5 Hot Spots for Bird Watching around Vancouver

Written by: Linda Bakker

Bird watching is an addictive outdoor activity that can easily be combined with a leisurely walk. The area around Vancouver provides lots of opportunities to spot a variety of birds year-round. Here are five best bird watching spots for you to explore.

Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Delta, BC

The Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Delta, BC.

Reifel Bird Sanctuary

Reifel Bird Sanctuary is located in Ladner and is a very popular place for the novice and experienced birder as there’s lots to see for everyone. You don’t have to look far, the ducks will welcome you in the parking lot. Most likely you will encounter the pair of resident Sandhill Cranes as well. Watch out for the cranes during breeding season as they become very protective of their chicks. The British Columbia Waterfowl Society manages the Sanctuary and conducts regular bird counts, monitors species of concern, and regulates visitor activities. There’s lots of waterfowl, songbirds and birds of prey and every season throughout the year brings different species as they migrate to, through, and from the area. Hours: 9am-4pm, Admission: $5 (adults), $3 (children 2-14 and seniors 60+. More info: www.reifelbirdsanctuary.com

Maplewood Flats in North Vancouver

The shore area at Maplewood Flats in North Vancouver.

Maplewood Flats

The Conservation Area at Maplewood Flats in North Vancouver is the property of the Wild Bird Trust but the area is free to visit and offers a great variety of birds to see. The Wild Bird Trust keeps a sightings board at the entrance up to date so you’ll know what birds are in the area. This area is unique since it is a tidal mudflat and it attracts different species of shorebirds, waterfowl and birds of prey. Migratory birds are frequent visitors and songbirds and woodpeckers can be seen in the more wooded areas. More info: www.wildbirdtrust.org

Burnaby Lake

A goose swims in Burnaby Lake near Piper Spit on the north side of the lake.

Burnaby Lake

Located in the heart of Burnaby, Burnaby Lake Park is a city park and offers excellent bird watching. Start at the Nature House and the boardwalk at Piper Spit on the north end of the lake off of Winston Street. Here you can encounter lots of resident ducks and geese. Famous are the Wood Ducks that can be very elusive, but are easily spotted perched on low hanging branches or in the water. The large nest-boxes that were put up across the water are for the Wood Ducks since they are cavity nesters and are suffering from the loss of habitat in the region. Different shorebirds can be spotted as well as different heron species and diving ducks. Songbirds can be found all around the lake and there’s a resident Bald Eagle pair on the south side. The large viewing tower next to Piper Spit offers a great view of the lake area. More info: www.burnabylakepark.ca

Snowy Owl near Boundary Bay

A snowy owl sits perched on a log near Boundary Bay.

Boundary Bay

Boundary Bay Regional Park in South Delta is an internationally recognized Important Bird Area, Thousands of birds stop by every year when they use the Pacific Flyway migration route, a major fly route for migratory birds that stretches from the North Slope of Alaska to Central and South America. The sandy beaches, salt and fresh water marshes, mudflats, sand dunes and meadows attract a wide variety of birds. Famous are the Snowy Owls that can turn up in the winter when they migrate south from the Arctic. Be discreet when you come to see these magnificent birds as many other bird watchers will be joining you.

A Great Blue Heron at Colony Farm

A Great Blue Heron at Colony Farm in Coquitlam.

Colony Farm

A former farm located in Port Coquitlam is now a regional park called Colony Farm. Situated among grass fields, marshland and next to the Coquitlam River, migratory birds and wintering birds can be seen as well as nesting songbirds and raptors. Woodpeckers, Chickadees and the Short-Eared Owl love the old-field habitat that makes this area unique. The river and main ditches attract many species of waterfowl.

Linda Bakker is the Team Leader of Wildlife Rehabilitation at the Wildlife Rescue Association of BC. The Wildlife Rescue Association is the largest urban rehabilitator of wildlife in British Columbia. Each year, WRA's Care Centre admits about 4,000 injured, orphaned and pollution-damaged wildlife. WRA also teaches people how to co-exist with wildlife by operating a wildlife help-line and education programs for kids and adults.

10 responses to “5 Hot Spots for Bird Watching around Vancouver”

  1. Charly says:

    Hi, I’m visiting Delta / Boundary Bay area in November 15, is this a good time for Eagles and other raptors for Photography ? Thanks

  2. Kathleen Fry says:

    Hi Klaus,
    It is worth connecting with other birders in the Vancouver, Delta and Richmond area through a website called birdingpals.com. You might find a birder willing to pick you up at a us station and bring you out to Reifel Bird Sanctuary or Boundary Bay, for example, by looking for a “birding pal” who lives in Delta. It is sort of an exchange thing for sociable birders. If you sign up, perhaps you can help someone else who is travelling to Germany and doesn’t know birding spots.

  3. Jean Allan says:

    Guten tag Klaus. I think the previous reply was sent before the lady understood your question. It would be extremely difficult to get to Reifel which is out in Ladner but no public transportation. And quite distant by taxi.
    However, here are two closeby choices. The Iona spit which is actually the long exit pipe from the water treatment plant or MacDonald Park. You can also elect not to walk out on the pipe and you can elect to walk out on the long marshy sand spit that separate the exit of the North Fraser from the salt water estuary.

    • Ray Fagan says:

      Hi Jean
      Iona sand spit is wonderful! I’ve walked out to the end of the spit several times – bird life is not as prolific as you would find say in Boundary Bay Park – still you can find species well worth the long walk depending on the time of year you do take the hike. I’ve seen many bald eagles, semi-palmated plovers, a Virginia Rail (along one of the heavily reeded ponds near the entrance to the sandy beach).ducks of many kinds. Be prepared for a long walk of several kms but in summer you won’t mind because you can sit back and rest among the driftwood that lines the sandy beach.

    • Klaus says:

      Thanks all for the ideas and informations. I will look via Google maps where These places are and hope that i will found afew good sights.


  4. Klaus says:

    Hi, I’m from Germany and I am on 22.03.2015 and on 23.03.2015 on a short business trip in a hotel in Vancouver. I will arrive on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning find some time to birding, but I have no car or have to rely on a taxi. The hotel is the Airport Marriott. Does anyone have an idea where and how I can use the time? Thanks in advance Klaus

  5. Ray Fagan says:

    I am familiar with these bird watching locations -they all have a wonderful bird watching opportunities. Today I visited Boundary Bay and I saw a huge flock of Northern Pintails.

  6. Israel says:

    Bird Photographer visiting Vancouver at the end of May 2015
    Would like to get information on best birds sites.

    Than you,

    • Linda says:

      All these 5 locations are excellent for bird watching in May. If you’re visiting Vancouver and don’t have transportation, Burnaby Lake is the easiest and closest to get to. There’s an abundance of different duck species with their babies, shorebirds Canada Geese and many songbirds.

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