The coast erupts with bird life in early spring as migrations return from a winter away. The Gulf Islands, Vancouver Island Passage, and Haida Gwaii all experience an incredible influx of marine birds who’ve come to the coast to nest and feed throughout the plentiful months of spring and summer. Approximately 6 million individual birds from 15 different species of birds are known to breed on BC’s coast. This makes for remarkable sightings of bird life.
Located on the Pacific Fly Way the coast of BC and Alaska lies along an important migratory path north to the Arctic. Striking horned and tufted puffins are some of these migratory species, found in Haida Gwaii and Alaska. These close cousin to the rhinoceros auklet thrive in the marine environment, feeding on small fish from the sea and nesting on rocky islets in highly exposed areas.
Shorelines, old growth forests, rocky bluffs, and islets all provide important shelter and nesting habitat for a great diversity of sea birds. Oystercatchers, with long carrot like beaks, can always be placed by their squeaking calls as they protect the ground nests placed atop small rocky islets. Harlequin ducks, surf scooters, common murres, pigeon gulliemonts, and cassin’s auklet can all be found floating on the waters surface awaiting the next moment to dive beneath for a fishy meal. Prior to flight and after a swim, cormorants are found perched on bluffs displaying their wings, in an effort to dry their feathers due to a lack natural oils that wick away water.
Bird life is everywhere. The millions of migratory birds that return each season is a testament to the coasts rich productivity as it supports a multitude of species. The food sources being so great in the sea that species, such as the marbled murrelet, even compromise their ability to fly to adapt wings adequate for swimming! It is a remarkable sight to come across flocks of these marine birds while at sea. The whistling sound from the wing beats of a hundred surf scooters is unforgettable.