Columbia Wetlands Waterbird Survey

Our first year of the Columbia Wetlands Waterbird Survey was a great success with participation from over 50 citizen scientists! Over 14,000 individual birds were counted during the spring migration surveys and over 40,000 individual birds were counted during the fall migration surveys! 43 high school students participated in fall migration surveys and 133 elementary students participated in outdoor birding field trips. Thank you to all the committed and hard-working volunteers!

Spring 2016 survey dates are set for April 3rd, 10th and 16th from 8-11am!

A new map highlighting our survey sites can be downloaded here. This map was created by Selkirk College Geospatial Research Centre, an opportunity made available through the Columbia Basin Watershed Network. For a full resolution image, email to request.

The Columbia Wetlands Waterbird Survey (CWWS) is a project that uses extraordinary citizens to gather important scientific data. It is our hope that this data will result in the Columbia Wetlands being designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA). Beyond data collection, this community-based project also aims to enhance and preserve the biodiversity and important habitat of the Wetlands through increased awareness (education programs) of it ecological significance.


Important Bird Areas hold significant conservation value for the habitat they provide to birds. The goal of the IBA Program is to identify, monitor and protect the most vital areas of bird habitat in Canada so that conservation action can be directed in the most effective way possible.
There are nearly 600 IBAs across Canada that provide habitat for threatened birds or large groups of birds. Canada’s IBAs are part of a global system of more than 10,000 sites worldwide, which gives them a conservation currency that transcends borders and promotes international collaboration for protecting the world’s birds.

Designation as an IBA has profound benefits: it encourages the completion of other legal conservation designations; it influences land-use planning and decision-making; it allows for the collection of baseline data and can increase tourism around birding.

Although the Columbia Wetlands are widely recognized as providing important habitat, there is currently a lack of bird data available on the Wetlands to demonstrate that one or more bird species meet the standard IBA criteria. Much of the data available on the Columbia Wetlands is extremely dated. A recent application to nominate the Wetlands as an IBA was unsuccessful due to this lack of data. Monitoring Waterbird populations would enable for the collection of the baseline data so crucial for IBA status. With this additional data, both Nature BC (IBA program coordinators) & Canadian Wildlife Service have indicated IBA designation for the CW is likely.

children birdwatchingThe CWWS program has many additional positive impacts :

  • Contributes to assessing long-term population trends and distribution patterns of target Waterbird species
  • Helps us fulfill our Ramsar responsibilities
  • Connects local residents with the Columbia Wetlands by getting them engaged in citizen science
  • Provides hands-on place based learning opportunities for school-aged children and educational opportunities for university students
  • Offers employment opportunities to help retain local biology and environmental experts
  • Additionally, the Wildsight-Golden CWWS team is monitoring federally threatened Lewis’s Woodpecker in partnership with Canadian Wildlife Service for the northern portion of the East Kootenay region. Monitoring Lewis’s Woodpeckers works towards the overarching goal of the CWWS— achieving IBA for the Columbia Wetlands.

Ready to get involved? We are actively recruiting volunteers for this exciting large-scale, long-term citizen-science initiative. If you would like to volunteer or learn more about the program, please contact:

Rachel Darvill, BSc., MSc.
Program Manager – Columbia Wetlands Waterbird Survey
Ph: 250.344.5530

Download the Waterfowl Identification Guide here.


Spring Survey results: During the 2015 spring surveys (April 24, 29, May 4, 2015), we had 38 participants going to 64 locations throughout the wetland complex to count and identify birds. We recorded nearly 15,000 individual birds, 90 species in just three days (9 hours total)! We also took 133 kids outside for birding field trips to Reflection Lake and provided outreach to hundreds of additional Columbia Valley residents through presentations, training sessions and farmers markets.

This program is funded by:

CBTLOGO_Print_SCALE_col VFlogo-colourRDEK.previewcsrd_logo

This program is supported by: Bird Studies Canada, Canadian Intermountain Joint Venture, BC Provincial Government (FLNRO), Environment Canada Canadian Wildlife Service, Windermere District Farmers Institute, Columbia Basin Watershed Network, Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners, Ducks Unlimited, Lake Windermere Ambassadors, Wings Over the Rockies.


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Want to protect wildlife, clean water and wild spaces? Volunteer with us! Wildsight volunteers are a very special group of people who give generously of their time to stuff envelopes, attend rallies, help run events, put up posters, keep tabs on forestry practices in their communities and participate in citizen science initiatives.