Vancouver Avian Research Centre

.....Research - Conservation - Education

Youth Groups Program

What VARC does

The Vancouver Avian Research Centre (VARC) is a Registered Canadian Charity dedicated to wild bird research, conservation and education. It conducts year round bird monitoring and banding and provides public outreach to raise awareness of environmental issues particularly as they relate to breeding and migratory birds.

In support of VARC’s mandate to educate youth, VARC has developed an Avian Environmental Education program for schools and youth groups which provides an engaging educational experience, fostering awareness and appreciation of birds and the environment.

Program description

Depending on the group involved, VARC offers several parts to its program:

1) Site visits to its banding station (all ages)
2) Information on creating Bird Friendly Campuses and Gardens
3) Information on what children can do to help birds and the environment

*VARC is a volunteer organization and does not currently have the resources to provide ‘in-school’ support but offers tools and information to assist teachers and youth leaders.

Site Visits

The program includes a field trip to VARC’s Colony Farm Banding Station where students are introduced to the research techniques required for monitoring migratory birds and the population ecology and ecosystem dynamics of wild bird populations, in an age specific way. Students will learn about bird migration; the various habitats and communities they depend on during both spring and fall migration and the breeding season; and the conservation actions required to protect these habitats to ensure the long term survival of bird species.

The structure of group visits starts with a short talk when students arrive to tell them who we are, what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. We then typically split groups in to 2 – one group accompanies our net extractors on net rounds while the other group stays at the banding station to watch the banding, take photos and ask questions. We then supervise while each child gets the opportunity to hold and release a bird. The groups are then switched.

At the end of the visit we give another short talk about habitat conservation and the importance of safeguarding areas like Colony Farm for breeding and migratory birds. We also provide each child with information on how they can help to make a difference.

In addition we talk about creating bird friendly campuses and gardens by preventing window strikes, and putting up feeders and nest boxes.

What time would it be?

Bird banding is a very early morning activity – we start at dawn and continue until mid-morning depending on capture rates. Bird activity is highest in the period immediately following dawn and then dies down as the morning progresses so it is best to get your group to the station no later than 8.00am but the earlier the better.

What age group is appropriate?

Because of the environment and to ensure the welfare and safety of birds this is more suitable for children over the age of 6. We recommend that the younger the participants the smaller the group and the lower the adult to children ratio – we cannot provide any supervision, that must be your responsibility. The optimum size for younger groups is 10 – 12 children. We don’t recommend any group over 20 participants no matter what the age.

Should we schedule a back-up date in case it is raining that day?

This is always a good idea. The station is normally operational each week on two weekdays and both  Saturday and Sunday from April 1st to October 31st (weather permitting) although we would prefer groups to visit on the weekend as we have more volunteer help available. We suggest scheduling the visit for a Saturday with the idea that it can be moved to the Sunday if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

What are the facilities at the banding station?

We have a very visitor friendly set up with banding pagoda, picnic tables, coat and backpack racks and a wilderness eco-friendly washroom at the station.

Are there any costs involved?

In order to continue our work, VARC charges $10 per visitor – if this is not affordable please email us to discuss. Tax receipts will be issued for amounts over $10 per person (VARC is a Registered Canadian Charity). A minimum of $100 is required to reserve the morning for your group. Please use the button below to pay the minimum when booking – any additional people can pay at the station.

What should we bring?

• Warm clothing – Colony Farm is a low lying area and can be cold even in the summer months and especially early in the morning
• Rubber boots or waterproof shoes – The banding station is in the old field habitat and the grass can be quite wet especially in the early morning
• Binoculars and cameras
• Water and snacks

How do we get to Colony Farm and the banding station?

Please note that we are closest to the Shaughnessy Street entrance to the park, NOT the community gardens on Colony Farm Road which is a 15/20 minute walk across the park. Please do NOT use GPS; it will take you to the wrong entrance.


Take Highway 1 east. Take exit 44 for United Blvd/ British Columbia 7B E / British Columbia 7 E. Keep left at the fork to continue toward Mary Hill Bypass. Merge onto Mary Hill bypass. Turn left at the first traffic light which is Shaughnessy.


From Lougheed Hwy, take the British Columbia 7 Business/British Columbia 7B exit toward Trans-Canada Highway/Vancouver/British Columbia 1. Merge onto Mary Hill Bypass and after about 5 km turn right at the traffic lights. This is Shaughnessy St.


Take Highway 1 west –Before crossing Port Mann Bridge take Exit 44 for BC 7 toward United Boulevard. Keep right at the fork and continue toward United Boulevard. Keep right at the next fork and follow signs for United Bld S/ British Columbia 7B E and merge onto United Blvd. Turn left onto the BC 7B E ramp and merge onto Mary Hill Bypass. Turn left at the first traffic light; this is Shaughnessy St.


Once on Shaughnessy Street, about half a mile along on the left hand side (through one set of lights) is a pull-out overlooking Colony Farm Regional Park (blue star on map). Park here. There is also a small additional parking lot on the opposite side of the road.

Walk through the metal gate and down along trail and in to the park – You will pass a pond on the right – 200 yards after the pond is a metal gate on the right hand side with green and yellow garbage can and a ‘Wildlife Habitat Area – Research Personnel Only’ sign - walk through the gate (PLEASE CLOSE AND LATCH IT BEHIND YOU) and follow the trail around to the banding station.

For further information please contact us by visiting our contact page.

We look forward to seeing you at the banding station!


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