I have many fond memories of bird watching with my grandmother. We would collect our duck boots, and binoculars and head into the woods to look for feathered critters. Now, even though I’ve grown up and my grandmother is on the other side of the country, I still notice the many different types birds flying through the sky. When I moved to Toronto, I didn’t expect to see much wildlife — and if any of them were birds, I was positive it would be the ugly pigeon. But now, I see them all. There are all sorts of birds fluttering around this city. Some are even quite rare!
But, what should you look for if you want to spot some unique ? Here are a few tips I learned from my grandmother to determine if the bird you see outside your window is a plain old robin or something a little more interesting. Don’t forget to bring a book with you so that you can compare results!
Firstly, look at the bird’s shape. Note the head, bill, and wing shape. Narrow down the options by comparing it to a sparrow or a pigeon. Is it larger or smaller? Also take a look at the flight pattern. For example, Finches fly in bouncy patterns whereas warblers fly in a straight line.
One of the most popular birds in Toronto is the northern flicker. It migrates back to Toronto in March and has brown and black spots with a white rump. Its golden wing linings are key markers and they also have black moustaches. Another method of determining the bird breed is to listen to the bird call. A northern flicker has a distinct wik-a-wik-a-wik sound that it makes to attract mates. These birds are easy to find all over Toronto in parks and pastures, and I have seen many over my bird-watching years.
I have many fond memories of falcons flying overhead as my grandmother and I drove through the Ontario countryside, and it turns out these gorgeous birds live in Toronto as well. The Peregrine falcon is classified as a raptor bird and is easy to identify. The crow-sized falcon has blue-grey feathers on the top of its body and is white underneath. It has a yellow curved beak and a black head. This type of falcon was severely endangered in the 1960s due to the DDT chemical that had devastating effects on both birds and humans. Toronto is home to five nesting sites in the downtown core and the falcons migrate annually to these sites.
Northern cardinals are one of my favourite birds because of their striking red plumage. They were first seen in Toronto in 1900. The best part about this bird is that they do not migrate and can be found in the city all year. Be sure to listen for their loud cheer-cheer-cheer mating call. The blue jay is another resident bird of the city (and no, I’m not talking about the baseball team). Did you know that the blue jay is not actually blue? The cells that make up the feathers absorb every other colour except blue and this colour is instead reflected. Blue jays also choose individually whether to migrate or not, with some remaining in Toronto for the winter and others heading south.
Birds are true survivors, and thankfully have adapted well to constant city building. Imagine Toronto without bird calls and beautiful feathered friends flying in the sky. Doesn’t the world suddenly seems darker and more empty?
What is your favourite bird in the city? Post in the comments below.