VIU Milner Gardens and Woodland

Birds and Animals

Birds of Milner Gardens & Woodland

Bald Eagle

Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Eagles are large birds with a wingspan up to 7 feet, so they need a very large nest. The nest seen from this viewpoint is approximately 8 feet across and probably weighs about 5 to 8 hundred pounds. The platform is roughly the size of this nest.

Mature eagles live in breeding pairs that occupy a nesting territory. With nests of this size it is apparent they need very large, old trees to nest in. The tree must be in a prominent location for easy access, close to the ocean for feeding and have an unobstructed view for protection. Such specialized requirements for nest trees are what limit the number of eagles on the east coast of Vancouver Island. Only 60% of Vancouver Island eagles nest every year.


Psaltriparus minimus

These little birds are often seen in flocks with Kinglets and Chickadees in winter as they seem to float from tree to tree as they forage for seeds and small insects.

Their most interesting feature is the bag nest they build. Approximately 8 to 12 inches long, it is made of moss, lichens, leaves and grass held together with spiderweb.

When feeding they seem to spend more time upside down than right side up.

Chestnut-Backed Chickadee

Parus rufescens

A favourite of our gardens and woodland, this little bird can be tamed to feed from your hand but still remains a cheeky free spirit.

If they can be encouraged to nest in your yard, the aphid and small caterpillar population will drop.

Black sunflower seeds in your bird feeder will help keep a good number around the home. In cold weather a suet block or some peanut butter will help them through a long cold night.

Downy or Hairy Woodpecker

Picoides pubescens
Picoides villosus

The Downy is about 17 cm long while the Hairy is about 24 cm. If you don’t have a way to compare them for size, look at their bills; the Downy’s is much less than a head width long while the Hairy’s is almost as long as its head is wide.

The Downy is apt to just climb higher in the tree when you walk by while the Hairy will tend to fly ahead of you.

Both these birds build nest cavities and therefore need dead trees. Both sexes brood the eggs and young, and both parents feed their young.

Pileated woodpecker

Dryocopus pileatus

These are the largest woodpeckers in our forest and are easily recognized by their prominent red crest and white throat. Their size requires them to dig very large nest cavities which are in turn used by smaller birds including owls, chickadees and nuthatches. When Pileated woodpeckers are hunting for larva in tree trunks, they cut square cornered holes that create plenty of wood debris. These holes are very distinctive and are a sure sign of their presence.

Song Sparrow

Melospiza melodia

A common little brown sparrow with a rounded tail and sometimes a dark spot on the breast. They like brushy cover to flit and feed in but their song is one of the best in our area.

Song Sparrows are often seen in gardens and around bird feeders, rarely in flocks and they are always on the move.

A nest of grass, bark strips and leaves, lined with fine material is built on or near the ground, often in brush piles. Unfortunately these nests are favourite places for Cowbirds to lay their eggs.

Varied Thrush

Ixoreus naevius

The Varied Thrush is a bird of the forest and will rarely stray far from the cover of shrubs and trees. Its primary source of food is insects and invertebrates with fruit in the fall and winter.

It tends to nest in conifers about 9’ to 25’ above ground in a cup-shaped nest of grass and mud. Three or four eggs are incubated for approximately 14 days. These eggs are pale blue and flecked with brown.

The song of this Thrush has been described as an eerie, bell like, prolonged whistle that slowly fades away from the listener. It is certainly one of the loveliest of calls when heard in the deep forest.

Western Screech Owl

Otus kennicottii

A small owl with a very loud voice, this owl can be heard calling in the evening and very early morning. The call is a musical trill that pairs sing in duet. They are nocturnal and are rarely seen in the daytime. They feed on mice, shrews and some insects. Because these owls are brownish grey, they blend in with the bark of the trees they roost in. Their feathers are very soft and flexible which gives them the ability to fly silently and surprise their prey. They seem to float rather than fly.