Columbia Wetlands Waterbird Survey

The CWWS recently completed its third round of spring migratory bird surveys and together we were more successful than ever! Thanks to the amazing volunteer efforts of 83 citizen scientists, we were able to visit 100 different survey sites in the Columbia Wetlands located between Canal Flats, north to the Moberly River near Golden. Despite a late start to spring this year, we still managed to survey 26,627 birds! Some of the highlights of this spring’s count include American Coots with 2426 individuals, Mallards with 1820 individuals, and American Wigeons with 1376 individuals. Also with notable numbers were Swan species at 402 individuals (72 confirmed as Trumpeter Swans) and 456 Common Mergansers.

2017 CWWS fall survey dates will occur on Friday September 29, Thursday October 5, and Sunday October 15.  Mark your calendars!  Free training sessions (including field training sessions) will occur in September, in both Golden and Invermere, and are available to all CWWS participants.  Do you want participate in the CWWS this year?  Please see the contact info below.

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








To read our new Spring 2017 Newsletter, click here.

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

To see our CWWS brochure that is being distributed throughout the region, 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.