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A Report from

Toronto, Canada, July 2006 ,

Chris Hill

            I visited the United States and Canada for a 3 week holiday in late July and early August. Although it was a family holiday there was still ample time to fit in birding. It was the first time I had ever visited North America to look for birds and as I knew nothing about the calls and songs of each species all my birding was done by identifying the species by sight alone. Although this can lead to some difficulties, particularly among the Waders, Sparrows and Tyrant Flycatchers, identifying the birds is not overly difficult. In terms of a field guide I would recommend the two Sibley Books, one for birds of Eastern North America and the other Western North America. I would also advise doing a bit of research before you get there, particularly if you have only limited time, as having a list of potential sites to visit before you reach your destination is a better way of doing it than trying to work out where to visit when you get their.

             The holiday started in Toronto, the largest city in Canada, and although I had only limited time for birding here I still saw a good variety of species.  Even within the middle of the city it is possible to see some interesting birds with RING BILLED GULL, AMERICAN HERRING GULL and CHIMNEY SWIFT not too difficult to find in downtown Toronto. STARLINGS and HOUSE SPARROWS were also common within the city, but neither species is native to North America.  The one place I did visit with birding in mind was Tommy Thompson State Park, which is a man made peninsular which sticks into Lake Ontario just east of the city centre. The site is just a short taxi drive from Toronto but I did have to give the taxi driver directions as he had never heard of the Park. The Park is only officially open at weekends but it is still possible to visit the northern half of the park during the week, where one can still hope to see a good number of birds. The Park is a good place to visit if you only have limited time in the city or if you are reliant on public transport for getting around.  I spent a couple of hours there and saw the following species:

KILDEER - common, being both noisy and conspicuous

SPOTTED SANDPIPER – one seen on rocks along the edge of Lake Ontario

SAVANNAH SPARROW – a fairly nondescript bird

AMERICAN ROBIN – common, one of North America’s most familiar birds


DOUBLE CRESTED CORMORANT – common on Lake Ontario

TREE SWALLOW – common, although few of the birds showed much green/blue on their backs as shown in the field guides and are instead best identified by their clean white breasts


AMERICAN GOLDFINCH – common, the males being unmistakeable with their bright yellow plumage

EASTERN KINGBIRD – common, being somewhat Shrike like as they often perched in the open as they looked out for insects

MALLARD – common on Lake Ontario


NORTHERN CARDINAL – common, the males being unmistakeable with their bright red plumage



            Undoubtedly a greater variety of species would be seen if you visited at the weekend when the reserve is officially open and a greater variety of habitats could be explored.  The site is supposed to be good for Herons (amongst others, Night Herons breed), Terns and passage Waders. The fact that the Park juts out into Lake Ontario also means it has potential as a good location for attracting migrating passerines at the correct time of year whilst the Lake itself presumably attracts Wildfowl, Divers etc… There is also a Bird Research Centre their, which I presume opens at weekends and would be a good place to start a days birding.

            Most people visiting Toronto make the relatively short trip to the world famous Niagara Falls, and even at this tourist dominated location a number of interesting birds can be seen. Around the Whirlpool area I saw CHIPPING SPARROW, CEDAR WAXWING and a variety of Swallows whilst on the Niagara River between the two falls were small numbers of BONAPARTES GULL.

From Toronto I then moved on to California.....

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