Status and distribution of marine birds in southern Howe Sound 2014–15 and the outer Fraser River estuary, British Columbia, 2016–2017

Robert W. Butler1, Rod MacVicar1, Andrew R. Couturier2, Sonya Richmond2, Eva Dickson2, Holly A. Middleton3 and Patricia Beaty4

1 Pacific Wildlife Foundation, Box 112, Reed Point Marina, 850 Barnet Highway, Port Moody, British
  Columbia, Canada, V3H 1V6; email:
2 Birds Canada, P.O. Box 160, 115 Front Street, Port Rowan, Ontario, Canada, N0E 1M0.
3 Middleton Ecological Consulting, 83563 Oak Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, V6H 2M1.
4 Sitka Foundation, 1550 625 Howe Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6C 2T6

Abstract: We recorded 35,248 birds along a boat-based transect through southern Howe Sound between 9 June 2014 and 14 May 2015, and 3260 birds on a survey along the inbound and outbound shipping lanes in the outer Fraser River estuary between 10 November 2016 and 23 October 2017. Of 44 annually occurring marine bird species seen in Howe Sound, 13 were federally designated as Endangered, Threatened, or Special Concern, or provincially Red- or Blue-listed by the government of British Columbia. The bird list includes Marbled Murrelet, Double-crested Cormorant, Brandt’s Cormorant, Western Grebe, Horned Grebe, Common Murre, Surf Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, California Gull, Peregrine Falcon, and Great Blue Heron.
In the entire Fraser River estuary, we estimated that as many as 32,000 birds could have been present in January when birds were most numerous, and 1950 in June when birds were least numerous. Of 27 annually occurring birds in the outer estuary, 14 were designated as Endangered, Threatened, or Special Concern by either the federal or provincial government designations including the following birds: Brant, Surf Scoter, Double-crested Cormorant, Brandt’s Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant, Western Grebe, California Gull, Parasitic Jaeger, Caspian Tern, Common Murre, Marbled Murrelet, Ancient Murrelet. Barfleur Passage, Christie Islet and Pam Rocks, and Collingwood Channel were areas of special importance to birds in southern Howe Sound. The waters off Point Grey, and the North and Main Arm were of special importance in the outer Fraser River estuary. The large number of Marbled Murrelets present in winter suggests that southern Howe Sound and the outer Fraser River estuary are important locations for the imperiled population, B.C.’s south coast murrelets.

Key words: Howe Sound, Fraser River estuary, Species at Risk, birds.

PDFicon Butler, R.W., R. MacVicar, A.R. Couturier, S. Richmond, E. Dickson, H.A. Middleton, and P. Beaty. 2020. Status and distribution of marine birds in southern Howe Sound 2014–2015 and the outer Fraser River estuary, British Columbia, 2016–2017. British Columbia Birds 30:20–32.

© Unless copyright restrictions are indicated, any paper, note or review (or excerpts from them) may be reproduced in another publication provided that both the author(s) and British Columbia Birds are credited fully.