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, Amabalis Fir, Yellow-cedar and Western Hemlock. At sub-alpine elevations Subalpine Fir, Mountain Hemlock and Creeping Juniper 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). Thus the park is a national level IBA on the basis of holding a crucial part of a restricted-range subspecies (those subspecies with ranges less than 50,000 km2). 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 are using a wider elevational range of habitats than the mainland ptarmigan. 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. These subalpine areas characterized by the presence Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa), Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) and other conifer krummholz intermixed with heathers. 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 Blue Grouse than they do on the mainland.
Other birds regularly seen here in alpine and subalpine habitats are the Blue Grouse, Rufous Hummingbird, American Pipit, Gray Jay, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Winter Wren, both kinglet species, American Robin, Dark-eyed Junco, Red Crossbill, and Pine Siskin. Common forests birds include: Ruffed Grouse, Band-tailed Pigeon, Stellers Jay, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Varied Thrush, Swainsons Thrush, as well as many of the aforementioned species.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Strathcona Provincial Park. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/11/2022.