Nature in the City

Established on October 27, 1923 to control hunting and assert federal jurisdiction over migratory birds and tidal waters in a bird sanctuary previously created by the Province of British Columbia. Now valued for harbouring nature, biodiversity and species-at-risk. 

Part of the Greater Victoria NatureHood, designated on July 12, 2017 by Nature Canada (formerly Audubon Society of Canada) to revitalize the sanctuary and connect urban Canadians to “Nearby Nature”, where they live.

1840 hectares and 30 km of coastal waters, shores and islands from Portage inlet to Victoria Harbour, Oak Bay and Cadboro Bay. Contiguous to the Chain Islets and Grand Chain Island Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA). Associated with three Ecological Reserves of British Columbia: Trial Islands, Oak Bay Islands and Ten Mile Point.

Wildlife habitat includes kelp forests, beds of eelgrass, surfgrass and clams, tidal marshes, mud flats, two salmon-bearing streams, six small estuaries, forage fish nurseries, maritime meadows and now-rare coastal Douglas-Fir and Garry Oak associated ecosystems.

270 species of birds year-round with relatively high numbers and diversity in winter. Including Glaucous-winged Gull, Mew Gull, Heermann’s Gull, Rhinoceros Auklet, Pigeon Guillemot, Marbled Murrelet, Pacific Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Black Brant, Canada Goose, Harlequin Duck, Surf Scoter, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, American Wigeon, Pacific Great Blue Heron, Black Oystercatcher, Black Turnstone, Bald Eagle, Cooper’s Hawk, Western Purple Martins.

30 species of mammals including Southern Resident and Bigg’s Killer Whale, Humpback Whale, Grey Whale, Minke Whale, Pacific Harbour Seal, Steller Sea Lion, California Sea Lion, Northern Elephant Seal, marine River Otter (common), Sea Otter (rare), North American Beaver, American Mink. Sea Wolf recently recorded.

30+ rare plants including Victoria’s Owl-clover, Golden Paintbrush, Bear’s-foot Sanicle, Seaside Birds-foot Lotus, Dense-flowered Lupine, Coastal Scouler’s Catchfly, Macoun’s Meadow-foam, Seaside Juniper.

Several fish species including Coho Salmon, Cutthroat Trout, Pacific Herring, Pacific Sandlance, Surf Smelt, Quillback Rockfish, Cabezon, Lingcod, Wolf-eel.

Diverse marine life including Giant Pacific Octopus, Giant Nudibranch, Washington Butter Clam, Spiny Pink Scallop, Olympia Oysters, Northern Abalone.

Facing numerous challenges linked to its urban location, invasive species, disturbance by humans and pets. Low bird numbers compared to the past caused by habitat loss and degradation, overfishing of herring and other factors.

Decades of big and small restorations, cleanups and rewilding at numerous sites, including the construction of a large, regional Wastewater Treatment Plant in Victoria Harbour to be completed in late 2020.

One of three historic MBSs in Greater Victoria with Shoal Harbour and Esquimalt Lagoon. One of 92 MBSs in Canada under the tutelage of the Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, which supports Nature Canada’s NatureHood initiative.

Jacques Sirois
Chair, Friends of Victoria Harbour MBS
Partner, Greater Victoria NatureHood

August 20, 2020

More at:,_c._1036/page-1.html#docCont

In homage to J.Fenwick Lansdowne (1937-2008), renowned bird artist and former resident of Oak Bay who drew and painted several birds that occur in the sanctuary. Below: Marbled Murrelets (left) and Brant, in Birds of the West Coast, Vol. 1, J.F. Lansdowne, 1976, M.F. Feheley Pub. Ltd. Toronto