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Comox Valley (BC014)

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Comox Valley (BC014)

Courtenay, British Columbia

Latitude 49.725°N
Longitude 125.006°W
Altitude 0 - 200m
Area 302.15km²

Site Description

Comox Valley IBA, Baynes Sound IBA and Lambert Channel/Hornby Island Waters IBA share common populations of waterbirds but were established as separate IBAs because they were nominated independently. In 2013, these sites were amalgamated into the K'omoks IBA; follow this link for current information for this area.

The Comox Valley lies along the east-central coast of Vancouver Island, near the town of Courtenay. The site is bounded to the north by the Oyster River, to the south by the Trent River and Comox Harbour, to the west by the Beaufort Mountains, and to the east by the Strait of Georgia. The estuaries, backshore areas and associated lowland valley bottoms provide an extensive network of habitats. Inland valley lowlands are a mixture of agricultural areas and forested land. Low elevation forests are dominated by Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock forests. Within the valley are three urban centres, as well as a 10,000 hectare estuary. The valley has a relatively mild climate, with winter temperatures above freezing point, but generally less than 10°C on average.

Birds

The Comox Valley is noteworthy for the numbers of Pacific Trumpeter Swans that over-winter there. Based on regular surveys, the numbers of swans increased to the mid-1990s and seem to have stabilized at an over-wintering (February) population of about 2100 birds, although peak counts are over 2900 birds. Peak numbers represent over 12% of the world population of Trumpeter Swans, and over 16% of the Pacific population of this species. The swans arrive in late October and are mostly gone by early April. They feed on discarded vegetables or corn cobs, green forage between harvested corn, and seedlings of various winter cover crops, as well as native vegetation. Waterfowl numbers reach continentally significant levels in winter. Congregations are composed of many species, most notably American Wigeon, Mallard, Northern Pintail, and Black, Surf and White-winged Scoter. Western Grebe occurred at globally significant levels most years from 1975 to 1997, but has decreased in numbers since then (numbers yet to be updated in table below). The valley and estuary are also important feeding areas for migrating Black Brant, Great Blue Heron (fannini subspecies), Glaucous-winged Gull, and Thayer's Gull (numbers yet to be updated in table below). The relative importance of the IBA to the other species listed in the table below is under review.

Conservation Issues

The population of the Comox Valley has doubled over the past 20 years. Development comes with associated threats, including runoff from sewage and suburban storm sewers, wetlands filled in, new housing developments, and disturbance from increased recreational activities. From 1992 to 2002, at least 5% of the sensitive ecosystems were lost and over 29% of modified ecosystems such as older second growth forests and seasonally flooded agricultural fields disappeared.

IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status
Iceland Gull (Thayer's)
Number Year Season
2202016Fall
100 - 3002016Winter
109 - 1502015Winter
100 - 2602015Spring
105 - 1772014Winter
90 - 1402014Fall
98 - 2,0002014Spring
2192013Winter
200 - 3002013Fall
300 - 8002013Spring
328 - 6702012Winter
802012Fall
4602012Spring
129 - 2002011Winter
150 - 1552011Fall
1002011Spring
123 - 1702010Winter
1502010Fall
1222009Winter
782008Winter
792007Winter
150 - 2542006Winter
1012005Winter
110 - 3812004Winter
1402004Spring
78 - 5002003Winter
2102002Fall
1102001Fall
972001Spring
2602001Winter
249 - 4962000Winter
4961999Winter
1181998Winter
941995Winter
Trumpeter Swan
Number Year Season
284 - 4302017Winter
320 - 4502016Winter
290 - 5782015Winter
333 - 1,0912014Winter
315 - 1,4652013Winter
3002013Spring
340 - 1,0402012Winter
4002012Fall
268 - 1,5392011Winter
310 - 1,3952010Winter
360 - 6502010Fall
300 - 1,2162009Winter
289 - 2,9062008Winter
1,7962006Winter
481 - 1,4242005Winter
461 - 2,9392004Winter
910 - 2,9392003Winter
400 - 1,1952002Winter
400 - 1,5602001Winter
270 - 1,9042000Winter
1,2791999Winter
315 - 1,2211998Winter
1,4941997Winter
1,011 - 2,1001995Winter
8021994Winter
7421993Winter
1,0981992Winter
4151991Winter
7151990Winter
Glaucous-winged Gull
Number Year Season
5,000 - 32,0002014Spring
5,000 - 8,0002013Spring
4,6972012Winter
4,3632010Winter
5,000 - 8,0002010Fall
4,3102005Winter
6,914 - 9,2442004Winter
9,2442003Winter
6,866 - 8,5972002Winter
8,5972001Winter
5,6852000Winter
6,3101997Winter
7,5251995Winter
4,5561994Winter
4,4981991Winter
Western Grebe
Number Year Season
1,1202010Fall
4192007Winter
1,0002003Fall
2,1221997Winter
1,5161994Winter
3,0811991Winter
4,7001985Winter
Surf Scoter
Number Year Season
5,9662014Winter
11,0002014Spring
Marbled Murrelet
Number Year Season
5102016Spring
Mew Gull
Number Year Season
2,5002016Spring
2,500 - 4,0002013Spring
2,5002003Spring
Great Blue Heron
Number Year Season
37 - 552016Summer
532015Winter
442014Winter
412009Winter
112009Fall
442006Winter
602005Winter
552004Winter
562003Winter
392002Winter
39 - 902001Winter
442001Fall
611999Winter
611998Winter
561997Winter
431995Winter
341994Winter
531993Winter
861992Winter
1061991Winter
691990Winter
Waterbirds
Number Year Season
19,2012004Winter
10,0001995Winter
Pacific Loon
Number Year Season
7,0002018Winter