IBA Strathcona Provincial Park
Courtenay, British Columbia
Site Summary
BC265 Latitude
49.661° N
125.650° W
2,200 m
2,014.94 km²
coniferous forest (boreal/alpine), scrub/shrub, alpine grassland, rivers/streams, freshwater lake, scree/boulders, other
Land Use:
Nature conservation and research, Tourism/recreation, Urban/industrial/transport
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Extraction industry, Recreation/tourism
IBA Criteria: Nationally Significant: Restricted Range Species
Conservation status: IBA Conservation Plan written/being written, Provincial Park (including Marine)
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Site Description
Strathcona Provincial Park is a large park situated in the centre of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. It is a relatively undeveloped mountainous park dominated by alpine habitats and mixed coniferous forests. The lower level forests are composed of Western Redcedar, Douglas-fir, Grand Fir, and Western Hemlock. At sub-alpine elevations Subalpine Fir, Mountain Hemlock, Amabalis Fir, and Yellow-cedar are the common conifers. White and Pink mountain-heathers are also found at these elevations, intermixed with open areas of rock, alpine tarns, and moist and dry low vegetation. At the highest points in the park, such as on Golden Hinde Mountain (2200m), there is little vegetation and snow remains year-round on a few mountain-tops. This IBA includes the whole of the park except the westernmost portions of the Megin and Moyeha river watersheds.
Strathcona Provincial Park is home to the core of the Vancouver Island White-tailed Ptarmigan population. This subspecies (Lagopus leucurus saxatilis) occurs only in the central montane portions of Vancouver Island. Neither the range nor population of this alpine species is well known, but the park is clearly in the centre of their small range (perhaps 11,000 km² in size). The habitat here has the most continuous and highest quality habitat for White-tailed Ptarmigan on the island. In addition it is the area with the most historical sightings. Recent research from the Canadian Wildlife Service/University of British Columbia indicate that the Vancouver Island subspecies is using a wider elevational range of habitats than the mainland subspecies. On Vancouver Island, birds in Strathcona Provincial Park are usually in alpine habitat in the summer in moist and rocky patches of alpine vegetation dominated by Pink Mountain-heather (Phyllodoce empetriformis) and White Mountain-heather (Cassiope mertensiana). In winter, the Strathcona ptarmigan are mostly found in subalpine habitats, but also in alpine and upper montane forests. In the southern parts of Vancouver Island, such as in the Arrowsmith Mountain area, birds are more often in subalpine heath habitats in summer. In winter in southern Vancouver Island, both subalpine and upper montane conifer forests are used. This difference in use across the island may be reflective of the types of habitat available. White-tailed Ptarmigan habitats on Vancouver Island, particularly in the south therefore seem to overlap more with that of Sooty Grouse than they do on the mainland. Other birds regularly seen here in alpine and subalpine habitats are the Sooty Grouse, Rufous Hummingbird, American Pipit, Gray Jay, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Pacific Wren, both kinglet species, American Robin, Dark-eyed Junco, Red Crossbill, and Pine Siskin. Common forests birds include: Ruffed Grouse, Band-tailed Pigeon, Steller's Jay, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Varied Thrush, Hermit Thrush, Swainson's Thrush, as well as many of the aforementioned species. Northern Pygmy-owls, American Three-toed Woodpeckers and Golden Eagles are occasionally seen. Common and Barrow's Goldeneye nest in the subalpine lake areas. Sandhill Cranes migrate over the Forbidden Plateau area and occasionally land in the park.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Western Screech-Owl 2000 SP 1 - 2
Western Screech-Owl 2012 SU 1
Note: species shown in bold indicate that the maximum number exceeds at least one of the IBA thresholds (sub-regional, regional or global). The site may still not qualify for that level of IBA if the maximum number reflects an exceptional or historical occurrence.
Conservation Issues
Designated a park in 1911, Strathcona Provincial Park is the oldest provincial park in British Columbia. Numerous recreational activities occur in the park, from hiking to camping to sport fishing, but the majority of this large park is wilderness, although forest cutting does occur right up to the park boundaries. The Strathcona Park Master Plan and the Master Plan Amendment (2000) describe park policy concerning recreational activities. An operating mine is located in the montane area of the park west of Buttle Lake.

The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Birds Canada and Nature Canada.
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