Birds of British Columbia

Birds of British Columbia Specialties

459 species in 46 families

Provincial Bird - Stellar's Jay

Provincial Bird Steller’s Jay

  • Steller’s jay
  • Crested mynah (Vancouver)*See below*
  • Spotted towhee
  • Red-breasted sapsucker
  • Skylark (Victoria)
  • Pigeon guillemot
  • Northwestern crow
  • Mac Gillvray’s warbler
  • Rosy finch
  • Townsends’s warbler
  • Great scaup
  • Northern hawk owl
  • Varied thrush
  • Wilson’s warbler
  • Red-naped sapsucker
  • Rufous hummingbird
  • Brant goose
  • Black swift

*An excellent blog post from Lost Magazine written by Wayne Grady – The Extinction of Vancouver’s Crested Mynahs 

BC Rare Bird Alert Hotlines

Vancouver (604) 737-3074 – Victoria (250) 704-2555

British Columbia (BC) is Canada’s westernmost province, bordered by the Pacific Ocean. Bounded by the Yukon and Northwest Territories on the north, the panhandle of Alaska forms about half of the western boundary. On the east, B.C. is bordered by Alberta, and to the south the US states of Washington, Idaho and Montana.

Where the Pacific Ocean reaches the continent, it meets a chain of islands running from north to south known as the Inside Passage. This passage extends from the Juan de Fuca Strait at the southern end of Vancouver Island, north to Prince Rupert and up to Alaska. The rugged coastline includes deep, mountainous fjords and about 6,000 islands, many of them uninhabited.

Much of the western part of Vancouver Island and the rest of the coast is covered by temperate rain forest. This region is one of a mere handful of such temperate rain forest ecosystems in the world.

The BC Interior changes dramatically from north to south. In the extreme northeast a small corner is an extension of the Great Plains. The Cariboo plateau is a series of high plateaus and rolling ranchland, while the southern Okanagan interior is made up of fertile valleys that produce fruits and vegetables. The far south of the province is a small section of arid desert.

Sixty percent of the province is forested, about 5% is arable, and 75% is mountainous. From the Pacific Coast to the arid interior to the high mountain ranges, bird watching in British Columbia offers a myriad of opportunities.

BC Web Links

BC Winter Birding List

Federation of BC Naturalists

Where Do You Want To Go Birding in BC?

Birding Pal British Columbia

BC Breeding Bird Atlas

Vancouver Avian Research Centre

Raincoast Conservation Foundation

Do you want to know what’s been seen, and where? Connect with other birders on a mailing list!

BC Interior Bird List

Birding Vancouver Island

31 Responses to Birds of British Columbia

  1. Pat Bumstead says:

    Great blue herons are found as far north as Alaska along the coast, and have been reported in Fort St John, Grande Prairie and Wood Buffalo National Park. They are fairly common throughout their range, but still make for a spectacular sighting when you see them in the boreal forest!

  2. Doug Bryant says:

    My wife and I were kayaking north of Prince George this weekend and came across a Great Blue Heron. then a little further down the river we came across three and a nest. There are the first we’ve seen this far north. Are the common here?

  3. Pat Bumstead says:

    I’m thinking it might be a House Finch, as they are fairly comfortable around people and likely to land on a balcony. You can check them out here http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/House_finch/id

  4. June Neale says:

    I live in Victoria BC overlooking water. We are inundated by gulls. I have heard robins but a small bird landed on our balcony and it had a red breast and red on its head, almost in stripes. Reminded me of an English Chaffinch. Can you help.? Many thanks

  5. Pat Bumstead says:

    I don’t know about your swallows, but I noticed the same thing with many birds here in southern Alberta. The lateness of the spring this year has meant they were all in a rush to get to their breeding grounds when they finally got back. Instead of staying around here for a few weeks, most of the migrating birds in my yard stayed only a few days.

  6. Diana Leeming says:

    Hi The swallows returned to my area ( residential Victoria B.C. ) about a week ago. They stayed about 3 days but seem to have disappeared. The last 2 or 3 years when they arrive they stay for 3 weeks or so before moving on. I am worried about these beautiful birds…any thoughts? Many thanks Diana

  7. Pat Bumstead says:

    Ack! I can’t believe I did that – I know better. My embarrassing boo boo now fixed, thanks to you for pointing it out.

  8. Anne Murray says:

    Nice website. One thing: BC’s provincial bird is the Steller’s Jay, named after naturalist Georg Steller, not Stellar, meaning star-like.
    Cheers

  9. Pat Bumstead says:

    In that area if they weren’t either of the two species you mention, I would guess either golden eagles or turkey vultures. The vultures have red heads, which makes them easy to ID if you could see them up in the canopy. Good area for golden eagles as well.

  10. Jeff McDonald says:

    I saw two very large birds yesterday in Chekamus Canyon just south of Whistler, and i’m wondering what they might have been, they weren’t Bald Eagles or Osprey.
    I was quite close to them when i noticed them in the canopy of the trees, they were a dark brown, and must have been aprox 1.5m wingspan.

  11. Pat Bumstead says:

    Sounds like it might be a northern flicker feather. I have one here that sounds exactly like that, and I know it came from a flicker.

  12. Scott Frizzell says:

    Hello I found some feather while hiking. Can you help identify them. Orange spine. Feather Black on one side and half black half orange on the othe side.8-13 cm long. Thanks you very much. I can send a photo if you like. Scott

  13. Pat says:

    Sorry but I don’t think I can help. It might be a juvenile robin, as they come in a variety of speckled plumages, but without a photo or more details, I can’t really say.

  14. Gary Fiegehen says:

    Can you id a bird about the size of a robin(a little smaller). Orange breast, white speckles on wings and some white tail feathers.
    Thanks. Gary

  15. Pat says:

    I’m going to take a guess that you’re talking about tree swallows. These birds are efficient insect eaters, and capture them out of the air during a diving, swooping, turning flight. If you can see them when they’re sitting still, they look like your description. Check http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Tree_Swallow/id to see if that’s what you have. If that’s not your bird, just let me know.

  16. Shay says:

    Hi,
    I live a few hours north of Campbell River on Vancouver Island and I have a flock of about 16 or so birds flying around my house every spring. I’ve looked on every bird website I could find, but I still don’t know what they are.

    The birds are small, black with white bellies with a bluish sheen on their feathers. I thought they were sparrows at first but some books proved me wrong. Can you help?

  17. Monica says:

    Thanks Pat – I’m looking forward to it! We’ve been really lucky in the past with how many birds we do get in the yard. My usual feathered friends to the feeder include White & Red breasted nuthatches, Hairy & downey woodpeckers, Boreal & black capped chickadees, purple finches, junco’s, red wing blackbirds and of course Evening, Pine & rose breasted grosbeaks. Other visitors to the yard include Robins, Pileated woodpecker, Western Tanagers, hummingbirds and spruce grouse. We’re not that far north from GP – on the long / lat scale, we’re actually further south than Fairview.

  18. Pat says:

    Well, that’s really interesting. I’m from Grande Prairie, and I had no idea these doves had made it that far north. I did a post on that species last year you can read at http://www.birdcanada.com/2010/03/wednesday-wings-eurasian-collared-doves/ – I guess they really cover the continent now. If you have one dove, you should have more in the next year or so!

  19. Monica says:

    We’re located on the Alaska Hwy about 20 miles from Dawson Creek, BC. We had the most wonderful visitor today – an Eurasian Collared Dove. I’ve never seen one this far north before, is it becoming a more common thing or did this little guy just take a wrong turn?

  20. Pat says:

    Sorry Steve, I don’t know anything about hummingbird moths, other than the fact they are very impressive insects!

  21. Thanks Pat. He seems to be living on the property, so no need to try and keep him around. Do you know anything about Humming Moths? I saw one the other day and I am reading that they’re not usually from this area. We are in the West Kootenays of British Columbia, in Kaslo.

  22. Pat says:

    Sorry I have no idea what these might have been. Hummingbirds are the only ones that can hover for any length of time, but many species can hover for a few seconds. Hummers don’t travel in groups either. If anyone reading the blog has an idea of what these might have been, please leave a comment!

  23. Pat says:

    Pileated woodpeckers are always a thrilling sight. They’re year round residents in forests with large trees, and not uncommon in the right habitat. They’re insect eaters though, eating primarily carpenter ants and wood-boring beetle larvae they dig out of the bark. Not a feeder bird, but Canada’s largest woodpecker is always a wonderful visitor!

  24. Just spent ten minutes watching a beautiful Pileated Woodpecker!!! They’re beautiful, I don’t know how rare they are, but that’s the first I’ve seen. It was right on our property at Wing Creek just north of Kaslo, BC. How common are they in this area? Is this the kind of bird I would like to feed or can they be destructive?

  25. Sandy says:

    Hi

    Today we saw some bird probably more than a dozen who hovered. The were too small to be house sparrows and seemed bigger than hummingbirds. They were in leafy trees by the water on Malcolm Island off North Vancouver Island. We couldn’t see their beaks. Very quick as they moved about. We do have hummingbirds here but I didn’t think that they traveled in groups. Any ideas about small hovering birds?

  26. Pat says:

    I imagine they were Sandhill Cranes. They migrate this time of year and are usually found in large flocks. Sandhills are brownish/greyish birds about 45″ high. It wouldn’t be unusual to see them in that area. Cool sighting though! See http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Sandhill_Crane/lifehistory for more information and some pictures.

  27. AlisonPhilp says:

    Hello;
    We were driving down from Prince George 2 days ago and in a field just North of Williams Lake there was a flock of Canada Geese, but along with the geese there were about 30 tall ‘heron like’ birds. We have lots of Great Blue Herons on Vancouver Island but I didn’t think they migrated in flocks and these birds looked taller but stood very upright like herons. I wish we had stopped to take a picture because I have been unable to identify the birds from any books or websites. Any ideas?

  28. Pat says:

    Although I don’t know for sure, I would guess that your bird is actually a house sparrow. They can hover for short periods, and have been seen doing just that to pick insects off window edges.

  29. Brent Galick says:

    Hello there, I was wondering if you can identify a bird for me. It is sparrow sized and can hover in mid air like a hummingbird. What it ate was spiders outside my window at my workplace.
    Can you help identify please?
    Thanks Brent

  30. Pat says:

    I have changed the RBA phone number on my Birding BC page to your new one – thanks for letting me know!

  31. VNHS has transferred the RBA to a new voicemail system. The new number is 250-704-2555, and is active now. As of February 1, the old number will be a thing of the past. Please update your speed dial numbers, directories, web pages and address books!

    Ann Nightingale
    Victoria, BC

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