How Does the Fraser River Estuary Help the Migration of Birds?
The Fraser River is one of the longest Canadian Rivers, flowing for over 1300 kilometres ( 550 miles) from its source in the Rocky Mountains to its delta in the Strait of Georgia near Vancouver, British Columbia. At its mouth, the river forms many islands large and small, some of which are the locations of suburbs like Richmond, Ladner, Delta and Surrey, while others are parks and bird sanctuaries for the migratory birds that fly twice a year up and down the west coast of North America in the Pacific Flyway.
The Pacific Flyway is a migratory corridor along the Pacific Coast of North America, extending from Alaska in the north to Patagonia in the south. Twice a year in spring and fall, migrating birds fly all or part of this flyway to follow food sources, fly to breeding grounds, or find overwintering sites. At the Fraser River Estuary, near where the Fraser River flows into the Pacific Ocean at Boundary Bay, in an area of fertile alluvial farmland, deciduous forest, and marshes, the City of Surrey has created the Elgin Heritage Park to help preserve and help protect this important international bird area.
The Pacific Flyway for Migrating Birds
Part of the Fraser River Estuary at Boundary Bay
In this wildlife refuge, thousands of birds including sandpipers, curlews, snipes, ducks, and geese, stop to eat, rest, and build up body fat stores that deplete during the long flights of migration. With its diverse terrain and food sources, the Fraser River Estuary is uniquely suited to accommodate the food and habitat needs for a variety of species. Salt water shore birds like Western Sandpipers and Dunlin, in the midst of a migration that may cover a distance of up to 10,000 kilometers (45,000 miles), can feed on the tidal flats searching for marine crustaceans, while other birds can eat insects, feed on small fish in the marshes and freshwater ponds, forage for aquatic plants in the freshwater streams and creeks of the estuary and find berries, seeds and rose hips in the brush and forest.
Bird Habitat: Wetlands and Marshes
Bird Habitat: Shoreline
Bird Habitat: Brackish Sloughs
Bird Habitat: Forest and Brush
Located at the boundary between Washington State, USA and the province of British Columbia, Canada, the Fraser River Estuary at Boundary Bay is an important international conservation site because is used by 500,000 shorebirds annually, or at least 30% of the population of any species. It has been classified as a locale with Hemispheric Importance by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, or WHSRN, which was established in 1985 to protect the nesting, breeding, and staging habitats of migratory shorebirds.
If these areas are disturbed by pollution or other human activity and no longer available as safe feeding and resting places to the birds, world bird populations are at risk of being unable to survive to reach overwintering and nesting grounds. It is important for landowners and governments at all levels to protect these irreplaceable habitats, and for people to use the lands and waterways quietly, in ways that minimize human impact.