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A Report from

Carden Alvar, near Toronto, 18 -19 July 2005,

Gary and Marlene Babic


Birders with a weekend in the Toronto area should consider a short trip north of Toronto to the Carden Alvar  Important Bird Area (IBA). This area is approximately 200 km north of Toronto and has a wide range of habitat, in particular grasslands, and a very high concentration of birds.


An excellent web page covering the Carden Alvar IBA is at:

The directions in this web page are very good, as are the recommendations for specific locations where birds are likely to be seen. The only comment I can add to this information is that this region is extremely popular as a weekend retreat for Toronto residents during summer. We did not make hotel reservations because we were unsure of our final itinerary, and by Saturday mid-day we were distressed to learn that nearly all hotels in the area were fully booked. We were fortunate to locate the last room available at a small local inn near Orillia.

Our visit to Carden Alvar was short, and shorter than expected due to a delayed flight into Toronto. We ended up having only Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning in the area. Further limiting our birding was rain that began Saturday evening and continued through part of Sunday morning. Despite this limited time, we were able to see three of the target birds we were looking for (Sedge Wren, Virginia Rail, and Whippoorwill) on Saturday; partly because of the rainy conditions we did not see any of the target birds we were looking for on Sunday (Black-billed Cuckoo, Mourning Warbler, Ruffed Grouse, Henslow’s Sparrow). Nonetheless, we did see a wide range of birds in the area, and more would certainly be possible under better conditions.  

Bird List

Because we had such a short visit, this list is only a snapshot and may not be representative of what could be seen under better conditions or a longer visit. In addition, this trip was made in mid-summer, when the birds may have been past the peak breeding period and therefore quiet and more difficult to locate.

Canada Goose 
Wood Duck (one female)
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed hawk
Wild Turkey (many, including six juveniles, along Alvar Road)
Virginia Rail (several along road)
Upland Sandpiper (only one)
Mourning Dove
Common Nighthawk
Whippoorwill (on Alvar Road)
Belted Kingfisher
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-pewee
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird (everywhere)
Red-eyed Vireo
Common Raven
American Crow
Horned Lark
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Sedge Wren
House Wren
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Brown Thrasher
Gray Catbird
Eastern Starling
Cedar Waxwing (several groups)
Blue-winged Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Common Yellowthroat (at Sedge Wren site)
Field Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow (along Alvar Road)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Purple Finch
American Goldfinch
Two birds possibly seen but not solidly identified:
Evening Grosbeak
Grasshopper Sparrow


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