16 must-see birding hotspots in southern Ontario

Rock Point Provincial Park in southeastern Ontario. Photo by JamesJongPhotography/Shutterstock

Stretching along Lake Erie’s northern shore for more than 350 miles is Canada’s most temperate region, one that can aptly be dubbed “Canada’s Riviera.” The similarities of the area to the Mediterranean seacoast are surprising. Both lie along a latitude of roughly 42 degrees and enjoy a balmy summertime average temperature of 73°F.

With roughly a dozen provincial and national parks along the lakeshore, Canada’s Riviera is a popular summer destination. The shoreline is dotted with quaint fishing villages and follows the edge of rich agricultural fields. Most of these parks have languished in the shadow of their more famous cousin, Point Pelee National Park, and await discovery by adventurous birders willing to explore their rich habitats. If you follow the shoreline along King’s Highway 3 (commonly referred to as Highway 3) from Buffalo, New York, to Detroit, Michigan, you’ll discover the many gems easily reached from this primary highway.

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Roughly 30 miles west of Buffalo you’ll find Rock Point Provincial Park, a 460-acre park with a lengthy beach. It has an extensive hiking trail system through a mixed deciduous forest and beach dunes, including a boardwalk along the shore that is quite good for birding. Waders and waterfowl are highlights of the park’s 267 species, and Rock Point is one of the few sites where Purple Sandpipers have been seen in Ontario.

Traveling southwest along Highway 3, James N. Allan Provincial Park is a rather small refuge with a half-mile pebble and sand beach. Although nearly 150 acres of the park are wetlands and forest, access for birding is limited. A stop at the park, however, can be worthwhile during spring and fall migration to spot warblers and other songbirds.

Blackburnian Warbler
Blackburnian Warblers are a common visitor to southern Ontario. Photo by Paul Reeves Photography/Shutterstock

A few miles north of the village of Cayuga, you’ll find Haldimand Bird Observatory at Ruthven Park. The park is an historic site located on the Grand River, with a Greek revival mansion and excellent birding trails around the 1,500-acre site. Visitors are warmly welcomed to the park’s active banding station.

Selkirk Provincial Park and nearby Peacock Point provide a good birding habitat with a mix of red and white oaks, maple, cherry, ash, and beech trees. Shag-bark hickories and heavy brush throughout the forested areas are a magnet for birds during migration.

The best birding can be found along Wheeler’s Walk Trail, a mile-long path that meanders through the park’s woods and meadows. The park’s campground is a great site to find migrant songbirds, and you’re also likely to find a good variety of marsh birds and shorebirds along the lakeshore marshes.

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Jerry Uhlman

Jerry Uhlman is a writer and photographer who writes birding and travel articles for nature magazines and newspapers. 

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