Gull on snowy monumentBirds

Esquimalt Lagoon is one of the most important bird feeding areas in the region, and is a federally designated Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Large flocks of seabirds, shorebirds, waterfowl can be found here year-round, particularly around the gravel bars near the entrance to the lagoon. Some species are migratory and use the lagoon to fuel up for their long journeys.


One of the important ecological features of the lagoon is the eelgrass that forms lush underwater meadows in the protected waters of the lagoon. Eelgrass is a flowering plant with grass-like blades that hosts a complex marine food web, providing habitat for fish and invertebrates, and a food source for geese and other birds. Eelgrass meadows cover 15 hectares or 19% of the subtidal area of the lagoon.


Historically, several of the creeks that flow into Esquimalt Lagoon supported spawning populations of Pacific salmon and cutthroat trout. Over time the creeks have been degraded by pollution, alteration of stream flows and channel modification. Today, very limited numbers of salmon are known to spawn in Colwood Creek. Resident cutthroat trout live in Colwood Creek and Bee Creek, though have not recently been found in Selleck Creek.

Pacific herring spawned regularly in Esquimalt Lagoon prior to the 1950s, and was observed in the early 1990s. This small schooling fish is an important food source for many marine fish, mammals and birds.

Surf smelt and sand lance are often seen near the lagoon, and there is evidence that some spawning occurs on the sandy intertidal areas of the spit. These small schooling fish are refered to as "forage fish" since they are an important food source for migratory birds and other wildlife.


The intertidal gravel bars at the entrance to the lagoon support one of the largest populations of clams, mussels and oysters in the region. First Nations historically used Esquimalt Lagoon for harvesting shellfish, but today shellfish harvesting is prohibited due to contamination.

In subtidal areas of the lagoon there are large beds of Pacific sand dollars, and in the high-current area at the entrance to the lagoon are populations of invertebrates that are typical of high wave exposure shorelines.

Learn more about the wildlife and plants of Esquimalt Lagoon

More information about Wildlife & Plants of Esquimalt Lagoon

One of the ELSI partners, the Victoria Natural History Society, assembled a Bird Checklist for Esquimalt Lagoon/Royal Roads University. Download a copy here: