Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Dabbling ducks
Photo: © Dabbling ducks.

Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, in and around the City of Victoria, British Columbia. Lands adjacent to the MBS are of low elevation. Climax vegetation is of the Garry Oak-Madrona type, a prominent feature of which is the abundance of spring-flowering bulbous and herbaceous plants. The shoreline is predominantly rocky, with sheltered and open bays alternating with prominent rocky headlands. Small islands and rocky reefs are also common. Tidal currents are strong. A prominent feature in the MBS is a long, narrow tidal channel extending 7 km inland, ending in a small tidal basin with extensive eelgrass beds.

Importance of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Oak Bay portion of the sanctuary is one of a number of regionally important wintering grounds. It has a total winter bird population of approximately 4200 birds, representing 21 species of waterbirds including gulls, cormorants, diving ducks, dabbling ducks, grebes, alcids (sea birds) and mergansers. Ninety percent of this population is concentrated in waters less than 11 m deep. Many of the species are winter residents; however, several species such as Pelagic Cormorants are year-round residents of the area, with at least 239 pairs breeding on the Chain Islets, Lewis Reef and Harris Island. Of these islands, only Harris Island is included within the MBS boundaries.

The inner and outer harbour provides a wintering area for mergansers, while offshore kelp beds at McMicking Point, Clover Point and the numerous small bays each support additional bird life, particularly shorebirds. The Clover Point area attracts impressive numbers of waterbirds, particularly during the winter months; over a 4-year period, 161 species of birds have been seen at the point. While some of these birds are rare or infrequently seen, a large number are common to the area.

Areas such as the head of Portage Inlet and Trial Islands exhibit significant wildlife values. Portage Inlet, an area of extensive eelgrass beds, provides important habitat for wintering waterfowl. Trial Islands served as a breeding site for gulls and cormorants from 1953, when 50 Glaucous-winged Gull nests were recorded, until 1960. The islands hold the greatest concentration of rare and endangered plants in British Columbia and presently are important roosting sites for cormorants, diving ducks, gulls, raptors and shorebirds.

Access and Activities

MBSs are established for the protection and conservation of migratory birds. Activities that could harm migratory birds, their nests or their eggs are prohibited.

MBSs can be and have been established on private, provincial, territorial and federally owned lands. Access to each MBS varies by site and is at the discretion of the landowner and land manager.

Where MBSs are located on federal land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the management and protection of migratory birds, nests, eggs and habitat. Where MBSs are located on provincial land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests, while the chief game officer of the province is responsible for the management of habitat. Where MBSs are located on private or municipal land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests. Habitat management is the responsibility of the landowner.

Public access to Victoria Harbour MBS is not restricted. The standard prohibitions under the Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations apply to this site: hunting migratory birds is prohibited, and no person shall disturb, destroy or take the nest of a migratory bird or have in his or her possession a live migratory bird, or a carcass, skin, nest or egg of a migratory bird, except under the authority of a permit issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada or unless authorized by the Regulations. Possession of firearms or other hunting appliances is prohibited. Dogs and cats must not be allowed to run at large.

Portions of the MBS are designated as a provincial ecological reserve and are governed by an additional set of regulations.

For more information on entry, activities and permits in MBSs, please visit the Management and Activities section of the Migratory Bird Sanctuaries website. For more information on Environment and Climate Change Canada’s protected areas, please contact the regional office.

For greater certainty, nothing in this document shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for existing Aboriginal or treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Map of the Area

  • Summary Table for Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Long description of the map

Map showing the location of Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary relative to British Columbia, Victoria, Esquimalt and the Juan De Fuca Strait. The map shows the boundaries of the sanctuary, which covers a large portion of Victoria Harbour and extends up the waterway separating Esquimalt from Victoria. The scale of the map is in tenths of a kilometer.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Victoria Harbour MBS can also be viewed using Google Maps. Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information and does not represent the official map or site name.

Summary table

Summary table for Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Category Information
Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory British Columbia
Latitude/longitude 48°25' N, 123°20' W
Size in hectares (ha) 1841 ha, 31.03 terrestrial and 1809.97 ha marine
Date created (Gazetted) 1923
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management category N/A
Additional designations None
Main habitat type Open sea (60%), rocky seashore (20%), tidal channel (20%)
Key bird species Canada Goose, Glaucous-winged Gull, Pelagic Cormorant, Mergansers, dabbling and diving ducks, loons, grebes, shorebirds, and alcids
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Pacific and Yukon Region
Landowners Transport Canada, Department of National Defence and Province of British Columbia

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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