Keep Wildlife in Mind During Spring Gardening

Your garden can help wildlife! One way to make a significant difference for local wildlife is by allowing your yard to become a corridor of quality habitat while preparing for spring. Being intentional with your gardening can help the wildlife in your area thrive.


Watch out for nesting birds

Keep an eye out for nesting birds when you are working on trees or undergrowth, as they are not always easy to spot!  

In the Lower Mainland, the nesting period for most songbirds is between March 1 and August 31. Different species have different nesting behaviours and timing may be dependent on temperature or specific food availability. 

Unless the tree is presenting a safety issue, the best practice is to schedule maintenance between September 1 to February 28 as to not disturb nesting wildlife. Some species, like hummingbirds, nest as early as December. It is always best to observe the tree beforehand, watching and listening for nest activity. 


Let the leaves be for a little bit longer 

As the weather is getting warmer, we know that you are likely getting ready to prepare your garden for springtime, but we encourage you to keep any fallen leaves where they are. Leaves provide an important source of food and nesting material for wildlife, and refuge for overwintering pollinators like bees and butterflies. 

If you must get rid of your leaves, wait until temperatures are consistently 10 degrees Celsius or higher before cleaning up. This will give these beneficial insects time to wake up for spring.


Plant native plants 

You can support wildlife by replacing your lawn with plants! This way your greenspace can support their foraging and provide them with shelter. 

When it’s time to start planting, try opting for native plants for your yard or balcony. These species help feed hummingbirds and berry eaters. As an added bonus, you’ll attract all kinds of wildlife visitors to your yard without needing to maintain a feeder! 

These are some of the native species you can plant in BC: 


Ditch the pesticides 

While the intended purpose of pesticides is to control pests, insects and weeds, these chemicals can be very harmful to wildlife. 

Even though pesticides are often used only in specific areas such as lawns or gardens, rain can cause these chemicals to leach into local streams and rivers. This can kill invertebrates, and fish, which birds and other wildlife rely on as sources of food. These pesticides can sicken wildlife who ingest contaminated water and food, or absorb the poisons in the water through their skin. Rodenticides can harm, and even kill, raptors and mammals who eat poisoned rats and mice. 

These are some recommended pesticide alternatives: 

  • Managing rodent attractants is important – e.g. not leaving pet food out, eliminating clutter from the perimeter of your house, etc. 
  • Use non-toxic methods such as sprays made with natural soaps or seaweed fertilizer. 

Gardening steps you can take to help prevent the need for pesticides: 

  • Separation: remove any struggling plants from your garden and be sure to keep your compost area away from your gardening area  
  • Keep it clean: remove any fallen rotting fruit immediately and keep the area clear of any other natural debris to prevent attracting pests. 
  • Variety: mixing up the type of plant species you include in your garden you will make it more difficult for plant-specific pests to spread. 


Bird and Bat Houses 

All bird species have different nesting requirements. To become a successful bird house builder, see what each species requires here. Some of them can be picky! 

You can create a bat roosting habitat by building a bat-house. To have it be successful in supporting bats, it’s important to do it correctly. You can find more guidance on bat houses here. 


Everything You Need to Know About Avian Influenza

Avian influenza primarily affects domestic poultry and wild birds and is highly contagious amongst birds. Wild species most affected by avian influenza are ducks, geese, raptors and corvids (like crows and ravens). There is currently no treatment for the virus, and it can be very deadly to birds. 

Wildlife Rescue notices an increase in birds presenting with contagious avian diseases, such as avian influenza, during fall and spring migration as birds naturally come together in large numbers. 

Common symptoms of avian flu include: 

  • Seizures 
  • Lack of energy or movement
  • Paralysis 
  • Swelling around the face/head 
  • Lack of coordination 
  • Cloudy eyes



Most recent updates on avian influenza 

For the most current guidance regarding wild birds, bird feeders, caring for domestic birds, and reporting sick or dead birds please visit the official Government of Canada website. 

For a detailed overview, you can also refer to the BC Avian Infuenza Dashboard.

Wildlife Rescue is not responsible for the surveillance of avian influenza in Canada. For the most up-to-date reports and information on the status of avian influenza in Canada, please refer to the Government of Canada website. 


What to do when you encounter sick wildlife

Do not touch the bird before contacting Wildlife Rescue or the Interagency Wild Bird Mortality Line. They will give you PPE guidance depending on the situation at hand.  

Some other things to keep in mind: 

  • Do not bring sick wild animals into your home. 
  • Keep your pets away from sick or dead animals and their feces. 
  • Report sick or dead animals as follows: 

Found a deceased duck, swan, goose, raptor or three or more deceased birds together? 

Contact the Interagency Wild Bird Mortality Line at 1-866-431-2473. The Interagency Wild Bird Mortality Line is a monitoring program that reports back to government agencies. You can find more information on the program here.

Found a live bird with avian flu symptoms? 

Contact the Wildlife Rescue Helpline for support and guidance via 604-526-7275 or


Dropping off sick animals at Wildlife Rescue 

At Wildlife Rescue, isolation drop-off spaces are in place to hold any patients suspected of carrying contagious diseases. We ask everyone bringing in sick animals to drop these off in the designated isolation drop-off space and follow the guidelines given to you by our Helpline staff to help prevent disease from spreading. 

Year-round Hummingbird Feeder Guide

If you decide to offer a hummingbird feeder, it’s essential for the birds’ safety to maintain it following the recommended guidelines all year round.

The best food for hummingbirds 

Hummingbirds have the highest metabolism of any warm-blooded animal. A high metabolism calls for high energy fuel. It’s no surprise these little birds love sugar! A simple mixture of refined, white table sugar dissolved in boiled water is sufficient for your hummingbird feeder. 

Why pure white sugar? 

You must ensure the sugar is pure white – a sign that the molasses has been removed. Molasses is high in iron and can be toxic to hummingbirds. Never use honey, brown sugar, icing sugar, juice, or artificial sweetener. Here’s why: 

  • Honey contains sugars that are less palatable to hummingbirds. It also ferments rapidly when diluted in water, which causes a rapid build-up of pathogens in your nectar. 
  • Brown sugar contains molasses, but more importantly, it has 5 times more iron than white sugar. This amount of iron is toxic to hummingbirds.
  • Icing sugar contains anti-caking agents such as corn starch, which can promote fermentation. 
  • Juice ferments rapidly. 
  • Artificial sweetener does not provide the calories that a hummingbird needs to live. 

Sugar to water ratio guidance

The standard sugar to water ratio is 1:4. During frigid temperatures, some resources show you may be able to go as concentrated as 1:3 sugar to water ratio – never stronger. However, a fresh water source should also be provided at all times. When sharing information that is dynamic with conditions, we find that sometimes details can get lost along the way. Ultimately, we want to do no harm to our hummers. A 1:4 ratio of sugar to water is consistently safe to provide.    

Never add red dye! Hummingbirds are attracted by the red colours of the feeder itself, not the nectar inside. Food colouring could potentially be harmful. 


How to maintain your hummingbird feeders 

Feeders can cause deadly infections if not maintained properly as bacteria and fungi rapidly multiply. The recommended guidance on how to effectively clean your hummingbird feeder is as follows: 

  • Feeders should be cleaned every 3-5 days. Wash out all parts of the feeder, including flower ports, with hot water and a bottle brush. 
  • Clean feeders once a week with a 10% bleach solution, rinse thoroughly and let dry fully before use. 
  • Re-fill with fresh sugar water. Stick to the 1:4 recipe of 1 part refined white sugar to 4 parts boiled water. 



How do hummingbirds survive the cold and wet winter? 

While all other species of hummingbirds that are found in BC (Rufous, Calliope, Black-chinned and Ruby-throated) seek out warmer climates during the cold winter months, Anna’s Hummingbirds have been living year-round in some areas of British Columbia since the 1990s.   

Hummingbirds don’t hibernate in the traditional sense, but they often go into an energy-conservation mode called torpor” when it gets cold in winter. Torpor is a deep sleep state in which an animal decreases its metabolic rate to consume less energy. In this state, a hummingbird’s heart rate can decrease from 1,260 beats per minute to fewer than 50 beats per minute. They also decrease their body temperature from 40°C to 18°C. Yet even during torpor, a hummingbird’s metabolism is so high, they will lose around 10% of their body weight overnight. To deal with the scarcity of nectar, hummingbirds tend to eat more insects over the winter. 


Maintaining feeders during freezing temperatures 

Hummingbirds will feed heavily at dusk and then go into thick bushes, like cedar hedges or junipers to sleep. We recommend keeping feeders out until it gets dark and then rehanging a fresh, warm feeder at the first sign of light in the morning. 

There are countless ways to keep a hummingbird feeder warm, such as a feeder heater, window feeder, hand-warmers, a wool sock, or even incandescent Christmas lights. 

Whichever technique or setup you choose, please remember the following guidelines: 

  • No matter which setup you use, it is essential to keep monitoring your feeders for freezing to prevent injuries. 
  • A covered porch/windbreak will prevent the feeder from getting covered with snow and keep it from freezing longer. Keeping it close to your home will provide protection from the elements and a great view! 
  • Never add red dye! Hummingbirds are attracted to the feeder itself, and red dye can cause harm. 
  • Avoid feeders with metal parts during cold weather. Hummingbird tongues can get frozen to them. 
  • Stick to the 1:4 recipe of 1 part refined white sugar to 4 parts boiled water. 
  • Purchase or make a feeder heater to use when temperatures drop below zero. There are products on the market made specifically to keep feeders from freezing. These products can be found online or at your local bird store. 
  • Get a couple of feeders, keep one inside and alternate them when ice starts to form. 
  • Create a warming zone, protected from wind and snow. 
  • Check the entrance/channel to the feeding tubes diligently for ice formation; this is where tongue injuries often occur (when they freeze to the feeder) and where ice crystals will first form. 


Signs of distress or injury and what to do 

During cold snaps our Wildlife Hospital often sees an influx of hummingbirds with very low blood sugar and injuries related to frozen feeders. 

Hummingbirds found on the ground need help. Other signs of distress include weakness, soiled feathers, tongue hanging out, and obvious injuries.  

Call our Wildlife Helpline 604-526-7275 or email if you find a hummingbird displaying one or more of these signs. 

To Feed or Not To Feed?

Fall and Winter Bird Feeder Guidance

Many of us like to give wildlife a helping hand by providing bird feeders over the cold fall and winter months. With various avian diseases spreading during these months, it is important to be mindful about offering food in a safe way. Ultimately, the goal is to do what is best for wildlife!

Wildlife Rescue notices an increase in birds presenting with contagious avian diseases, such as salmonella and conjunctivitis, during the colder months. Diseases can easily spread among birds sharing feeders because feeders attract large numbers of birds to one location.

We can’t tell a sick bird not to come to the buffet, so sometimes it’s best just to postpone the dinner party before anyone else gets sick.

If you notice sick birds in your backyard, we recommend cleaning your feeders and putting them away for at least 3-4 weeks and until sick birds are no longer present in your backyard. This way you can help minimize the spread of avian diseases.

Here are a few symptoms to look out for:

  • They look puffed up and sleepy (they may sleep on the feeder)
  • Not alert or not moving very much
  • Inactive and have seeds all over their beak
  • Swollen or abnormal looking eyes
  • Seeking heat up against a building

If you are choosing to offer a feeder, we recommend taking the following steps to help keep wildlife safe:

  • Remove all seeds from the ground daily.
  • Please clean your feeder at least every two weeks by washing it with hot soapy water.
  • Then, rinse the feeder thoroughly and disinfect using a solution of one part household bleach and nine parts water.
  • Ensure that the feeder is thoroughly rinsed and fully dried after disinfection before refilling with fresh food.

Please note hummingbird feeders have a different set of recommendations.


Other ways to support wildlife

Including native plants in backyard gardens is another effective way to provide food and shelter to wild birds over the fall and winter months. You will attract more wildlife visitors to your yard without needing to maintain a feeder.

These are some native species you can plant in BC:

  • White Fawn Lily
  • Salmonberry
  • Oso berry
  • Red-Flowering Currant
  • Native Columbines
  • Lupines
  • Pacific Bleeding Heart

Have you seen birds showing signs of disease, or do you have any questions? Reach out to our Support Centre for support and guidance via 604-526-7275 or

Thank you for looking out for your local wildlife!

Extreme Weather Effects on Wildlife

Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing wildlife worldwide. It is happening twice as fast than the global average in Canada. Studies show that climate change leads to longer heat waves, stronger hurricanes, increased wildfire risk along with a longer wildfire season. It is predicted that there will be more droughts, heavier rain events and severe cold spells. The more gradual warming of our climate combined with these extreme weather events are endangering wildlife and the habitats they live in.

Mac Pearsall, assistant manager of Wildlife Rescue’s hospital says, “although heat waves and weather events have always happened, it is the severity and frequency that they are occurring at now that is the cause for concern.”

Here are some of the effects extreme weather events have on wildlife in BC.

  1. Heatwaves: During heatwaves, the temperature rises much higher than normal. This extreme heat can lead to dehydration and heat stress in animals. Jackie McQuillan, Manager of Wildlife Rescue’s Support Centre explains “We are seeing a rise in heat-impacted animals. This was never something that was on our radar a couple of decades ago. Now we see it every summer. We get many calls about baby gulls overheating on rooftops, baby bats ejecting from colonies and many other animals struggling to find water and shade during extreme heat events.” Animals may struggle to find water or find enough to eat as plants dry up. Heatwaves can also cause wildfires. Wildfires can kill animals directly, or indirectly. Wildfires destroy habitats, force animals to flee which puts them in danger. Fleeing animals are forced to compete for fewer resources and are at greater risk of predation or conflict with humans.
  2. Changing Migration Patterns: Migratory species have had their patterns disrupted and rerouted due to extreme weather events and unusually mild winters. Bird migration patterns have been moving north in recent decades, climate change may be accelerating this process leaving birds vulnerable to the extreme temperatures in new locations.
  3. Changing Seasons: Spring is starting earlier which can lead to changes in food availability for wildlife and cause devastating imbalances in the ecosystem. An early spring can trigger hibernating animals to wake up too soon. These animals can face starvation if they are unable to find food during a period when they would normally be dormant. Droughts and extreme heat during the summer can also impact hibernating animals as they are unable to store up enough fat.
  4. Loss of Habitat: Extreme weather events like wildfires can destroy large areas of habitat. As habitats shrink and animals move to avoid extreme weather events, their populations become fragmented. If a population is separated it becomes very difficult for those animals to recover and thrive.
  5. Invasive Species: Warmer temperatures can benefit invasive species, as their numbers increase, and range expands it becomes easier for invasives to overtake native species. Invasive species outcompete native species for already scarce resources like homes, food, and water.

Extreme weather events are the most visible impact of climate change and at Wildlife Rescue we are seeing the impact on wildlife firsthand. In the fall of 2021, a Spotted Bat was rescued and brought into care at Wildlife Rescue. This rare bat, named for the three large spots across its shoulders was a unique visitor to the lower mainland. Spotted bats can typically be found in the dry interior valleys of British Columbia. The bat was dehydrated and underweight, after 19 days of care in our hospital it was successfully released. Climate change and extreme weather events may force wildlife like this spotted bat into new unfamiliar territories. Far from their regular habitat wildlife may have trouble finding the resources they need to survive, increasing the need for our organizations like Wildlife Rescue.

Time to Leave the Nest and Glow Up

Contributed by Lauren Kerley, Wildlife Rescue Education Coordinator

Cute may not be the first word that comes to your mind when you see a baby bird. Hatchlings and nestlings can look strange, with odd proportions and unfamiliar plumage. Baby birds go through a huge transformation to become recognizable adult birds.

Swallow babies, like the Barn Swallow nestling pictured above, are great examples of a glow up in the bird world. Swallow babies undergo a beautiful transformation that prepares them for life on the wing.

Swallows are elegant birds both perched and in flight. Their distinct flight patterns, elongated body shape and deeply forked tail make them easily recognizable in flight. Their beautiful plumage is best admired while the birds are perched. Swallows have two tone plumage patterns, darker on top and lighter underneath. Colours range from glimmering cobalt blues found in Barn Swallows to vibrant greens and purples of the Violet-Green Swallows.

Their feathers are more than just for show though as the birds are highly specialized for aerial life, spending an impressive 60% of their time in the air. Not only do the birds hunt and eat in the air, but they also drink and bathe while in flight too!

Even these beautiful songbirds have drab babies, like many other baby birds, swallow nestlings have spotted or streaked plumage to help them camouflage in their nests, protecting them from predators. A lot of changes need to occur before babies are ready to leave the nest, a beautiful and necessary transformation.

Six swallow species call British Columbia home for at least part of the year; Bank Swallows, Tree Swallows, Cliff Swallows, Violet-Green Swallows, Barn Swallows, and Northern Rough-winged Swallows. Populations of all six swallow species are in decline, with Barn and Bank Swallows being designated as threatened species under COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada).

How to Safely Drop Off Wildlife

Hundreds of injured and orphaned wildlife patients arrive at Wildlife Rescue due to window and car strikes, nest disturbances, and natural and human disturbances.

Below is your step-by-step guide that takes you through the process of dropping off rescued animals.

Found an animal in distress?

  • If, at any time, you are unsure what to do please call (604-526-7275) or email ( our Support Centre for advice on how to handle injured wildlife. Never attempt to handle anything dangerous such as a bird of prey or bat yourself.
  • If you are going to handle small songbirds or waterfowl, we suggest wearing gloves and a mask for the safety of animals and yourself. Use a cardboard box with small ventilation holes and a completely secure top. Place a towel inside and put the animal on the towel, closing the top quickly and securely. Place a towel over the box.

Dropping off at Wildlife Rescue:

  • Please call our Support Centre to notify us prior to arriving.
  • Our drop off hours vary seasonally, but our Helpline is available to answer questions from 9:00-3:00 pm daily, 7 days a week.

If you plan to drop wildlife at the centre during operating hours, please follow these instructions:

  • Proceed to 5216 Glencarin Drive, on the south shore of Burnaby Lake
  • Please park in any of the parking spots in either parking lot.
  • Follow the signage to our Admissions Centre where Wildlife Rescue personnel will guide you on next steps.

If you plan to drop wildlife at the centre after operating hours, please follow these instructions:

  • Proceed to 5216 Glencarin Drive, on the south shore of Burnaby Lake
  • When you are within sight of the end of Glencarin Drive you will notice the Administration Building on your left with the clearly marked Intake Shed to the left of the stairs.
  • Please park in any of the parking spots in either parking lot.
  • Place your bird in a secured and ventilated box on the shelf inside the Intake Shed.
  • Completely fill out the front side of the white intake form (located on the clipboard) so we know where the bird was found and what happened to it.
  • Place the form under the box.
  • Ensure the door to the Intake Shed is securely closed when you depart.
  • Please consider donating to help care for the patient you have found here.

Duckling FAQ

Spring is duckling season, and with that comes a lot of questions about what to do when little baby ducks show up in unexpected places. Get your questions answered with our quick and handy Duckling FAQ! If you’ve still got questions, feel free to email or call our help line at (604) 526-275.

Download Here (Duckling FAQ)

How You Can Help Nesting Herons

Like many bird species, the large and majestic Great Blue Herons are working away at nesting and laying eggs. While they’re not an uncommon sight around Vancouver, they are a species at risk in BC.

Despite their relatively large size, herons are extremely sensitive birds. The slightest human disturbance can cause a heron to completely abandon their nest. As herons nest in colonies of multiple families (also known as rooks), a group of herons abandoning a nest due to stress can be devastating.

What can you do to help? If you’ve noticed herons nesting near your home or favourite walking path, do your best to steer clear of the nest to prevent disturbing the birds. Keep an eye out for signs. Sometimes conservation officers will place them in the area to warn the public that a heron nest is nearby.

The above is especially true if you have a lovable canine friend. Dogs are a big disturbance for nesting herons, so be sure to keep your best friend close, on a leash, and well away from nesting sites on your daily walks this spring.

Your donations are critical to helping the local heron population! With your help, nests of orphaned baby herons can receive the care they need at Wildlife Rescue. Together, we can do our part to help these majestic, and sensitive, animals survive.

Co-existing with Coyotes

There are more babies on the way in spring than just birds! Coyotes are great at pest control, eating rats and mice, so it’s important to know how we can best share our environment with these tenacious wild animals.

Coyotes will form breeding pairs and begin having litters of puppies around this time of year. They are dedicated parents, and both males and females will stay with the litter. Coyotes are more visible at this time of year as they’ll be patrolling their territory with frequency. They might appear to act more aggressive, but in reality they’re just trying to keep their little ones safe. So, what can we do if we think there’s coyote activity in our neighbourhood?

Our friends at the Stanley Park Ecology Society have come up with the following guidelines for safe coexistence:

During breeding season it is very important for people to be aware of their surroundings when they’re out in parks or natural spaces, especially if they are walking a dog.

  • Avoid encounters altogether – consult the Stanley Park Ecology Society coyote sightings map for areas to avoid and adjust your route and respect trail closures.
  • Keep dogs on-leash to give you more control if you encounter a coyote.
  • Should you see a coyote, keep an eye on it as you walk steadily away from the area, picking up your dog, if able. Stay calm and observe its behaviour for cues.
  • If a coyote gets too close, haze it by raising your arms to be BIG and yell deeply to be LOUD.
  • Do not run away from a coyote; this may invite it to chase you.
  • Assess properties for food attractants and potential denning sites. Remove any food sources like open trash or compost. Cut down overgrown vegetation and close off any openings that can be used as dens.

Most importantly, If you see a coyote, you can report the sighting to the Stanley Park Ecology Society here! This helps the conservation community know where activity is highest and can help keep people, pets and coyotes safe.

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