Top Ten Spots for Spring Birding

Central: The Warbler Capital of North America: Point Pelee, Ontario

A needle of land projecting south into Lake Erie, Ontario's Point Pelee National Park is well established as the best inland migrant trap in North America. There are 55 American wood warblers—fully 42 of them have been recorded at Point Pelee, with 36 occurring each year.

During the early fits and starts of the spring migration, the 12-mile-long peninsula is traveled by large and varied rafts of waterfowl, including tundra swans and the full complement of dabbling and diving ducks. But when the songbird migration begins to gear up in mid-April Point Pelee begins to take on a carnival atmosphere, as immense numbers of vireos, warblers, thrushes, flycatchers, and so forth are greeted by crowds of birders. Each year, up to 80,000 birders and photographers brandish their optics during the park's monthlong Festival of Birds; when the day's birding is done, the monomaniacal can attend birding workshops, clinics by manufacturers of binoculars and other birding gear, and lectures and book signings by ornithological notables.

Just the Facts

Birding Hot Spots: Point Pelee is fairly small, but it sports a remarkable diversity of habitat. Whether on the sand spit at the peninsula's tip, the scrub of the back dunes, or the marshlands and Carolinian forest that dominates its more northerly parts, songbirds can usually find their favored habitat; birding the park is largely a matter of combing each type of habitat for its characteristic species. If you want to pick up a few more species, check out the "Onion Fields" north of Point Pelee, where you can expect a good variety of shorebirds, as well as the Hillman Marsh Conservation Area, an excellent spot for all kinds of rails, ducks, and wading birds.

More Ontario Outdoors: If you're up in this neck of the woods strictly for birding, you might want to drop down to the south side of Lake Erie, where Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is Point Pelee's counterpart on the American side. But Ontario's outdoors is bigger than birding alone will teach you—there's tremendous Great Lakes steelhead fishing, provincial parks that rival anything south of the border, and world-class paddling in the Boundary Waters area.


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