Vancouver Air Traffic is Up! 50,000 Reasons to Visit the George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary

Sandhill Crane George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary Vancouver

Photo: R. Weiss

Nestled between Vancouver’s thriving international airport and the Roberts Bank twin terminal port facility lies a natural oasis. Home to millions of birds, the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary is on Westham Island, just west of Ladner and only minutes from downtown Vancouver. On your approach to this amazing wildlife area, you will cross an old wooden one lane bridge and pass by quaint and quirky houseboats. Organic farms, ice cream stands and wineries welcome you to stop on route to the sanctuary and with each passing minute, you will begin to feel like you have left the hustle and bustle of the city behind you.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary Vancouver

Photo: R. Weiss

I recently had the opportunity to spend an afternoon at Reifel. Hundreds of waterfowl and a few Sandhill Cranes welcomed me to the park. I was immediately captivated by the sights and sounds of the migratory Lesser Snow Geese. Each fall, 20 to 50,000 large snowy white geese stop by the sanctuary on their annual migration from Russia. Can you imagine 50,000 snow geese? The sky darkened when they took flight and the sound of their honking could be heard throughout the entire sanctuary. These magnificent birds can be seen in the skies, out on the estuary marshes and feeding on the nearby sloughs and farm fields.

Lesser Snow Geese

Photo: Flickr

Although, I would argue the Snow Geese are the stars of the sanctuary at this time of year, there are certainly other species to observe. Eagles, Hawks, Owls, Great Blue Heron and majestic Sandhill Cranes all call the sanctuary home. In fact, over 280 species of birds have been recorded at Reifel. The Fraser River estuary and associated wetlands are recognized world-wide for their importance to birds migrating along the Pacific Coast.

Great Blue Heron George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Photo: R. Weiss

Viewing platforms, a warming hut complete with wood burning stove, bird blinds and picnic areas are perfect for families looking to spend the day at Reifel. The gift shop sells a wide selection of books, binoculars and gift items. Bird seed can also be purchased and young and old alike will enjoy feeding the ducks – just be sure to watch for the hungry squirrels!

Whether you are an avid birder, nature photographer or a family looking for a relaxing nature walk, the Reifel Bird Sanctuary should be your list. Who knows, maybe you will be the one to log a rare bird sighting.

Hours: 9am – 4pm every day, including holidays
Admission: Adults $5, Children $3 and Seniors $3 (annual memberships available)

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary Vancouver

Photo: R. Weiss

For more information and driving directions, take a minute to visit their website.

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