Spotted Sandpiper

The Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) is a medium-sized shorebird that is fairly common near both fresh and salt water across BC during summer. Some stay year-round on the South Coast. They are ground nesters and build loose nests out of rocks, sticks and dried vegetation. Like some other shorebirds the parents will fake a broken wing in order to drive predators away from the nest. They are fairly easy to distinguish from other sandpipers, which can be very hard to identify. The adults have dark brown backs and heads and have white chests with spots. They have a white stripe through their eye and an orange-reddish bill.

 

 

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Common Merganser

The Common Merganser (Mergus merganser) is found year-round on the coast and in the Southern Interior. They are found across the rest of BC in summer. They are one of three merganser species found in BC and one of two true mergansers – members of the genus Mergus. They are similar in appearance to the Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) but have a less wispy head crest and the males have a greenish vs. black head. Common Mergansers are usually found in rivers and lakes but sometimes fish in the ocean as well, usually in estuaries. They primarily consume small fishes and often hunt cooperatively by driving fish into the shore as a group. Common Mergansers normally nest in cavities, whereas Red-breasted Mergansers usually nest on the ground.

Bonaparte’s Gull

Bonaparte’s Gulls (Chroicocephalus philadelphia) are seen on the coast and throughout the province during migration in spring on route to their northern breeding grounds and in late-summer/fall when flying to the western and southern US coast and Mexico, where they spend the winter. Some overwinter on the South Coast of BC and some breed in Northern BC where they nest in trees; unlike most other gulls. The adults have dark black heads during the breeding season, orange legs, black wing tips, white chests and grey wings. The head of the juveniles is lighter and often streaked with white. The adults have a white head with a dark spot behind the eye during the non-breeding season. They are often seen in groups, sometimes in the hundreds, and feed on small fishes, crabs and other crustaceans.

Merlin

The Merlin (Falco columbarius) is a small falcon found across most of British Columbia in summer and on the coast and in the Southern Interior year-round. They are dark brown to grey on their back and head. Their chests are lighter and are usually streaky and/or spotted and their tails are often striped.  They mostly eat other birds and are capable of taking down a bird larger than themselves. They are very noisy birds, especially the juveniles, and you will often know one is in the area by hearing their near constant shrieking. They often harass and chase larger raptors, including Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus).

Warbling Vireo

The Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus) is a songbird (also known as a passerine) that breeds in BC during the summer. It is found across the entire province usually in mature deciduous stands, which they prefer to nest and feed in. They tend to live close to water where there is a good source of insects for them to feed on. They are less colourful compared to some other summer breeders but still quite beautiful. They have a light grey back, wings and head and a cream coloured belly, throat and “eyebrow.” Their “warbling” song is very distinctive and gives them their name. To see videos of the chicks being fed click here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BH26UdPBj2c/ and here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BH28aq6hHXs/.

Black Oystercatcher

Black Oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani) are found up and down the BC coast and are rarely found far from the shoreline. They prefer rocky shores and outcroppings but are also sometimes found on sandy beaches and are usually seen in small groups. They primarily consume molluscs, such as mussels, but will also eat crabs and isopods and other marine invertebrates. They nest on the ground in depressions they make out of small rocks and usually have 2-3 offspring in the spring or early summer.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) are found across southern British Columbia during the summer. They have a strong sense of smell that helps them to find carrion (dead animals) and rarely hunt live animals. They ride thermal currents looking and smelling for carcasses and are easy to identify in flight with their v-shaped wing flying pattern. They do not make true nests but may pull together some loose soil or vegetation usually on cliffs but also sometimes use hollow logs, old burrows or other raptor nests.