock exit. Follow signs to Crescent Beach. After crossing the railway track turn R on Sullivan Street and R again on McBride Ave. Park at end of McBride.
Boundary Bay mudflats. The dyke is accessible, with parking, from the S ends of 64th St, 72nd St and 104th St. These are reached by turning S off Highway 10 or the Ladner Trunk Road, which is located just S of Highway 99.
Boundary Bay Regional Park. (Formerly Beach Grove or Centennial Park.) Take Highway 99 South of Vancouver, exiting to Highway 17A and the ferries. Follow Highway 17A and turn Left at the second set of lights, onto 56th Street for Tsawassen and Point Roberts. Then turn Left at 12th Ave. and park (0.7 km) where 12th Ave. swings to the right.
Brackendale. Drive the Sea-to Sky Highway past Squamish. After crossing Mamquam River (a few eagles may be seen here), turn Left on Mamquam Road, then Right onto Government Road. Park by the Easter Seal Camp and walk up the dyke. Eagles are everywhere in winter.
Brunswick Point. From the town of Ladner (reached from Highway 99 just South of the tunnel) head West on River Road to the end. Walk the dyke.
Campbell Valley Regional Park. From Highway 99 South take 8th Avenue East exit (in White Rock area) and drive 7.5 km East to the South Valley Entrance. Or turn Left on 200th Street then Right on 16th Avenue to the North Valley Entrance.
Colony Farm Regional Park. Travelling East on Highway 1, take exit #44 (before the Port Mann Bridge) and follow the signs for Hwy 7B/Mary Hill Bypass for about 3 km. Then turn L on Shaughnessy Street and drive up it until you see open fields on the Left. Park (on the West side) and take the trail down to the fields.
Cypress Provincial Park. Cross the Lions Gate Bridge from Vancouver and head West on Marine Drive, turning Right on Taylor Way. Follow Taylor Way uphill and turn Left to get on the Upper Levels Highway (Highway 1) West. Take the exit to Cypress Park and drive up to the parking lot (parking fees in effect).
Dundarave Park. Cross the Lions Gate Bridge from Vancouver and head West on Marine Drive. Drive through the town of West Vancouver and continue on Marine Drive turning L on 25th Street, to the beach.
Fraserview Golf Course. Follow Southeast Marine Drive East past the Knight Street Bridge entrance. Turn left at traffic light at Elliot Street, go uphill and turn Right on Vivian Drive, to the Golf Course parking lot. There is a peripheral trail with good birding (the course is reserved for actual golfers).
Iona Island Jetty. Cross the Arthur Laing Bridge (to YVR Airport) and turn Right at the traffic light on Templeton Street. This becomes Ferguson Road, which you follow past the airport to Iona Beach Regional Park. The South Jetty starts here; it is actually a sewer line into deep water in the Gulf of Georgia. The best birding is (or used to be – bird numbers are greatly reduced now) at the West end of the jetty, about 4 km out. (Don’t use this site on stormy days.)
Lighthouse Park (West Vancouver). Cross the Lions Gate Bridge from Vancouver and head West on Marine Drive. Drive through the town of West Vancouver and continue on Marine Drive for about 10 km, watching for the Caulfields Fire Hall on the right. The entrance to Lighthouse Park is reached by turning L at the top of the next hill; watch for the wooden sign.
Lighthouse Marine Park (Point Roberts). See under Point Roberts.
Mamquam Nature Park: Heron Trail. Take Dunbar Street South for one block south of SW Marine Drive. Turn R and park. The trail starts straight ahead, at the foot of Alma Street.
Maplewood Conservation Area. Cross the 2nd Narrows (Ironworkers Memorial) Bridge and take the first exit (#23B), to the Dollarton Highway, heading East. Drive approximately 3 km to the entrance (on the right) to the Environment Canada Pacific Science Centre, and park in the lot. Trails emanate from the Wild Bird Trust office at the south end of the parking lot.
Minnekhada Regional Park (Coquitlam area). Take the Lougheed Highway (Highway 7) east from Vancouver. Turn R at the intersection with the Barnett Highway in Coquitlam, continuing on Highway 7. After another 3.5 km turn left at the traffic light for Coast Meridian Road, and then (2.5 km more) R on Apel Street and R Again on Victoria Drive. The latter turns L after 1 km, and then becomes Quarry Road. The Park entrance is on the right. Maps of Minnekhada should be available at the parking lot.
Pacific Spirit Park. This park, which encompasses much of the area between Vancouver city and the UBC campus, has many criss-crossing trails. The section North of Chancellor Boulevard can be accessed by parking on Chancellor (an extension of 4th Avenue West) about a km after leaving Vancouver. Trails begin here and go down to Spanish Banks. The section between 16th Ave and Marine Drive can be accessed from the parking lot on 16th, just West of Blanca Street. Trail maps are situated on posts throughout the park.
Point Roberts (USA). Take Highway 99 South of Vancouver, exiting to Highway 17A and the ferries. Follow Highway 17A and turn Left at the second set of lights, onto 56th Street for Tsawassen and Point Roberts. Follow 56th Street South to the US border (visas are now required to enter the USA). Lighthouse Park is reached by continuing South on Tyee Drive until it swings Right and heads to the SW corner of the peninsula. There is a parking fee in summer. (The SE corner of the peninsula is reached by turning L off Tyee Drive to APA Road, and driving to its Eastern end. Take the trail through the woods. Don’t fall off the cliff!)
Reifel Bird Sanctuary. Take Highway 99 South of Vancouver, keeping in the Right lane as you enter the Massey Tunnel. Take the first exit (immediately beyond the tunnel) onto River Road towards Ladner. Once in Ladner town proper, turn L at the stop sign and R after 3 blocks onto 47A Avenue. This becomes River Road West. After 2.9 km turn R onto Westham Island Bridge, and follow the main road for 4.8 km, where you turn L to the Refuge (Alaksen CWS station is straight ahead at this junction). There is a reasonable entrance fee to the Refuge.
Richmond West Dyke. The dyke trail goes from River Road (across the river from YVR) S to Garry Point in Steveston, passing Terra Nova Park on the way. It can be reached by driving West along River Road, following the Middle Arm of the Fraser River, or from Terra Nova Park at the West end of Westminster Highway (detour L-R-L after the shopping centre on No. 1 Road). You can also get to the dyke form Garry Point Park at the West end of Chatham Street in Steveston.
Roberts Bank. Be prepared for heavy, fast moving large-truck traffic. Park well off the roadway and watch for trucks. To get there, take Highway 99 South of Vancouver, exiting to Highway 17A and the ferries. After the intersection with Highway 10, take the next exit to Deltaport Way, which heads to the jetty. Again, beware of dangerous traffic, and stop well off the road.
Spanish Banks. This is the beach on the South shore of English Bay. Follow W 4th Ave. beyond Alma St. and swing right at the 2nd traffic light for NW Marine Drive. You soon reach the beach (Locarno to Spanish Banks). Park anywhere.
Stanley Park West seawall. Follow W Georgia St., keeping in the R lane for Stanley Park. Keeping R you can circumnavigate the Park, passing over the Lions Gate road and continuing on to the Teahouse, where you turn right and park at 3rd Beach. Now walk R along the seawall (not safe in bad storms).
Tsawwassen Ferry Jetty. Take Highway 99 South of Vancouver, exiting to Highway 17A and the ferries. Follow Highway 17A toward the ferry terminal. There’s a pull-out about half way out the jetty, where you can park and scan for birds. Watch out for fast traffic.
Westham Island. See directions for Reifel Refuge.
Whytecliffe Park. Take the Upper Levels Highway (see directions for Cypress Provincial Park) towards Horseshoe Bay, but avoid the Ferry Terminal, exiting on Highway 99 instead. Watch for immediate L turn onto Marine Drive through Horseshoe Bay (this interchange is a mess). Follow Marine Drive to Whytecliffe Park and park car.
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