The island is predominantly alluvial in nature and is approximately 1.5 miles long. It is separated from Rose Island to the south by a narrow tidal channel; they are sometimes collectively referred to as Rose-Kirkland Island. It is uninhabited and is under the management of the Kirkland Island Waterfowl Society, which does not allow public access. The entire archipelago, comprising Kirkland, Woodward, Barber, Duck, Rose, Gunn and Williamson Islands, falls within the Agricultural Land Reserve and is under the administration of the British Columbia Ministry of Environment, designated as the South Arm Marshes Wildlife Management Area.
In February, 2009, Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) announced completion of an intertidal enhancement project increasing fish habitat at Rose-Kirkland Island. PMV contributed $1.5 million as part of a multi-year plan to offset loss of wildlife habitat from the development of the Deltaport Third Berth Project (DP3). The Rose-Kirkland Island project included breaching Fraser River dikes to create an intertidal environment; raising the elevation of a kilometre of dike to mitigate flooding of the fields on the island; excavating the pool area to facilitate tidal flushing; and upgrading 250 metres of rock riprap along the foreshore to protect against erosion due to waves caused by Fraser River boat traffic.
Kirkland Island derives its name from Ladner resident John Kirkland, who with his descendants were prominent landholders in the Surrey and Delta area.
Until 1960, Kirkland and Rose islands were privately owned by HR McMillan, when ownership was transferred to Kirkland Island Waterfowl Society. In 1989, The Nature Trust along with the Pacific Estuary Conservation Program partners purchased the islands and subsequently leased it to the B.C. Ministry of Environment. The ministry, in turn, licensed annual agriculture management and production to the Kirkland Island Waterfowl Society to attract and support migrant waterfowl. In exchange, the society received exclusive use of the islands as a hunting club.
Many animal species, both endemic and transient, frequent Kirkland Island and the South Arm Marshes. They include: