Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024
Cape May warbler

Welcome to the May installment “IBA in Provincial Parks,” presented by Ontario IBA Coordinator Amanda Bichel of Bird Studies Canada.

Did you know that Saturday (May 11, 2019) was International Migratory Bird Day? What a wonderful reason to highlight sites famous for migratory songbirds!

In today’s post, we talk about two of Ontario’s southernmost Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas:

What might you see in these IBAs?

Chestnut-sided warblerChestnut-sided warbler

Warblers, sparrows, wrens, vireos, thrushes and more can be seen (and heard) during migration, and many stay to breed. At-risk species, including the Prothonotary Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Acadian Flycatcher, also appear prowling, jumping, or calling at these sites.

Where are these IBAs?

The sandy, southern deciduous habitat found in Fish Point and Lighthouse Point Provincial Nature Reserves has restricted development, making them a birdwatching paradise.


Long Point Provincial Park is part of the longest freshwater sand spit in the world. This fourth oldest park in Ontario receives thousands of visitors each year, but still has a rich variety of bird watching spots.

The important work of the IBAs

Thanks to data meticulously collected at bird observatories, we know a lot about the number of birds in these IBAs. The Pelee Island Bird Observatory (PIBO) is located on the southeast coast of the island, just a few kilometers from Fish Point, and has been operating since 2003. The Long Point Bird Observatory (LPBO), directly outside of Long Point Provincial Park, flourished in Bird Studies Canada and is the oldest bird observatory in the Western Hemisphere (it was established in 1960). Both focus on research, education and of course tracking (both are members of the Canadian Migration Tracking Network).

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teacher and studentsJody Allair leading a Saw-whet Owl show at LPBO. Photo: Canadian Bird Studies

PIBO has recorded 318 bird species in its short time of operation, and LPBO has recorded 400! PIBO and its surrounding areas are home to almost a third of Canada’s vascular plant species and the only populations of Blue Racers and Lake Erie Watersnakes in the country. Recent species of interest are American white pelicans at PIBO, and an unnamed blue-winged and golden-winged warbler hybrid at LPBO.

pelicans and hybridsAmerican white pelicans. Photo: PIBO. Two hybrids. Photo: Jody Allair

The sheer number of birds migrating through these IBAs and provincial parks is simply extraordinary!

For example, more than 900,000 common grackles were counted in a single day at Long Point in 2015. On Pelee Island, 15,000 common grackles have been seen in a day outside of Fish Point, 2.7% of its North American population.

These IBAs and provincial parks provide wonderful opportunities to witness the spectacle of migration.

Many nature clubs organize excursions to Pelee Island and Long Point, so check with your local club. Plus, wherever you’re birding in May, why not help raise funds for bird conservation by participating in the Great Canadian Birdathon (anyone can join our team, Glossy IBAses, to support IBA conservation in all of Canada)?

Cape May WarblerCape May Warbler

Whatever you do, get out and enjoy the rapid and surprising pulse of migration!

DIFFERENT logosBird Studies Canada thanks the Ontario Trillium Foundation for generously supporting the Ontario IBA Program. To stay up to date with these monthly blogs, sign up for the Ontario OTHER Bulletin.