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There’s no better place than Vancouver Island to check off some bucket list bird sightings.

Because of its location, Victoria gets birds on their migratory paths to and from their winter and summer grounds. This means that in spring and fall, Vancouver Island is overflowing with birds! Of course, you can still see unique birds year-round here. The weather is mild enough to sustain their populations throughout the seasons. 

But if you’re coming for a trip and want to do some bird watching, there are a few tricks we must recommend. First, the further you go out of the city, the more likely you are to spot the big-ticket items, like Great Blue Herons, swans, and bald eagles. Discover Vancouver Island has a wealth of recommendations, but the one I can most corroborate is Goldstream Provincial Park. I have had great luck in Colwood and Sooke areas in general, but you will probably find neat birds at any beach or shorefront in town.

If you want to find peacocks, something Vancouver Island has become known for, there is no better place than the historic Royal Roads University. It’s about 20-40 minutes out of the city by car or bus. Since my arrival from the prairies, I have been by far the most surprised and delighted by these brilliant birds. If you’ve never heard their calls before though, beware! They can be a little frightening – as they sound a bit like a screaming child – but their plumage is extraordinary! 

One of my favourite spots to bird watch is the Esquimalt Lagoon and Migratory Bird Sanctuary, which is on the shore side of Royal Roads and about 30-50 minutes out of downtown by bus or car. Keep looking beyond the many families of common Canadian geese and mallard ducks, and you will likely get a glimpse of something special. 

In and around the Lagoon, I’ve seen herons, bald eagles, swans, owls, cormorants, tufted puffins, and a personal, though controversial favourite: turkey vultures! They’ve got a face only a mother can love, but they’re some seriously cool creatures – and very important for maintaining the health of our ecosystems. But perhaps that’s a blog for another time!

For more information, visit:

“Birds of Vancouver Island” (2018). Discover Vancouver Island. https://www.discovervancouverisland.com/birds-of-vancouver-island/ 

Dickson, Louise (January 9, 2023). “It’s for the birds: Why Southern Vancouver Island is a bird migration hot spot despite unleashed dogs.” Vancouver Sun. https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/its-for-the-birds-why-southern-vancouver-island-is-a-bird-migration-hot-spot-despite-unleashed-dogs 

Slagboom, K. (n.d.). “Spring Migration: Shorebirds and Flycatchers.” Birding in British Columbia. https://birding.bc.ca/regions/victoria/hotspots/migration-april-june.php

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