The traditional land of the Coast Salish people including the Quw’utsun, Halalt, Stz’uminus, Snuneymuxw, Snaw-naw-as, K’ómoks, and Qualicum First Nations

A short drive from Victoria or serene ferry sailing from Vancouver, Central Vancouver Island is home to diverse ocean, estuary, riverside, marshland, forest, and alpine habitats – a wide variety of birding hot spots, all nestled safely along the Strait of Georgia.

Never far from farm-fresh dining and locally-roasted coffee, birders can plan a route exploring the region’s diverse communities, independently-owned businesses, and world-class birding opportunities that make up the Central Vancouver Island Trail.

These community itineraries work their way through several unique coastal communities. Ramble through the long farm roads of Cowichan, and the Harbour City of Nanaimo. Further North, Parksville Qualicum Beach is home to the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region – and some of the most breathtaking natural vistas on Vancouver Island.

Central Vancouver Island’s small-town charm and slow-paced lifestyle provide ample opportunities to relax and rejuvenate, embracing the fresh air and natural mystic of Canada’s west coast.

Spring birding in Central Vancouver Island

The arrival of spring means the arrival of Brant geese – guests to the island and stars of the annual Brant Wildlife Festival in Parksville. Scanning the open water, you could find three local scoters (surf, white-winged, and black), colourful harlequin ducks, or a Western Canadian icon, the Pacific loon.

Summer birding in Central Vancouver Island

Summer is an exciting season full of energetic birds around Central Vancouver Island. From the lively killdeer and black oystercatchers on the shoreline, to the feisty rufous hummingbirds that visit the area (and its feeders), there’s a lot of action to be seen. You might come across some skittish California Quail, possibly with a trail of tiny youngsters running in a line behind them. Look up, watch for the large turkey vultures soaring in the warm air, assembling into circling flocks of dozens – or hundreds! – of birds before they migrate south at the end of the season. You’ll also probably befriend some curious Steller’s jays, BC’s provincial bird – especially if you’re anywhere around a campground.

Fall birding in Central Vancouver Island

Fall brings migration and the herring run to Central Vancouver Island. In addition to the changes-every-week sightings you’ll see here on the Pacific Flyway, catch gulls such as mew and Iceland enjoying the plentiful herring. A bit off-shore, the waterbirds start to show up in droves. Auks like the common murre or marbled murrelet dot the open water, and you might even get to see long-tailed ducks, possibly the most majestic waterfowl around.

Winter birding in Central Vancouver Island

The cooler weather doesn’t mean the birds all disappear – quite the opposite! Seabirds are plentiful, with loons, scoters, and auks off the coast, often visible from shore. You’ll most definitely come across the bufflehead, small ducks that return to the shoreline like clockwork each winter. Large, graceful trumpeter swans can be found in freshwater in the area. A bird you’ll hear before seeing is the golden-crowned sparrow, a bird always looking for an audience. One special treat is finding a northern shrike – an adorable bird at a glance that is actually a predatory songbird.