Birds can boost tourism in Vancouver, expert says

Vancouver's bird strategy is designed to help the city achieve its goal of becoming the greenest city in the world by 2020, but one expert says one other advantage to being a bird's paradise is a boost in tourism.

Robert Butler, an ornithologist and Simon Fraser University professor, is one of the key advisors for Vancouver's bird strategy, which is an effort to create favourable environmental conditions for native birds in Vancouver.

According to the city, more than 250 species of birds — both resident and migratory — live in Vancouver, including a number of exceptionally rare, unusual and majestic species like yellow-rumped warblers or bald eagles.

The city's bird strategy has included protecting and maintaining existing bird habitat and making available bird-friendly landscape design guidelines for interested landowners and developers.

"By having more birds around, it means you will have a greener city. This is an indicator of a healthier city, having a greener place to live that's better for everybody," Butler said.

"But on the other side of it is: if we can draw other people to come here and see the birds, then there's an economic benefit to it as well."

'Thousands of birders' in the city

Butler said he's noticed a growing interest in birding and birdwatching.

"There are people everywhere getting into this. It's becoming this real worldwide phenomenon," he said.

"There's huge audiences that turn out to hear about these animals ... Of course, Canuck the Crow is famous and has over 48,000 followers on Facebook."

Butler said almost $41 billion is spent on birding and related activities in the United States.

Colin Clasen, a member of the Birding Section Committee at Nature Vancouver, said birding is one of the fastest growing recreational activities in North America.

Metro Vancouver — with its diverse number of bird species and relatively mild weather — has a very active birding community.

"While I'm not aware of any specific surveys done to try and determine the number of birders in the Metro Vancouver area, they would surely number in the thousands, including all ages and levels of experience," Clasen said.

Major conference next year

Butler said things will really take flight next year when Vancouver hosts the prestigious International Ornithological Congress.

While it's primarily an academic conference which attracts the leading global experts in ornithology, the city is holding the first ever Vancouver International Bird Festival in conjunction.

"There are going to be events all over the city," he said.

"The top wildlife artists in the world are going to be painting a mural of all the endangered birds in the world — 120 feet long — and this will go on tour afterwards.

"It's a real advantage to bring other people into the city and learn about our birds."

This year's Vancouver's Bird Week takes place on May 6 to 13, 2017.

With files from The Early Edition