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Woodland Birds

White Crowned Sparrow

Vancouver Island is covered with a vast rainforest full of woodland birds. These are the songbirds that make a walk on the Island or anywhere in BC so enjoyable. My wife and I love getting on our bicycles and heading out one of the back roads of Vancouver Island looking for woodland birds.

The knock knock knock of the woodpeckers or the crazy antics of the American dipper. The way the red-breasted nuthatch will land on a tree trunk, right beside you hanging upside down with his backward claw, looking you right in the eye.

Pileated Woodpecker, Vancouver Island, BC
Pileated Woodpecker, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Rob Logan

Woodland birds are heard just as often as they are seen. How many times have you heard a woodpecker drumming on a tree trunk and when you think you know where it is, you always seem to be wrong? It is no wonder really, the effects of the sound in the trees make it hard to pinpoint the bird and when you get close, they will often just freeze on the spot so as not to be noticed.

Then we have the brown creeper which is a very active bird and one would think it would be easy to see, but this is not the case because its brown plumage allows it to be well hidden when it climbs up trees. Did you know, this bird never climbs down trees but drops off and flutters down like a leaf. Then you have their songs, this is such a wonder to hear, the forest birds are awesome. I could sit in the forest and just drift off into a relaxed meditative state listening to them sing.

Canada Jay, Vancouver Island, BC
Canada Jay, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

Varied and rich bird biodiversity depends on the health of the forest. Tree species must have varying heights, a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees, and seed production. Each bird species will find what it needs in the changing forest structure. Some birds will forage among treetops for bugs and spiders, while others will scour the bark of trunks and limbs. Some species forage only in the coniferous trees, while others search for food at lower levels. The various bird species will find suitable nesting sites from the ground up to the very tops of the trees, either in tree cavities or nestled at the base of two branches. The nests can be as incredible as the different birds are.

Woodlands are very important habitats for our island birds, and not only because of the large areas involved. Vancouver island’s fantastically rich old-growth forests support an exciting and distinctive breeding bird population. We have such a great variety of woodland birds that we are becoming known as a premier birder’s paradise.

Getting out into nature is good for you both physically and mentally, so get on your boots and go for a walk, see what kinds of birds you can spot.


American Dipper

American Dipper, Vancouver Island, BCAmerican dippers forage for aquatic insects and their larvae, small fish, and fish eggs. They wade in shallow water, using their strong claws to grasp rocks in the stream bed. If the water is too deep for wading, the dipper swims, using its feet to paddle and its strong little wings to help propel it against swift currents. Read More….



Bewicks Wren

Bewicks Wren, Vancouver Island, BCThe Bewicks Wren will spend all year on the south coast of BC. You can hear them uttering a series of sharp notes followed by a buzzy rasp. When alarmed, it will alert other birds by accosting the intruder with a loud scolding. You can call these birds to you with a hissing sound that they think is another wren in distress. Read More….



Black Headed Grosbeak

Black Headed Grosbeak, Vancouver Island, BCThe Black-Headed Grosbeak can be viewed visiting feeders and birdbaths here on the coast on a regular basis. Black Headed Grosbeaks are medium-sized songbirds with short, thick bills. The male with its black head, rusty orange breast, nape, and rump, black back, white patches on its wings which are yellow underneath, and the outer tail feathers that are white is easy to identify. Read More….



Black-Throated Gray Warbler

Black Throated Gray Warbler, Vancouver Island, BCThe Black-throated Gray Warbler is a small songbird that breeds in open coniferous and mixed forests on the BC Coast, especially in alder and maple forests mixed with conifers. They winter in Mexico and the southwestern United States. Read More….




Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper, Vancouver Island, BCThe Brown Creeper is an extremely common bird and lives in a large portion of the coastal region of the Pacific Northwest; however, you probably have never seen it or would not even notice it if it were right in front of you. This little bird is well camouflaged but is worth the effort of trying to lure it to your garden where maybe you can enjoy its visitations. Read More….



Brown-Headed Cowbird

Brown Headed Cowbird, Vancouver Island, BCThe Brown-Headed Cowbird is a favorite bird of mine even though most people do not like them. The Brown-Headed Cowbird is one of two species of cowbirds found in North America. Both species are brood parasites and lay their eggs in the nests’ other birds. Read More….




Bushtit, Vancouver Island, BCBushtits are a common visitor to the southern Pacific Northwest coastal region year-round. Bushtits are one of the few songbirds that really have no particular song, however, when threatened, flocks have been observed emitting a sharp, shrill trilling sound which serves to confuse any potential predator as to the location of individual members. Read More….



Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing, Vancouver Island, BCCedar waxwings are voracious eaters dining primarily on fleshy fruits with high sugar content. Cedar waxwings are especially fond of berries and have even been observed to sit in a row on berry bushes passing berries between one another. Read More….



Chestnut Backed Chickadee

Chestnut Backed Chickadee, Vancouver Island, BCThe Chestnut Backed Chickadee is a frequent visitor to our feeders on Vancouver Island and is a joy to interact with. They sometimes look comical when they land on a branch close to you and turn their heads almost upside down all the while calling with the cheep cheep cheep call. Read More….



Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat, Vancouver Island, BCThe Common Yellowthroat is a small bird, growing up to 15 cm in length. They have olive-brown bodies with bright yellow throats. Males have a dark black mask. Females and immature Common Yellowthroat do not have a mask, sometimes the female has only a very faint yellow throat. The female bird has a dark bill but the fledgling has a more yellow beak. Read More….



Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker, Vancouver Island, BCDowny woodpeckers like to feed on insects and larvae found on infested trees. They also eat berries and seeds and feed on suet in winter. In winter downy woodpeckers do not cache food and instead will spend most of their daylight hours drilling holes in trees to get at the insects that are wintering there. Read More….



Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow, Vancouver Island, BCThe fox sparrow can be distinguished from other sparrows by its dark head the lack of streaks on the upper areas. It is a large sparrow with very large feet that it uses to scratch the ground with. It has a dark sooty head, back, and wings. Its breast is light with dark streaks all the way down to its underside. Read More….



Golden-Crowned Kinglet

Golden Crowned Kinglet, Vancouver Island, BCGolden-crowned kinglets prefer to nest in dense coniferous forests. The female builds a cup nest of moss, fine grasses, and lichens in a conifer tree from 6 to 50 feet up. She will lay up to 10 eggs that are incubated by the female, the male will feed her while she sits on the nest. Read More….



Gray Jay

Gray Jay, Vancouver Island, BCThe Gray jay (whiskey Jacks) is a medium-sized, gray songbird with lighter gray bellies. They have a long tail and a short, black bill. The tips of the dark gray tail feathers are white. The head is grayish-white with a gray crown and white forehead. The eyes are dark. The short legs and feet are gray. Read More….



Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker, Vancouver Island, BCThe hairy woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker, it can reach up to 25 cm in length. The larger subspecies of these woodpeckers live in northern regions of their habitat range, while smaller ones live further south. Read More….




Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush, Vancouver Island, BCThe adult hermit Thrush has brown upperparts with a moderate rufous wash. They have a white eye-ring that is sometimes not complete. The lateral throat stripes are black, contrasting with a white throat. Read More….





Junco, Vancouver Island, BCJuncos forage on the ground for their food. Their diet consists mostly of insects, seeds, and weeds. Since juncos like to eat seeds they are easily attracted to bird feeders especially those with cracked corn and sunflower seeds. Read More….




Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker, Vancouver island, BCThe northern flicker is a large member of the woodpecker family. It measures about up to 35 cm from head to tail. Its head is gray, with a noticeable red to orange patch on the back part. Its bottom sides are light brown with dark brown or black specks. Read More….



Northern  Shrike

Northern Shrike, Vancouver Island, BCThe northern shrike is a robin-sized bird that is pale gray above, white below, with faint barring on underparts, and a bold black mask ending at the bill. They have a black tail with white edges and a strong hooked bill. They can usually be seen perched atop a high tree in the open. Read More….



Orange Crowned Warbler

Orange Crowned Warbler, Vancouver Island, BCOrange-crowned warblers often forage low in vegetation but will forage at all heights. They clamber and flit through vegetation, gleaning insects from flowers, leaves, and tips of branches. They eat mostly insects but supplement that diet with berries, suet, tree sap, and flower nectar. Read More….



Pacific Wren

Pacific Wren, Vancouver Island, BCThe Pacific wren lives in the woods and bushy areas as well as rocky areas and open marshes. It is a remarkable bird in that it can adapt to any environment that has plenty of thick plants and vegetation. They are, however, more common in the country than in urban areas. Read More….



Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker, Vancouver island, BCThe pileated woodpecker has a thick silver-gray bill which it uses to make rectangular holes in trees. Its eyes are yellow while its legs and feet are grayish black. Male and female birds are similar in appearance. The male, however, has some red stripes on the face while the female has none. Juvenile birds differ from adults in that they have brown eyes and shorter crests. Read More….



Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin, Vancouver Island, BCThe pine siskin was a winter visitor to our feeders for years but in the winters of 2010 and 2011, they did not come back. They are generally brown all over but with heavy yellow streaking in the wings. Its belly and chest are a bit paler than its back. The pine siskin’s bill is sharp and slender while its tail is notched. Read More….



Purple Finch

Purple Finch, Vancouver Island, BCThe Purple Finch is a common visitor on the Pacific Northwest coast. A member of the finch family, the purple finch is closely related to the house finch. The purple finch is a medium-sized finch, measuring up to 15 cm tall, with a wingspan of up to 26 cm.  Read More….



Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Red Breasted Nuthatch, Vancouver Island, BCThe red-breasted nuthatch is quite common in the Pacific Northwest and can be seen at feeders along with chestnut-backed chickadees. The nuthatch is one of the more common residents of diverse stands of evergreen forests. It can also be seen in some suburban habitats with sufficient conifers. Read More….



Red-Breasted Sapsucker

Red Breasted Sapsucker, Vancouver Island, BCSapsuckers have evolved a different way of food gathering. Instead of boring into the wood for insects and their larvae. They make shallow almost square holes in the soft bark of trees, which ooze sap that these birds feed on. Although the main food source for these birds is tree sap. Read More….



Red Crossbill

Red Crossbill, Vancouver Island, BCThe Red Crossbill is a stocky, medium-sized finch with a thick conical bill and a large head. The mandibles curve toward each other and cross at the tip. The brown wings lack the broad, white wing bars of the similar white-winged crossbills. The forked tails are also brown. Most males are red or orange-red, but some may have orange or yellowish-orange colors. Read More….



Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Ruby Crowned Kinglet, Vancouver Island, BCRuby-crowned kinglets have bold and incomplete white eye-rings. Their legs are black and their feet, yellow. Male ruby-crowned kinglets have bright red crests, which can be raised when the bird is excited but which are more often completely hidden. Females look like males but lack the red crest. Read More….



Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird, Vancouver island, BCThe rufous hummingbird is quite honestly one of the most entertaining birds to observe at our feeders. We have hundreds return each year to our feeders. We get so many that I can stand beside a feeder, hold out my arm and they will land all over it taking turns going back and forth to the feeder. Read More….



Spotted Towhee

Rufous Sided Towhee, Vancouver Island, BCThe spotted towhee is up to 20 cm long. It has a small pointed black bill, reddish-brown eyes, and long black-colored tail feathers with white corners that are visible in flight. The male towhees are recognizable by their black upperparts and hoods, their rusty orange flanks, and their white bellies. Female towhees are of similar color but their upper parts are of a duller slate gray or brownish shade. Read More….



Steller Jay

Steller Jay, Vancouver Island, BCThe steller jay generally likes to build its nests in dense coniferous forests. Both the male and the female birds help to build the cup-like nest from moss, twigs, weeds, and leaves held together with mud. The linings for the nest are normally provided by rootlets, pine needles, and other fine materials. Read More….



Townsends Warbler

Townsends Warbler, Vancouver Island, BCThe Townsend’s Warbler is quite common in the Pacific Northwest including Vancouver Island. You should look high up in conifer trees where they can be seen feeding on insects. They are quite hard to see in the foliage and they tend to move around quickly. Look for the dark eye patch. Read More….



Varied Thrush

Varied Thrush, Vancouver Island, BCThe varied thrush winters along the coast of Alaska, British Columbia, and Vancouver Island. The varied thrush breeds from Alaska to California in forests where spruce trees, alders, and ferns grow. The varied thrush is a large, robin-like bird of the Pacific Northwest. Read More….



Warbling Vireo

Warbling Vireo, Vancouver island, BCThe warbling vireo is most often located by its song, which it delivers for hours. The birds tend to like the mid and top parts of broad, leafy trees making it a hard bird to spot. We have a stable population of migrating warbling vireos that breed on Vancouver Island. Read More….



Western Tanager

Western Tanager, Vancouver Island, BCThe Western Tanager adult has a brilliant red head, bright yellow body with black back, wings, and tail, two wing bars, smaller uppermost bar yellow, lower white, female yellow-green above, yellow below with wing bars similar to the male. Read More….




White Winged Crossbill

White Winged Crossbill, Vancouver Island, BCWhite-winged crossbills occur irregularly throughout the northern boreal forests of North America. In a broad band that ranges across Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia into Alaska and the Northern Territories of Canada. Read More….




Wilsons Warbler

Wilsons Warbler, Vancouver Island, BCThe Wilsons Warbler is a very common bird on the south island. Wilson’s Warblers are small yellow birds marked with black. They are bright yellow below and olive-yellow above. Males have distinctive black caps on top of their heads, and both sexes have large, black eyes that stand out against the bright yellow on their faces. Read More….



Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Yellow Rumped Warbler, Vancouver Island, BCThe Yellow-Rumped Warbler is a year-round resident on Vancouver Island. It is no surprise that this warbler is one of the most familiar warblers of North America; this bird is one of the first to arrive in the spring and the last to leave in the fall, and during the winter months it is the most abundant warbler in North America. Read More….



Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler, Vancouver Island, BCThe yellow warbler is a small songbird with a thin pointed beak. It is mostly yellow in color and the male has reddish streaks on his chest. The yellow warbler stands around 13 cm in height, has a wingspan up to 20 cm. Read More….



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