Casual Birding in Toronto

Toronto really is a great place for birdwatching. With Lake Ontario, and two big rivers (the Don and the Humber), and High Park and a few other large parklands, and the many small parks that form green corridors through the city, and being situated smack in the middle of more than one major North American bird migration route, we’re well set for diversity. Toronto may have a reputation for being cold and corporate, but wildlife can be found anywhere you look for it. And I do like to look for it! The Toronto Ornithological Club’s checklist features 399 birds (195 of them confirmed breeders). I’m not a proper birder by any means, but I like to pay attention, and slowly I am building my own tentative lifelist.

Year-Round Residential Birds

  • Feral rock dove (pigeon)
  • House sparrow
  • European starling
  • Seagulls: 18 gulls are listed on the TOC checklist, four of them confirmed breeders. I really don’t know which of the 18 I’ve seen, although there is one kind of gull (I think it’s one kind) that I see around often and everywhere and all year around: the Ring-billed or California gulls.
  • Common grackle
  • American crow
  • Common raven
  • Swans: you see them around, Mute, Trumpeter, or Tundra, I don’t know; and I don’t know if they’re migratory, but the ones I’ve seen up close have wing pins and leg bands … I assume they stick around here for the winter, but I could be wrong.

Migratory Birds

  • Canada goose (spring, autumn)
  • American robin (spring and summer; year-round on the York U campus)
  • Red-winged blackbird (spring through autumn)
  • House finch (spring, autumn)
  • Raptors (winter): A bunch of raptors are listed on the TOC checklist (many hawks, a few falcons, a couple eagles, a harrier, and the Osprey). I’ve seen them circling high above many times, but they’re too far away for me to identify. I can say I’ve seen Cooper’s hawk, and I also think I’ve seen the Ferruginous and Red-tailed hawks, and the Peregrine falcon.
  • Slate-coloured dark-eyed junco (autumn and early winter)
  • American goldfinch (mid to late summer)
  • Northern cardinal (spring and summer)
  • Brewer’s blackbird (or Rusty blackbird; spring, early summer)
  • Mallard (spring through autumn)
  • Woodpeckers (spring and summer): I’ve seen woodpeckers a handful of times now; most likely, either Downy or Hairy woodpeckers, but I suppose there’s a chance they could have been Red-bellied or American three-toeds, or maybe Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.
  • Mourning dove (summer)
  • Chimney swift (mid to late summer)
  • Black-capped chickadee (spring through autumn)
  • White-breasted nuthatch (spring and summer)
  • Blue jay (late summer and autumn)
  • Long-tailed duck (spring)
  • Emberizids: These birds are a great confusion for me. They all look the same! Okay, not all of them, but many of them. There is a kind I saw once, and I’m sure they weren’t House Sparrows, but were they Chipping sparrows? Grasshoppers? American Trees? A host of female Lapland longspurs? I really don’t know.
  • Barn swallow
  • Sandpipers (summer): There are many sandpiper and sandpiper-looking birds (like plovers) listed on the TOC checklist… I believe I have seen a Spotted sandpiper, a Semipalmated plover, and a Killdeer, each once.
  • Yellow-bellied flycatcher (autumn)
  • Brown-headed cowbird (spring)
  • Oriole (Orchard, Bullock’s, or Baltimore, I’m not sure which; spring)
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