Fraser River Estuary
The Fraser River estuary is a critical stopover along the Pacific Flyway migratory bird route. It is Canada’s most important region for migratory waterfowl and shorebirds in terms of abundance and diversity over the winter season. Annually, it is estimated that five million migratory birds use the Fraser River estuary as both critical staging and wintering habitat. This includes 15 species that are of global and continental importance. As a result, the Fraser River estuary has been designated as Canada’s top Important Bird Area, a Key Biodiversity Area, an internationally recognized wetland (RAMSAR Site), a site of Hemispheric Importance within the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network and is a priority area under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.
In the late 1800s the Fraser River estuary was dyked and drained for agriculture, which resulted in a significant decline of approximately 70% of the estuary wetlands. The estuary has continued to be impacted by urban and industrial development over the years resulting in the conversion of thousands of acres of upland, bird-friendly farmland to non-agricultural uses. Agricultural land is able to act as surrogate habitat for many wildlife species providing valuable feeding and resting habitat for a diversity of migratory birds. (Photo: Evan Leeson)