British Columbia is known for its rich and diverse array of native wildlife. From the famous and elusive Kermode bear, often called the Spirit Bear, to the many marine creatures, including whales, orcas, sea otters, and salmon, you’re almost guaranteed to see some wildlife during your visit.
But while many visitors are eager to spot the larger mammals that live in the sea and on land, there’s another spot you’ll want to look while visiting Malcolm Island; the skies. There are more than 500 species of birds native to British Columbia, many of which you might spot during your stay in Sointula. Keep reading to learn a few of the most common and exciting species to spot, and where to watch for them.
This is one bird species that you likely hear before you spot it. The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest species of woodpecker found in North America. And while the woodpecker, like many bird species, have been threatened by the expansion of cities and loss of natural habitat, the Downy Woodpecker is the most common woodpecker species on the continent.
The Downy Woodpecker is most common along the Southernmost coast of British Columbia. In addition to listening for the tell-tale pecking noise, keep your eyes out for the small holes that they bore into the trunks of trees. They aren’t picky about the tree species that they perch on, but tend to stick close to the shore. You can identify this species by their black wings that are speckled with white spots. Their faces are mostly white, with black stripes, and a bright spot of red located on the backside of their heads.
Another species that may be easier to hear than it is to see is the Barred Owl. Like most owl species, this one sends out the easily identifiable “who, who” call. This larger owl species has mottled brown and white feathers on a short, stocky body.
Like most owl species, the Barred Owl is mainly nocturnal, though you might hear them during the day as well. They hunt a variety of types of small rodents. Look for them swooping down in open fields, or perched in trees waiting to spot their prey.
Chestnut Backed Chickadee
Bird species like the Downy Woodpecker and Barred Owl tend to be found in less populated areas, like much of Malcolm Island. But there are also plenty of more common species to watch for, like the Chestnut Backed Chickadee. Found in neighborhoods, cities, and just about everywhere else in British Columbia, this small bird species is no larger than an adult’s fist. They are known for their cheerful chirps, which are especially common to hear during the spring and summer months.
Chestnut Backed Chickadees, as their name suggests, have dark brown heads, with whitestripes on their faces that make them easy to identify. They are sociable, and often found in flocks.
Some native bird species are easier to spot than others; the Anna’s Hummingbird just might be the hardest one to see during your visit. One of the smallest bird species in British Columbia, the Anna’s Hummingbird grows to just a few inches in length. It’s actually not the smallest hummingbird species in the region. That title belongs to the Rufous Hummingbird, though Anna’s Hummingbird is more common.
This resilient species lives in British Columbia all year long, even during the cold winter months. They have bright green and pink feathers, and, like most hummingbird species, flap their wings very quickly as they move from bush to bush and tree to tree.
Perhaps the most easily-recognizable bird species you could spot while visiting British Columbia is the Bald Eagle. While bald eagles are found throughout much of North America, British Columbia is home to one of the largest populations. Bald Eagles are the largest birds found in British Columbia. Females, which are 25 percent larger than males, can reach a wingspan of up to 8 feet.
Bald Eagles are easy to spot for their white heads, which both males and females have. Their bodies are dark, and they have a bright yellow beak. Young bald eagles are covered in mottled brown feathers with white blotches, and lack the white head that the species is known for. Besides watching for these large birds flying high above the water, you can also spot their nests. These oversized nests are usually situated high up in tall trees near the shoreline or along waterways.
Birdwatching on Malcolm Island
Thanks to its open expanses of wilderness and lack of large cities, there are no shortage of places on Malcolm Island to go bird watching. While you’ll no doubt spot birds while on the water or walking and hiking anywhere on the island, one great spot to head to is Bere Point. Here, you can watch for a variety of bird species, as well as bears, deer, and other mammals. This is also the location of the famous whale rubbing beach.
Ready to plan your own bird watching trip to Malcolm Island? Check out our lodging guide to find the perfect basecamp for your next visit.