The Niagara Region and its 12 municipalities are located between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, making it an ideal corridor for migrating birds. The various habitats in the region support an exceptional diversity of migratory birds during the spring and fall.
Many species will come through Niagara during the spring migration. In fact, with the warmer temperatures we have been experiencing in the region this spring, many of these species are already back. Spring migration is unique because we begin to see some of the amazing songbirds that only visit the region for a short time, such as the Scarlet Tanager, Rose Breasted Grosbeak, and Blackburnian Warbler. Some of these species also come here for the summer to breed.
Aside from the songbirds, there are also many other species of birds whose migration patterns can be observed during this period. Some of the first birds to return are different types of waterfowl that visit Lake Ontario. A number of these migrant birds, such as the Northern Shoveler and the Blue Winged Teal, are only present for one to two weeks—so make sure you watch for them and check them off your birding list!
Niagara is home to many different bird watching areas, and with the mild weather we have been having this spring, birdwatching is a great way for people of all ages to pass the time and learn something new while practicing social distancing.
The Niagara River Corridor, Port Weller East Pier, and wooded areas along the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario shoreline are great locations for spotting some of the region’s most amazing birds. Many local conservation parks and trails, such as Beamer Memorial Conservation Area and Mud Lake Conservation Area, currently remain open for passive recreational use and are also perfect places for birdwatching (all buildings within the parks, including public washrooms, are presently closed, however).
There are also great resources online if you want to learn more about local bird populations from home.
The All About Birds resource from Cornell, for example, has a searchable bird database and other great resources for new or veteran birdwatchers alike. The National Audubon Society website is another great resource, providing information about ecosystem-wide conservation initiatives and local bird populations, as well as hosting citizen science initiatives like the Christmas Bird Count.
Niagara Birds by John Black and Kayo Roy can also be accessed online, offering 25 articles and 368 species accounts authored by professional ornithologists and highly experienced amateur birders.
Picture caption: During the spring months we often see beautiful birds, such as the Rose Breast Grosbeak shown above. Photo courtesy of Marcie Jacklin.