Vancouver Island

Wood Duck Aix sponsa ©T Douglas Rodda
Birding Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is in the northeastern Pacific Ocean, just off the coast of Canada. It is part of the Canadian province of British Columbia. The island is 460 kilometres (290 mi) in length, 100 kilometres (62 mi) in width at its widest point, and 32,134 km2 (12,407 sq mi) in area. It is the largest island on the West Coast of North America. This area has one of the warmest climates in Canada, and since the mid-1990s has been mild enough in a few areas to grow subtropical Mediterranean crops such as olives and lemons.The Vancouver Island Ranges run most of the length of the island, dividing it into a wet and rugged west coast and a drier, more rolling east coast. The highest point in these ranges and on the island is the Golden Hinde, at 2,195 metres (7,201 ft). Located near the centre of Vancouver Island in 2,500 square kilometres (965 sq mi) Strathcona Provincial Park, it is part of a group of peaks that include the only glaciers on the island, the largest of which is the Comox Glacier. The west coast shoreline is rugged and in many places mountainous, characterized by its many fjords, bays, and inlets. The interior of the island has many lakes (Kennedy Lake, north of Ucluelet, is the largest) and rivers. There are a number of rivers draining the island, some of which though short are large in volume. Among the more notable rivers are the Somass River in the Alberni Valley, the Nimpkish River in the North Island region, the Englishman River up island from Nanaimo near Parksville, and the Cowichan River whose basin forms the Cowichan Valley region in the South Island region.The climate is the mildest in Canada, with temperatures on the coast even in January being usually above 0 °C (32 °F). However, the rain shadow effect of the island’s mountains, as well as the mountains of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, creates wide variation in precipitation. The west coast is considerably wetter than the east coast. Average annual precipitation ranges from 6,650 millimetres (261.8 in) at Henderson Lake on the west coast (making it the wettest place in North America) to only 640 millimetres (25.2 in) at the driest recording station in the provincial capital of Victoria on the southeast coast’s Saanich Peninsula. Precipitation is heaviest in the autumn and winter. Snow is rare at low altitudes but is common on the island’s mountaintops in winter.Vancouver Island lies in the temperate rainforest biome. On the southern and eastern portions of the island, this is characterized by Douglas-fir, western red cedar, arbutus (or madrone), Garry oak, salal, Oregon-grape, and manzanita; moreover, Vancouver Island is the location where the Douglas-fir was first recorded. The fauna of Vancouver Island is similar to that found on the mainland coast, with some notable exceptions and additions. For example, mountain goats, moose, porcupines, chipmunks, and numerous species of small mammals, while plentiful on the mainland, are absent from Vancouver Island. Grizzly bears are absent from the island, where black bears are prevalent, but in 2016 a pair of grizzlies were sighted swimming between smaller islands off the coast near Port McNeill. Vancouver Island does support most of Canada’s Roosevelt elk, however, and several mammal species and subspecies, such as the Vancouver Island marmot are unique to the island. The island’s rivers, lakes, and coastal regions are renowned for their fisheries of trout, salmon, and Steelhead. It has the most concentrated population of cougars in North America. Wolves are also present on this island.

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 453

    As at June 2018
Useful Reading

  • A Birder's Guide to Vancouver Island

    | By K Taylor | Steller Press Ltd | 2000 | Paperback | 100 pages, Maps | ISBN: 9781894143035 Buy this book from
  • The Birds of Vancouver Island's West Coast

    | By Adrian Dorst | University of British Columbia Press | 2018 | Hardback | 559 pages, 140 b/w photos, 1 b/w map | ISBN: 9780774890106 Buy this book from
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Fantasea Charter

    Vancouver Island has a broad collection of birds and wildlife, both on land and in the sea. Learning to recognize different species can bring us closer to nature and keep us aware of the world we live in. Here are just some of the birds you might encounter walking the ocean shores of Victoria, or on one of our wildlife sightseeing cruises.
Trip Reports

Click on WAND to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • 2016 [09 September] - Daniel Watson

    PDF Report
    Much of the birding was incidental, but I managed to catch up with most of my target birds. In total I saw 105 species of birds, of which 71 were lifers. We saw a total of 15 mammal species including all of our targets.
  • 2017 [08 August] - Anna Wittmer

    PDF Report
    This was a fantastic Vancouver Island birding tour with a wonderful pair of participants. We found our number one target, Eurasian Skylark, and a nice variety of sea- and shorebirds. Several of the avian highlights were Surfbird, Black-throated Grey Warbler, and American Dipper. We were also treated with marine mammals such as orca, gray whale, Black Sea harbor porpoise, and harbour seal.
  • 2018 [05 May] - Daniel Branch & Paul Collins

    PDF Report
    We chose Vancouver as a destination mainly because we wanted to see Varied Thrush. Thiswas not the only reason we chose to visit Vancouver, however, as there are many westcoast species that would be otherwise difficult to encounter. Many of the warblers andother migrant species that we encountered are restricted to the west coast, and Vancouverpresented an excellent opportunity to see these species.
Places to Stay

Click on WAND to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • Royston House B&B

    The Comox Valley birds are as varied as the locations you find them in, from large predator species to the smallest. At royston house we experience over 50 different bird species throughout the year including the birds that winter near the K'omoks Estuary.
Other Links
  • Birds of Vancouver Island

    Some good places to bird watch include the Tofino Mudflats, Deep Bay Spit, Admirals Lagoon, Sidney Spit, Little Qualicum Estuary, Nanaimo Estuary, Somass Estuary, Englishman River Estuary and Courtenay Airpark. You can also see birds in many of the rocky and sandy beaches along each coast...
  • Birds of Vancouver Island, BC

  • Marine Bird Guide

    Bird watching is an essential activity on the south end of Vancouver Island, BC, where bald eagles are abundant, and auklets, guillemots, black oystercatchers and common murre are just a few of what you may encounter along the way.
  • Vancouver Island Birds

    Vancouver Island Birds is an online magazine featuring photographs to celebrate and enjoy the birds of Vancouver Island. The purpose of this website is to share the many birds that I have been fortunate enough to encounter, enjoy, and photograph.
  • Graham - Bayshore Birder

    Welcome to my blog on birds of our backyard and birding in and around Vancouver Island. All the images are my own taken with a Canon Powershot and intended only as a record of some of my sightings at home and while visiting various birdwatching sights in the area. (Up to Sept 2016)
  • Mike Yip - Vancouver Island Birds

    I am neither an authority on birds nor photography, but pictures don't lie. I'm counting on the images to inspire you to get interested in the birds and nature. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it is worth much more when shared with others. In the spirit of sharing and promoting interest in birds, nature, and conservation, it is my pleasure to present VANCOUVER ISLAND BIRDS.
  • Sardisbirder

    Sardis Birder
    I'm retired from wildlife management as a animal care specialist, having worked in Zoological Parks and Fauna Reserves in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and here in Canada. I'm presently volunteering for Bird Studies Canada and I am a past member of the Vancouver Island Woodcarver's Club
Photographers & Artists
  • Photography - Glenn Bartley - Birds of Vancouver Island

    “What a delight! Glenn Bartley has captured the beauty and amazing diversity of the birds of Vancouver Island.” Matt Mendenhall, Birder’s World Magazine

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