Columbia Wetlands Waterbird Survey

Thanks to the huge volunteer effort, the Columbia Wetlands Waterbird Survey (CWWS) was very successful in 2016 and fall results are in!  We had 79 volunteers participating in the fall surveys where 51,261 individual birds (95 species) were recorded over three dates during the 2016 fall migratory bird season!  The highest single day count was recorded on Oct 15th with 20,784 individuals (75 species). During the 2016 spring migratory season, 75 citizen-scientists recorded over 25 800 birds.  Numerous educational opportunities were made available to Columbia Valley residents, including outdoor birding field trips where 187 elementary school students got engaged with bird watching activities in the Columbia Wetlands.

2017 CWWS spring survey dates are tentatively scheduled for April 3rd, April 10th and April 16th, 8am-11am on each date.  Mark your calendars!  Training sessions (including field training sessions) will occur in middle-late March in both Golden and Invermere.

What is the Columbia Wetlands Waterbird Survey?

The Columbia Wetlands Waterbird Survey (CWWS) is a project that uses extraordinary citizens to gather important scientific data. It is our hope that this data will result in the Columbia Wetlands being designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA). Beyond data collection, this community-based project also aims to enhance and preserve the biodiversity and important habitat of the Wetlands through increased awareness (education programs) of it ecological significance.


Important Bird Areas hold significant conservation value for the habitat they provide to birds. The goal of the IBA Program is to identify, monitor and protect the most vital areas of bird habitat in Canada so that conservation action can be directed in the most effective way possible.
There are nearly 600 IBAs across Canada that provide habitat for threatened birds or large groups of birds. Canada’s IBAs are part of a global system of more than 10,000 sites worldwide, which gives them a conservation currency that transcends borders and promotes international collaboration for protecting the world’s birds.

Designation as an IBA has profound benefits: it encourages the completion of other legal conservation designations; it influences land-use planning and decision-making; it allows for the collection of baseline data and can increase tourism around birding.

Although the Columbia Wetlands are widely recognized as providing important habitat, there is currently a lack of bird data available on the Wetlands to demonstrate that one or more bird species meet the standard IBA criteria. Much of the data available on the Columbia Wetlands is extremely dated. A recent application to nominate the Wetlands as an IBA was unsuccessful due to this lack of data. Monitoring Waterbird populations would enable for the collection of the baseline data so crucial for IBA status. With this additional data, both Nature BC (IBA program coordinators) & Canadian Wildlife Service have indicated IBA designation for the CW is likely.

The CWWS program has many additional positive impacts :

  • Contributes to assessing long-term population trends and distribution patterns of target Waterbird species
  • Helps us fulfill our Ramsar responsibilities
  • Connects local residents with the Columbia Wetlands by getting them engaged in citizen science
  • Provides hands-on place based learning opportunities for school-aged children and educational opportunities for university students
  • Offers employment opportunities to help retain local biology and environmental experts
  • Additionally, the Wildsight-Golden CWWS team is monitoring federally threatened Lewis’s Woodpecker in partnership with Canadian Wildlife Service for the northern portion of the East Kootenay region. Monitoring Lewis’s Woodpeckers works towards the overarching goal of the CWWS— achieving IBA for the Columbia Wetlands.

Ready to get involved? We are actively recruiting volunteers for this exciting large-scale, long-term citizen-science initiative. If you would like to volunteer or learn more about the program, please contact:

Rachel Darvill, BSc., MSc.
Program Biologist – Columbia Wetlands Waterbird Survey

Ph: 250-344-5530



View the Fall 2016 summary data here.





To read the new magazine article featuring CWWS in PHOTONews Magazine click here.

This program is funded by:

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as well as individuals Steve and Lynda Conway.

We acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia.

This program is supported by: Bird Studies Canada, Canadian Intermountain Joint Venture, BC Provincial Government (FLNRO), Environment Canada Canadian Wildlife Service, Windermere District Farmers Institute, Columbia Basin Watershed Network, Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners, Ducks Unlimited, Lake Windermere Ambassadors, Wings Over the Rockies.


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Join The Team

Want to protect wildlife, clean water and wild spaces? Volunteer with us! Wildsight volunteers are a very special group of people who give generously of their time to stuff envelopes, attend rallies, help run events, put up posters, keep tabs on forestry practices in their communities and participate in citizen science initiatives.