Important Bird Area

The Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre is an interpretive centre overlooking the Cowichan Estuary, a 400 hectare estuarine ecosystem and internationally designated Important Bird Area (IBA) in the unceded and traditional territory of the Hul’q’umi’num’ speaking Quw’utsun eople.


Pacific Great Blue Heron Population and Monitoring, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, 2013 – 2015, including our own Cowichan Bay herons.

Did you know that we have the largest heron rookery on Vancouver Island right here in the estuary? Click here to visit our live heron-cam and learn more about these majestic birds!

Coastal Waterbird Survey

Join the Coastal Waterbird Survey and learn how to identify local birds.  Everyone is welcome!


The Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre participates in the Bird Studies Canada Coastal Waterbird Survey.  On the second Sunday of each month, at or near high tide, teams of volunteers spot, identify, and count waterbirds on a measured section of Cowichan Bay shoreline.

Skilled and experienced birders lead the count, but everyone is welcome to come along.  It is a great opportunity to learn more about the birds in the estuary and hone your birding skills.  Bring binoculars and dress for the weather.  Counts take place on the second Sunday of each month, with the time being determined by the time of high tide.  Check the Coming Events page for the date and time of the next Coastal Waterbird Count.

Hecate Park Bird List

Since the Nature Centre opened in April 2012, these birds have been seen and identified by observers in Hecate Park — the boat launch to the Nature Centre to the Viewing Tower to the Kayak Park.  If you see any birds that are not on the list, tell us about it using the contact form. 

The ID numbers are from the Checklist of the American Birding Association.  The scientific names are very useful if you want to look up the birds on the internet.  Special thanks to Derrick Marvin, Genevieve Singleton, and Brian Thompson who contributed many of these sightings, and to Ian Cruickshank for a Hutton’s Vireo.

ID CommonName ScientificName
14 Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii
15 Canada Goose Branta canadensis
16 Mute Swan Cygnus olor
17 Trumpeter Swan Cygnus buccinator
25 American Wigeon Anas americana
27 Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
34 Northern Pintail Anas acuta
37 Green-winged Teal Anas crecca
43 Greater Scaup Aythya marila
44 Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis
51 Surf Scoter Melanitta perspicillata
52 White-winged Scoter Melanitta fusca
55 Bufflehead Bucephala albeola
56 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula
57 Barrow’s Goldeneye Bucephala islandica
59 Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus
60 Common Merganser Mergus merganser
91 Common Loon Gavia immer
95 Horned Grebe Podiceps auritus
96 Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena
166 Brandt’s Cormorant Phalacrocorax penicillatus
168 Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus
179 Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
201 Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
203 Osprey Pandion haliaetus
210 Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus
228 Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
262 Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus
265 Killdeer Charadrius vociferus
270 Black Oystercatcher Haematopus bachmani
318 Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos
357 Mew Gull Larus canus
358 Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis
359 Western Gull Larus occidentalis
368 Glaucous-winged Gull Larus glaucescens
380 Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia
420 Rock Pigeon Columba livia
427 Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto
498 Anna’s Hummingbird Calypte anna
502 Rufous Hummingbird Selasphorus rufus
516 Belted Kingfisher Megaceryle alcyon
529 Red-breasted Sapsucker Sphyrapicus ruber
542 Pileated Woodpecker Dryocopus pileatus
625 Hutton’s Vireo Vireo huttoni
647 Northwestern Crow Corvus caurinus
651 Common Raven Corvus corax
654 Purple Martin Progne subis
659 Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor
661 Violet-green Swallow Tachycineta thalassina
667 Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
673 Chestnut-backed Chickadee Poecile rufescens
705 Golden-crowned Kinglet Regulus satrapa
706 Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula
754 American Robin Turdus migratorius
756 Varied Thrush Ixoreus naevius
770 European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
784 Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedrorum
806 Orange-crowned Warbler Oreothlypis celata
827 Yellow Warbler Setophaga petechia
858 Spotted Towhee Pipilo maculatus
881 Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis
889 Fox Sparrow Passerella iliaca
890 Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia
896 Golden-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia atricapilla
897 Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis
911 Western Tanager Piranga ludoviciana
927 Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
940 Brown-headed Cowbird Molothrus ater
960 Purple Finch Haemorhous purpureus
962 House Finch Haemorhous mexicanus
963 Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra
968 Pine Siskin Spinus pinus
971 American Goldfinch Spinus tristis
975 House Sparrow Passer domesticus

bird list