Nechako River Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Nechako River Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located west of Prince George, in British Columbia. These islands attract large numbers of migrating Canada geese every year, and provide important habitat for many other wildlife species.

Importance of the sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife

Nechako River Migratory Bird Sanctuary is located in the bed of the Nechako River within the town limits of Vanderhoof, 97 km west of Prince George, British Columbia. These islands attract large numbers of migrating Canada geese every year, which use the area to rest and ingest gravel. As of 2016, parts of the Nechako Bird Sanctuary, including the area of Vanderhoof braided Section, within which lies part of the Nechako River Bird Sanctuary, have been identified as critical habitat for the Nechako River population of the white sturgeon. This designation is part of the Recovery Strategy for White Sturgeon in Canada published on the Species at Risk Public Registry.

Canada geese in flight
Canada geese in flight

During the 1970s, the number of Canada geese found in the Nechako River Migratory Bird Sanctuary was in steady decline from the over 20 000 birds reported to be seen there in the 1960s. Now, an estimated 50 000 to 75 000 geese migrate through the sanctuary and the Okanagan Valley each spring, towards Williams Lake and their breeding grounds.

Canada Geese on water
Canada geese on water

Did you know?

Many birds have a chamber in their digestive system called a gizzard, which is thick-walled, muscular and used to grind up difficult to digest foods. Birds that eat particularly tough foods are known to swallow pebbles or gravel to help with the grinding process in their gizzard.


Typical trees in the area are aspen, lodgepole pine and douglas fir. The area has forests of aspen, cottonwood and white spruce with willow and buffalo-berry brush. Fires are responsible for maintaining open grasslands common in the area, while islands within the sanctuary are shaped by yearly changes in riverflows. Heavy water flows and thick ice scrape some bars free of vegetation but some stable islands contain trees like aspen, lodgepole pine and douglas fir; other bars of higher elevation are vegetated by willows and alder. The wet edges of the islands may support sedge marsh and shallow waters with floating aquatic plants like pondweed. There is no marsh development within the sanctuary, but marshy vegetation of sedges occurs in the wet perimeter of the islands, and water-crowfoot, water-milfoil and pondweed occur in shallow backwaters.

Map of the area

Map of Nechako River Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Access to the sanctuary

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, such as Nechako River, are established across the country to protect migratory birds during critical periods of their life cycle. Whether these areas are used for feeding, resting or nesting, they play an important role in the survival of many species. Nechako River Migratory Bird Sanctuary is located on private lands. Access to each migratory bird sanctuary varies by site and is at the discretion of the landowner and land manager. Please ensure that you are aware of how you can help protect this sanctuary and please read the restrictions, including those on firearms and hunting, which are in place to conserve the wildlife that call it home. Dogs and cats must not be allowed to run at large inside Migratory Bird Sanctuaries.

If you would like further information on what is permitted in Migratory Bird Sanctuaries visit the Management and Activities section of the website. For more information on Nechako River Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Nechako River Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory British Columbia
Latitude/longitude 54°01' N, 124°02' W
Size 180 hectares
Date created (Gazetted) 1944
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category N/A
Additional designations None
Main habitat type Open river (65%), shallow backwaters (20%), islands with riparian shrubs (15%) and gravel-silt bars (~1%)
Key bird species Canada goose
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Pacific Region
Landowners Province of British Columbia and private

Related links

Nechako River on Google Maps (Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information that can help locate the migratory bird sanctuary and does not represent the official map or site name)

Contact information

Environment and Climate Change Canada – Pacific and Yukon Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Ecosystem Conservation
5421 Robertson Road
Delta, BC V4K 3N2

Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)

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