Get up close with birds and learn all about them and their habitats on the BC Bird Trail! There are currently several educational rehabilitation centres and organizations focused on providing opportunities to learn about the importance of BC birds and the ecosystems that surround them.
Perfect for kids, families, or anyone wishing to expand their knowledge of nature, here’s a closer look at some stops on the BC Bird Trail that can help you be more informed and appreciative of BC’s natural splendour and all that inhabit it.
Central Vancouver Island
North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre (NIWRA) is located in Errington, near Coombs and Parksville Qualicum Beach. Primarily a rehabilitation centre with several resident (non-releasable) birds and other animals (like black bears), NIWRA’s resident birds provide up-close learning opportunities for visitors through a wide range of activities.
They have a Museum of Nature showcasing the animals of Vancouver Island, an interactive Learning Centre, beautiful enclosures to get close to more than 60 resident animals, a native wildlife garden, and bird watching spots and ponds full of activity. Make your visit extra special by booking guided tours for your group/organization (currently unavailable during COVID-19).
The Raptors is a rehabilitation and education centre primarily focused on birds of prey from Vancouver Island. Located in North Cowichan, The Raptors’ team is composed of biologists and falconers who help care for the birds and provide interactive experiences showcasing the critical role birds of prey play in maintaining the delicate ecological balance of the planet.
Admission fees include checking out the birds on display in their areas, as well as the flying demonstrations of various native and non-native species, including American kestrels, peregrine falcons, bald eagles, golden eagles, spectacled owls, and more. You can also participate in hands-on experiences, such as a Hawk Walk where you walk through the trails and have a hawk land on your arm, or a multi-hour (and even multi-day) course that teaches you all about the birds, their care, and basics of falconry.
Learn more about the educational experiences offered by The Raptors and their resident birds.
Next to Boundary Bay Airport in Delta, Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (OWL) is a registered non-profit organization whose staff and volunteers are dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of injured and orphaned raptors and to educating the public on their conservation and importance. Meet the resident raptors on-site through 30-60 minute guided tours (by donation). Currently, tours are only on weekends and you must register online prior to attending.
If you want a totally virtual experience, you can register for online programs to learn about the amazing species of raptors that call British Columbia home, the dangers they face, and how you can help them and other wildlife.
OWL is also close to the 72nd Street access to the Boundary Bay dyke trail, a great location for birding before or after you visit.
The Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve in Chilliwack is an amazing place to observe a large heron colony during nesting and breeding season, typically from March to July. The herons return every year and there are typically around 95 active nests during the breeding season, so a visit during this time is likely to see the area full of activity. There is also a great trail network throughout the cottonwood trees with an observation tower to get a bird’s eye view of the surroundings and three bird blinds that make it easier to observe all the other birds that frequent the area.
Their Rotary Interpretive Centre has wildlife displays and volunteers readily available to offer insights and learning opportunities about the herons and the surrounding marsh and swamp habitat. Occasionally they also host free community events, as well as some paid events, like nature art classes or weekly yoga programs that take place in the nature reserve.
Learn more about the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve, all the educational programs they provide, and how you can help support their work.
For more BC nature learning and exploration opportunities, you can also check out the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre on the Central Vancouver Island Bird Trail for hands-on interpretive learning about birds and all the other flora and fauna that inhabit the estuary.
Check out the BC Bird Trail page to see our self-guided itineraries for more places of interest and educational opportunities like these.