With its plentiful parks and abundant shoreline, Richmond is an ideal destination for easy-access birding at any time of year. But unlike other regions, the city’s cooler months are actually the best time to enjoy some amazing viewing opportunities––whether you’re a veteran spotter or a curious newbie.
The reason? Richmond is situated on the Pacific Flyway migratory route, which means there’s an ever-changing cavalcade of travelling birds passing through the area from October to spring. And their favourite pit stops are right here, on and around the Fraser River estuary.
Birding used to be a niche pastime, but many more of us have discovered the restorative benefits of slowing down and reconnecting with nature in recent years. Keen to give it a try? Here’s our road-tested guide to where to go and what you’ll see here over the coming months.
Richmond is a hotbed of avian diversity in fall and winter. You can see everything from herons to red-winged blackbirds and from bald eagles to white-crowned sparrows at parks and green spaces here. This excellent list of local birds shows you exactly what you might find on your feather-forward days out.
Be sure to include the shoreline in your excursions. You might encounter gaggles of dunlins, sandpipers, plovers or killdeer––and you can use a free phone app such as Merlin to help you tell them apart. There’s no mistaking one particular visiting bird, though. Watch for the dramatic arrival of huge flocks of snow geese in the region at this time of year.
An ideal destination for first-timers and junior birders, there are 200 acres of lush habitat plus several well-marked trails to explore here. You’ll also find the excellent (and free-entry) Nature House, an interpretive centre that profiles the region’s wild side with fascinating displays and kid-friendly exhibits.
A few steps away, get your camera ready for what may be Richmond’s easiest birding opportunity: syrup feeders that are continually visited by Anna’s hummingbirds, and well-stocked seed feeders that serve an ever-changing array of larger birds. On our visits, we’ve seen juncos, treecreepers, spotted towhees, downy woodpeckers and much more here.
If the Nature Park is your starter, Iona should be the main course. This slender landmass is home to a surprising diversity of habitats including sand dunes, dense woodland, wetland areas and estuary shorelines. That means there’s often an eye-popping variety of birds to see––which is why experienced spotters and savvy beginners have been flocking here for decades.
On our most recent visit, we saw gadwalls, pied-billed grebes and some northern shovelers––their long, spoon-shaped bills giving them an almost cartoonish quality. We even saw a pair of Cooper’s hawks battling talon-to-talon in mid-air. The spine-tingling highlight, though, was a northern harrier, which swooped gracefully along the shoreline, diving up and down in search of prey.
This shoreline peninsula park on the western edge of Steveston Village is a small but surprisingly effective bird magnet. We’ve often seen large flocks of snow geese screeching in to land here at this time of year. The park’s Scotch Pond area is also frequently busy with feathered critters such as American robins, black-capped chickadees and even a belted kingfisher or two.
But if you follow the park’s perimeter trail to its most westerly––and wilder–– waterfront, you’ll often see (and hear) clusters of energetic little shorebirds on the muddy banks. Expect dunlins or greater yellowlegs at this time of year (we even spotted a Wilson’s warbler among the reeds). And it’s almost impossible not to see a heron here, darting its bill into the water and emerging with a wriggling fish.
One of the city’s most popular outdoor hangouts, families love the brilliant playground and easy trails at Terra Nova Rural Park. But most birders beeline across the street to the adjoining and utterly amazing 35-acre Natural Area. This carefully preserved environmentally sensitive expanse is surrounded by a perimeter trail that enables you to gaze at the tall trees and the abundant birdlife that lives here.
On our visits, we’ve seen barred owls, bald eagles, sharp-shinned hawks and even bats––plus lots of different ducks noodling through the area’s slender waterways. Bring your binoculars and long-lensed camera here, and consider adding a bird-spotting stroll along the West Dyke Trail that starts right alongside.
Wherever your avian gazing takes you in Richmond, it’s vital to respect the birds you’re looking at. Keep your distance and use the zooming capabilities of your camera or binoculars to get close to the critters without actually getting close to them. If they fly away or seem alarmed, you are too close and you need to step back.
Finally, never let your dog chase birds. And if you’re one of those parents that allow their children to run after wildlife, now is the time to stop that bird-bothering practice––at the same time as teaching your kids how to appreciate and value the natural world.
What to Bring
Fall and winter birding in Richmond requires some advance planning. Dressing in layers is useful––raingear is often essential––but also bring a toque: it can be cold on the shoreline or in dense woodland. Boots are also recommended since many areas will be muddy as the seasons progress. Finally, alongside binoculars and a camera (or camera phone), be sure to record every new bird you see so you can brag about your spotting success when you get back home!
Last Updated on October 20, 2022 by Tourism Richmond