9 migratory birds to look for this winter on the South Coast

·2 min read

The days may be cold and short for us humans at this time of year, but for some migratory birds, British Columbia's South Coast is like a tropical refuge that keeps them coming back each winter.

Catherine Jardine, a data analyst and ornithologist with Birds Canada, says the Lower Mainland offers rich opportunities for amateur and professional birders alike.

"It's literally a lot of really great winter birding to be had in B.C.," Jardine said from her office in Delta. "We're where a lot of birds come to over-winter."

Jardine says several types of waterfowl, shorebirds and raptors make their way to the South Coast for winter. There are also birds that migrate to lower altitudes for winter, like dark-eyed juncos and fox sparrows.

It doesn't take much to get started as a birdwatcher, Jardine says. She recommends heading out with a decent pair of binoculars and a free app to help identify different species, like Merlin Bird ID.

"I didn't really get into birding until I was in my early 20s and then it shocked me how much I've been walking past my whole life," she said.

Jardine says you don't have to travel far to go birding — she often likes to look out the window of her third-floor apartment to watch for Anna's hummingbirds, bright green little birds that are out defending territory at this time of year to get access to prime nesting spots.

Some of Jardine's top recommendations for birding locations include:

  • Iona Beach, Richmond.

  • Boundary Bay Regional Park, Delta.

  • Dyke Trails and Terra Nova Park, Richmond.

  • Stanley Park Seawall, Vancouver.

  • Westham Island, Delta.

If you can't make it that far, don't worry. Jardine says there's a fair number of migratory birds that like to hang out in the ponds at Queen Elizabeth Park and at Trout Lake.

"The wonderful thing about birds is that they're everywhere," she said.

To find more locations, she recommends checking out the B.C. Bird Trail website, or the Tourism Richmond website.

Linda Bakker, executive director with the B.C. Wildlife Rescue Association, agrees that your neighbourhood or favourite park are good places to start birding.

Some of Bakker's favourite migratory birds are the waterfowl that make their way to the South Coast, like Buffleheads.

"They're really cute," Bakker says.

Paul Steeves
Paul Steeves

Unfortunately, Bakker says, some of them do end up in her care. She says that not all injured birds require human intervention, but if you spot one that obviously does need care, you can place it in a box and take it to the wildlife rescue hospital in Burnaby.

Some of Jardine and Bakker's favourite birds to watch for on the South Coast include:

  • Horned grebes.

  • Surf scoters.

  • Dunlins.

  • Northern harriers.

  • Snow geese.

  • Buffleheads.

  • Fox sparrows.

  • Dark-eyed juncos.

  • American wigeons.

Maryse Zeidler/CBC
Maryse Zeidler/CBC