Columbia Wetlands Waterbird Survey

Our first year of the Columbia Wetlands Waterbird Survey was a great success with participation from over 50 citizen scientists in 2015! Over 14,000 individual birds were counted during the spring migration surveys and nearly 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 took place on April 3rd, 10th and 16th from 8-11am.  Fall survey dates TBA.

The Columbia Wetlands Waterbird Survey (CWWS) is a project that uses extraordinary citizens to gather important scientific data that is currently lacking. There are many important outcomes of the CWWS, including long-lasting community benefits and scientific contributions.  Beyond data collection, this community-based project also aims to enhance and preserve the biodiversity and important habitat of the Wetlands through increased awareness (e.g. school-aged education programs) of its ecological significance.

It is our hope that this data will also result in the Columbia Wetlands being designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA).


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.  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 can influence land-use planning and decision-making; it allows for the collection of baseline data and it can increase tourism around birding.

children birdwatchingThe CWWS program has many additional positive impacts :

  • We offer and promote wetland and bird education programs including fieldtrips
  • Contributes to assessing long-term population trends and distribution patterns for species-at-risk
  • Helps fulfill Ramsar and Wildlife Management Area 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 we aim to develop educational opportunities for university students
  • We are investigating possible locations for Columbia Wetlands birding infrastructure, e.g. bird blinds, board walk, Interpretive Centre
  • Before further conservation actions are recommended and/or implemented for the Columbia Wetlands, gathering baseline data on waterbirds is required to determine their distribution, abundance and/or population trends and to determine the most critical habitat areas for waterbirds
  • Forming partnerships and collaborations with other birding and wetland organizations
  • Additionally, the 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 an 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 Biologist – 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.

To read the new magazine article in PHOTONews Magazine featuring CWWS click here.

This program is supported by: Bird Studies Canada, Wildlife Habitat 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.

This program is funded by:





Ring-necked duck image.  Photo Credit: Brent Wellander at


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