Thousands of visitors travel to Windsor-Essex annually to see the variety of birds that flock to our area. We are one of North America’s premier bird-watching hotspots. Home to Point Pelee National Park, Holiday Beach and Hillman Marsh Conservation Areas, and Ojibway Park, and neighbouring Chatham-Kent’s, Rondeau Provincial Park, Wheatley Provincial Park, St. Clair National Wildlife Area and Blenheim Lagoons. The unique geographical properties of the Windsor-Essex area act as a funnel for the hundreds of thousands of migratory birds on the move each spring — and equally as remarkable — the fall. Our conservation areas provide important resting areas as these birds make their long journeys, and they offer year-round habitat for non-migratory birds. Conservation areas are equipped with convenient parking areas and pleasant trails and good viewing areas, and some have viewing towers to experience the pleasure of birding. Early songbird migration starts in early March with the return of waterfowl, and shorebirds follow in April. Within weeks, full migration occurs with the arrival of numerous colourful species with most migrations festivals and events taking place in May.
Point Pelee National Park
Known as a migration mecca, Point Pelee is a world-class birding site with more than 390 species recorded in the park’s birding area, and the park is coined “The Warbler Capital of Canada”. Although significant breeding birds call the park home (such as the Wood Thrush, Yellow Warbler, and the Yellow-Rumped Warbler), Point Pelee’s greatest importance is to migratory species (such as like Prothonotary Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, and the Kentucky Warbler), moving through in spring and fall and decorating trees like ornaments, allowing birders to see up to one hundred species in a day.
Holiday Beach Conservation Area
Internationally recognized as a globally significant Important Bird Area (IBA), Holiday Beach is significant for its raptor migration and its breeding habitat for Prothonotary Warblers. Holiday Beach hosts a world-renowned Festival of Hawks each September to witness the migration celebration as thousands of hawks, vultures, eagles, falcons, and other birds of prey concentrate in the area before heading across the Detroit River towards warmer, more southerly destinations for the winter.
Hillman Marsh Conservation Area
The shorebird habitat at the Hillman Marsh is unique to North America, and features some of the best shorebird habitat in its 87-acre managed wetland in Ontario. Hillman Marsh also offers a shorebird viewing shelter and identification signs. Over one hundred species of birds use this conservation area as a migration stopover, which draws sandpipers, ducks, warblers,and frequently spotted annual rarities such as the Yellow-headed Blackbird, Willet, Marbled Godwit, Eurasian Wigeon, Glossy Ibis, and Eastern Kingbird.
Ojibway Park and Prairie Complex
A visit to the Ojibway Prairie Complex in Windsor can be a rewarding experience for birders with over 247 bird species recorded in the Ojibway Prairie Complex on the southwest corner of Windsor. This is the largest protected tallgrass prairie and oak savanna in Ontario. This park complex attracts large numbers of migrant warblers, and other song birds and breeding birds such as Tufted Titmouse, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager, and Indigo Bunting. The nature centre maintains a variety of feeders that attract large numbers of birds and provides an opportunity to view wildflowers, butterflies and other wildlife seldom encountered elsewhere in Ontario.
Pelee Island Bird Observatory
For birding, Pelee Island is truly world class. The Island is recognized as a globally Important Bird Area and is at the confluence of two migration routes – the Atlantic Flyway and the Mississippi flyway. Devoted to the study and conservation of birds on the Island is Pelee Island Bird Observatory at Fish Point Nature Reserve. To give you an idea of the vast variety of birds that make their way here, this bird banding station has documented 255 different bird species on Pelee Island.
Jack Miner Bird Sanctuary
Jack Miner, a great naturalist and Canada’s first noted conservationist, became the founder of the migratory waterfowl refuge system by creating the Jack Miner Migratory Bird Sanctuary in 1904. It is located on the Miner property in Kingsville, Ontario. Five years later he pioneered the banding of migrating waterfowl; the recovery data was instrumental in the establishment of the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1916 between the United States of America and Canada as no government banding programs had been in existence at that time. Visitors can feed waterfowl, hike a 5 km trail system, visit the Museum, tour the Jack Miner House, and enjoy the grounds and special events year round. Open dawn till dusk.
Rondeau Provincial Park
Rondeau is a peninsula that extends into Lake Erie, and the park is lucky to be in an area of overlap for the Mississippi and Atlantic Flyways. This makes Rondeau a great stop-over for migrating birds. Rondeau sees a variety of species as they make their journey north in the spring and back south in the fall, which helps Rondeau uphold their status of being a great birding hotspot all year-round. Over 360 species of birds have been seen in the Rondeau area, and at least 130 of those are classified as breeding in the park. Look out for songbirds such as the Prothonotary Warbler, Townsend’s Solitaire, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Blue Grosbeak.
St. Clair National Wildlife Area
The St. Clair National Wildlife Area is a nature reserve located in the southwestern part of the Canadian province of Ontario, on eastern Lake St. Clair, west of Chatham. Lake St. Clair and adjacent marshes are the most important staging area for waterfowl including over 20,000 geese, ducks, and swans that blanket this wetland. This area is part of the Eastern Lake St. Clair Important Bird Area (IBA). The best views are from atop the observation tower or along the scenic trail.
Wheatley Provincial Park
Wheatley Provincial Park is located on a major migratory bird route and therefore provides excellent bird-watching opportunities. During spring and fall migrations you can view a variety of warblers, hawks, thrushes, and flycatchers, or watch herons and egrets wade in the shallows of creeks that wind their way through the park. Take the day to participate in the Norm Chesterfield Bird Hike, held annually around Mother’s Day to commemorate this local birding legend. Look out for the Little Blue Heron and the Mississippi Kite, warblers, hawks, thrushes, flycatchers, waterfowl, and wrens.
Blenheim Sewage Lagoons
The Blenheim Sewage Lagoons have been popular for birders as well. Birds are looking for the abundance of food, especially when so many species are on migration and requiring huge amounts of energy to continue their journey. Access to the Lagoons is by permission only, and a permit is available from the local municipal office in Blenheim. This lagoon offer close-ups of shorebirds like the Dunlin, Greater Scaup, Rudy Duck, Wood Duck, Canvasback, Great Egret, and Lesser Yellowlegs.
Some of the noteable birding events that happen annually are:
- WINTER OWL PROWL at Jack Miner Migratory Bird Sanctuary
- NATIONAL WILDLIFE WEEK at Jack Miner Migratory Bird Sanctuary
- FESTIVAL OF BIRDS at Point Pelee National Park
- SPRINGSONG/PIBO GALA ONLINE – Date: May 9, 2020, 7:00 – 8:30pm EST
- SHOREBIRD CELEBRATION at Hillman Marsh
- FESTIVAL OF HAWKS at Holiday Beach Conservation Area – September 12 & 13 and 19 & 20, 2020