Where to watch birds and wildlife in
BRITISH COLUMBIA, WESTERN CANADA
- Grizzly Bears fishing for salmon, viewable from raised platforms
- The greatest concentration of Killer Whales in the world, viewable from
shore, boat and kayak
- And Black Bear, 'Spirit Bear' and Humpback Whale
- As well as some of North America's and the world's most spectacular birds
including Bald Eagle, Mountain Bluebird and Varied Thrush
- All in scenic coastal waters, temperate rainforest and mountains
- The part of British Columbia covered in this destination is not far from the
scenic Rocky Mountains in Alberta, particularly in Banff
and Jasper National Parks, where it is possible to see Wolf and Black Bear, as well as some spectacular
birds such as Harlequin Duck.
Best Birds and other wildlife in British Columbia, Western Canada
Barrow's Goldeneye, Bald Eagle, Mountain Bluebird, Varied Thrush and
Clark's Nutcracker, as well as Surf Scoter, Golden Eagle, American Black Oystercatcher, Long-billed Curlew, Black
Turnstone, Wilson's Phalarope, Heermann's Gull, Pigeon Guillemot, Marbled Murrelet, Cassin's and Rhinoceros Auklets,
White-throated Swift, Anna's, Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds, Belted Kingfisher, Red-breasted, Red-naped
and Williamson's Sapsuckers, Grey and Steller's Jays, Western Bluebird, Black-throated Grey and Townsend's Warblers,
Western Tanager, Lazuli Bunting and Bobolink. Also a chance of Asian waterbirds and shorebirds very rare
in North America amongst the tens of thousands which migrate through the Vancouver area in September,
Harlequin Duck, Sandhill Crane, Tufted Puffin (May), Spotted, Barred, Northern Pygmy, Great Horned and
Flammulated Owls, Lewis's Woodpecker, and Pine and Evening Grosbeaks.
Grizzly (Brown) Bear (mostly mid-Aug to mid-Oct), Black Bear
(including the white form known as 'Spirit Bear' (mostly Sep)), Killer (mostly Jul-Aug), Humpback
(mostly Jul-Sep) and Grey (mostly May) Whales, Pacific White-sided Dolphin, Dall's Porpoise, Sea Otter,
Steller's Sealion. Also a chance of Moose and American Beaver.
Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
Six-gilled Shark (Vancouver area, May-June,
Best Sites for Birds and other wildlife in British Columbia, Western Canada
Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo Ferry Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants, Rhinocerous Auklet,
Marbled Murrelet and Pigeon Guillemot.
- Vancouver City Area
- Ambleside Park A chance of Harlequin Duck offshore.
- Lighthouse Park American Black Oystercatcher, Rufous Hummingbird, Red-breasted
Sapsucker, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Black-throated Grey and Townsend's Warblers, and Western Tanager.
- Stanley Park, George C Reifel MBS and Boundary Bay Migrating waterbirds and
shorebirds, Harlequin and Wood Ducks, Sandhill Crane and Varied Thrush. Also a chance of Barred Owl.
- Cypress Provincial Park Rufous Hummingbird, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Hermit and
Varied Thrushes, Olive-sided and Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Cassin’s Vireo, MacGillivray's Warbler, Western
Tanager and Black-headed Grosbeak. Also a chance of Blue (Sooty) Grouse and Black Swift.
- San Juan Islands, between Vancouver City and Vancouver Island, in Washington State, USA
Killer Whale (mostly Haro Strait).
- Vancouver Island
- Long Beach Black Oystercatcher, Hammond’s Flycatcher, MacGillivray’s Warbler and
- Esquimalt Lagoon, Martindale Flats, Swan Lake, Clover Point or Metchosin, Victoria Anna’s
Hummingbird, Hutton’s Vireo and Black-throated Gray Warbler, as well as Cooper’s Hawk (suburban Victoria has the highest
density of Cooper’s Hawks in North America).
- Tofino/Ucluelet Boat trips for Killer, Humpback and Grey Whales, Sea Otter, Bald Eagle,
Marbled Murrelet, and Cassin's and Rhinoceros Auklets. Also a chance of Black Bear and Tufted Puffin (May).
- Tofino Pelagics to the deepwater Clayoquot Canyon Black-footed Albatross, Pink-footed
and Sooty Shearwaters, Fork-tailed Storm Petrel, Brandt’s Cormorant, Red-necked Phalarope, Tufted Puffin, and Ancient
and Marbled Murrelets, as well as Grey and Humpback Whales, Pacific White-sided Dolphin, Dall’s Porpoise, Sea Otter,
Northern Fur Seal and Steller’s Sealion. Also a chance of Short-tailed Albatross, Sabine’s Gull, South Polar Skua and
- Zeballos Boat trips for Sea Otter. Also a chance of Black Bear and American
- Johnstone Strait Boat Trips The greatest concentration of Killer Whales in the world,
Pacific White-sided Dolphin, Dall's Porpoise, Grizzly Bear, Bald Eagle, Marbled Murrelet and Rhinoceros Auklet. Also a
chance of Humpback and Grey Whales, all on boat trips from Telegraph Cove near Port McNeill, where some companies run
sea kayaking tours on which it is possible to see Killer Whales.
- Stamp Falls spawning Chinook and Coho Salmon trying to ‘jump’ the falls (in September).
- Remote mainland opposite Vancouver Island
- Orford River Valley/Bute Inlet Grizzly Bears fishing for salmon (viewable from viewing
platforms accessible via all-day boat trips from Campbell River on Vancouver Island).
- Great Bear (floating) Lodge Grizzly Bears fishing for salmon, Black Bear and Bald Eagle
(accessible via float-plane from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island).
- Knight Inlet floating lodge/Glendale Cove Grizzly Bears fishing for salmon, Black Bear and Bald Eagle
(accessible via float-plane from Campbell River on Vancouver Island).
- King Pacific Lodge (Princess Royal Island) 'Spirit' (Black) Bear. Also a
chance of Killer and Humpback Whales, Pacific White-sided Dolphin and Dall's Porpoise (accessible from Vancouver via
turbo-prop aircraft to Bella Bella then 'Sikorsky' helicopter to the lodge).
- West Coast
- Queen Charlotte Islands Humpback Whale and Pacific White-sided Dolphin.
Also a chance of Killer Whale.
- Remote Interior
- Tweedsmuir Park Lodge Close-up, eye-level Grizzly Bears.
- Inland east of Vancouver City
- Manning Provincial Park, Cascade Mountains Clark's Nutcracker, Rufous Hummingbird, Red-naped
Sapsucker, Grey Jay, Boreal Chickadee, and Townsend's and MacGillivray's Warblers. Also a chance of Spruce Grouse, Barred,
Spotted and Northern Pygmy Owls, Black Swift and Pine Grosbeak.
- Osoyoos/Okanagan Area Bald and Golden Eagles, Mountain and Western Bluebirds,
Long-billed Curlew, Wilson's Phalarope, Black-chinned, Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Pygmy
Nuthatch, Canyon and Rock Wrens (both at Vaseux Lake), Lazuli Bunting, Bobolink, Grasshopper Sparrow and Bighorn Sheep.
Also a chance of Barred and Flammulated Owls, Common Poorwill, Lewis's Woodpecker and Evening Grosbeak.
- Osoyoos to Kelowna Mountain Bluebird, Golden Eagle, White-throated
Swift (Vaseux Lake cliffs), and Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds. Also a chance of Lewis's Woodpecker (Vaseux Lake) and
Evening Grosbeak (Hardy Falls).
- Kelowna Varied Thrush, Calliope Hummingbird, Grey Jay, Townsend's Solitaire and
Western Tanager. Also a chance of Flammulated Owl and Pine Grosbeak.
- Beaver Ranch Flats Red-necked Grebe and Black Tern colony.
- Beaver Lake Road near Winfield Bald Eagle and Lazuli Bunting.
- Winfield Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds, Clark's Nutcracker and Evening Grosbeak all
possible in gardens.
- Kamloops Bald and Golden Eagles, Mountain Bluebird, Barrow's Goldeneye and
Long-billed Curlew. Also a chance of Lewis's Woodpecker.
Best Times for Birds and other wildlife in British Columbia, Western Canada
The best times for Grizzly Bears are May-June when they feed mainly on plants, and especially mid-August
to mid-October when they fish for salmon, with the highest numbers likely to be fishing toward the end
of the season when they need to fatten up before hibernation. September is also the peak time to look for
'Spirit Bears' but July-August is when Killer Whale numbers usually reach their highest, when the regularly
seen pods are joined by those following the salmon runs.
The best time to look for birds in 'spring' is early June, the breeding season is usually at a peak in mid-July and
the top time in late summer/autumn/fall for migrating waterbirds and shorebirds in the Vancouver area is September.
Recommended Bird Books etc. for British Columbia, Western Canada
Mammals of North America by R W Kays and D E Wilson. PUP, 2009 (Second Edition).
Mammals of North America by F A Reid. Peterson North American Field Guides, 2006 (Fourth Edition).
Peterson Field Guide to Finding Mammals in North America by V Dinets. Houghton Mifflin, 2015.
Field Guide to the Birds of North America edited by J Dunn and J Alderfer. NGS, 2011 (Sixth Edition).
Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America by K Kaufman. Houghton Mifflin, 2005.
The North American Bird Guide by D Sibley. Helm, 2014 (Second Edition).
A Birder's Guide to British Columbia by K Taylor. Steller Press Ltd, 1998 (Second Edition).
Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America by J Brock and K Kaufman. Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
National Geographic Birds: Field Guide to North America.
The Sibley eGuide to the Birds of North America.
Peterson Birds of North America.
Audubon Birds - A Field Guide to North American Birds.
iBird Ultimate Guide to Birds.
Birding and Wildlife Trip Reports for British Columbia, Western Canada
Many trip reports, some for Western Canada, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these
websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to
Western Canada. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites,
which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Western Canada' below.
Local bird and wildlife guides in British Columbia, Western Canada
The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders.
Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are
the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional
skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently,
employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the
wildlife you wish to see.
- Tide Rip Grizzly Tours
- For 18 years Tide Rip Grizzly Tours has been guiding grizzly bear tours into Knight Inlet. Early daily departures from Telegraph Cove, the original
orca whale hotspot on northern Vancouver Island. We had a 97% sighting rate for grizzly bears in 2016. Lunch included amidst the splendour of Knight
Accommodation for birders in British Columbia, Western Canada
Some Organized Tours for Birds and other wildlife to British Columbia, Western Canada
There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other
wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably
according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours
last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an
important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals
and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and
transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where
the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the
cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local
transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and
that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those
which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously
lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit.
Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are
certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are
the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional
skills of the local guides they employ.
While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom
tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set
itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes,
whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made
attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are
also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds
or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best
sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the
pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit
people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of
strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small
groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with
a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the
price quoted for a set tour.
Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Western Canada
include the following.