Winter is prime time for spotting majestic eagles near Metro Vancouver

Jan 23 2021, 1:07 am

Please note: As recommended by BC’s provincial health officials, gatherings of any kind and unessential travel in the province is not recommended at this time. Please adhere to COVID-19 health and safety measures, including proper physical distancing and frequent hand washing, and wearing a mask or face-covering in public indoor and retail spaces. If you are sick, please stay home. 

Tired of looking at Metro Vancouver’s infamous crows?

You don’t have to go far to spot another much more majestic bird: the bald eagle.

Winter is the prime season to spot hundreds of eagles across the region.

“Right now, the Fraser River Estuary is one of the best places to look for them. Around the village of Ladner and around Boundary Bay is good,” David Bradley, manager of Bird Studies Canada, tells Daily Hive.

Many eagles congregate on the tall poplar trees near the Vancouver Landfill, but the birds can be seen chasing ducks and shorebirds on the waterfront all along the shoreline.”

Bradley explains the reason eagles are gathering in BC is because of the province’s climate and abundance of food.

“The sea isn’t frozen like in the rest of Canada, which is why they come to BC. They feed on salmon, especially in autumn during salmon runs. During the rest of the winter, they hunt ducks on the shoreline.”

BC’s eagle population hasn’t always been so robust. Bradley explains that it was only 40 years ago that bald eagle numbers collapsed and the species was on the verge of extinction. One of the reasons was the use of DDT pesticides.

“Pesticides affected eggshells, which are very thin and key to poisoning,” explains Bradley. DDT pesticide was officially banned in 1972, and bald eagle numbers have since seen a promising increase.

For mature or experienced bird watchers looking to spot other bird species near Vancouver this winter, Bradley says you’ve got plenty of options.

Bradley notably mentions “flocks of tens of thousands of Dunlin along with thousands of Black-bellied Plovers down at Boundary Bay and on Robert’s Bank (Delta) and Sturgeon Bank (Richmond) at the moment.”

“There are also many thousands of Northern PintailAmerican Wigeon and other ducks, which is what the eagles like to feed on. As long as viewers time their visit to be around high tide, they should see quite a spectacle. At low tide, the birds are spread out and a long way out,” he says.

Before heading out for your next bird-watching adventure, be sure to go over these guidelines for responsible birding in order to respect the environment and natural habitats you’ll be visiting.

The map above details some of the best birding sites across Metro Vancouver. However, due to the BC government’s COVID-19 travel advisory, stay close to your neighbourhood and be sure to follow physical distancing guidelines in parks.

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