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Birder's Corner


by Mike Burrell

Here is a very useful list of 198 of Ontario's fairly common birds and the dates you can reasonably expect to find them returning.  Mike Burrell, one of Ontario's most well-known experienced birders, first provided this list in his blog, The Nomadic Naturalist. Note that there are always "pioneers" who will turn up earlier than the expected date. 

02 Feb  

Horned Lark

05 Feb   

American Crow

20 Feb


26 Feb


 Northern Pintail


European Starling

28 Feb

Tundra Swan

American Wigeon

02 March 

Snow Goose

Canada Goose

Ring-billed Gull

03 March


Lesser Scaup

Red-breasted Merganser

American Coot

04 March

Cackling Goose

 Hooded Merganser

Red-winged Blackbird
House Finch*

07 March

Red-necked Grebe

Common Grackle

08 March

Ring-necked Duck

09 March

Horned Grebe

Sandhill Crane

10 March

Ross's Goose

Eurasian Wigeon

Northern Shoveler

Green-winged Teal


American Robin

11 March

Red-shouldered Hawk

Little Gull

12 March

American Woodcock

13 March 


14 March

Turkey Vulture

Northern Harrier

Song Sparrow

16 March

Eastern Bluebird

17 March

Pied-billed Grebe

18 March

Wood Duck

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Eastern Meadowlark

Brown-headed Cowbird

20 March

Red-throated Loon

21 March

Great Blue Heron

Rusty Blackbird

22 March

American Kestrel

25 March

Northern Flicker

Eastern Phoebe

Brown Creeper

Winter Wren

Fox Sparrow

27 March

Blue-winged Teal

28 March

Pectoral Sandpiper

Belted Kingfisher

30 March

Dark-eyed Junco

31 March

Wilson's Snipe

01 April

Bonaparte's Gull

02 April

Double-crested Cormorant

Tree Swallow

03 April -  Great Egret

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Field Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

04 April


06 April  

Common Loon

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Greater Yellowlegs

07 April -  Cooper's Hawk

Hermit Thrush

08 April -  Lesser Yellowlegs

Purple Finch

09 April

Caspian Tern

10 April

Black-crowned Night-Heron

13 April

Louisiana Waterthrush

Pine Warbler

Swamp Sparrow

14 April

American Bittern

Forster's Tern

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Eastern Towhee

Savannah Sparrow

15 April

Surf Scoter

Barn Swallow

Chipping Sparrow

American Goldfinch

16 April

Broad-winged Hawk

Brown Thrasher

Yellow-rumped Warbler

White-throated Sparrow

17 April

American White Pelican

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

18 April  

Virginia Rail

19 April

Purple Martin

20 April

Cliff Swallow

21 April 
Yellow-throated Warbler*
Worm-eating Warbler*

22 April

Black Scoter

Upland Sandpiper

23 April


24 April

Green Heron


Spotted Sandpiper

Common Tern

Bank Swallow

25 April

Long-billed Dowitcher

Blue Jay

26 April

Solitary Sandpiper

Blue-headed Vireo

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Palm Warbler

27 April

Wilson's Phalarope

White-eyed Vireo

House Wren

Marsh Wren

Northern Waterthrush

28 April

Sedge Wren

Grasshopper Sparrow

30 April

Common Gallinule


Chimney Swift

Red-headed Woodpecker

American Pipit

Black-and-white Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Kentucky Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

01 May

Eastern Whip-poor-will

Warbling Vireo

Wood Thrush

Gray Catbird


Blue-winged Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

Hooded Warbler

Lincoln's Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

02 May

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Least Flycatcher

Eastern Kingbird

Yellow-throated Vireo


Golden-winged Warbler

Prairie Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler

Orchard Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

03 May

Great Crested Flycatcher

Prothonotary Warbler

Common Yellowthroat

Northern Parula

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Yellow-breasted Chat

Clay-colored Sparrow

Scarlet Tanager

Indigo Bunting


04 May

Black-bellied Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Least Sandpiper

Swainson's Thrush

Cerulean Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

05 May

Cape May Warbler

06 May

Least Bittern

American Golden-plover

Short-billed Dowitcher

Black Tern

Gray-cheeked Thrush

American Redstart

Kirtland's Warbler

Summer Tanager

07 May

Common Nighthawk

Tennessee Warbler

08 May

Ruddy Turnstone


Black-billed Cuckoo

Philadelphia Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

 Connecticut Warbler

 Bay-breasted Warbler

Canada Warbler

Wilson's Warbler

09 May

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Cedar Waxwing

10 May

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Eastern Wood-pewee

Acadian Flycatcher

Blackpoll Warbler

11 May


12 May

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Willow Flycatcher

Mourning Warbler

13 May

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher

15 May

White-rumped Sandpiper

17 May

Red-necked Phalarope

18 May


20 May

Red Knot

Alder Flycatcher

*these species are barely calculable due to a pretty weak peak



Red-breasted Merganser


Red-winged Blackbird

Red-necked Grebe

Horned Grebe

American Robin


Turkey Vulture

Wood Duck

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Great Blue Heron

American Kestrel

Great Egret_edited.jpg

Blue-winged Teal

Tree Swallow

Great Egret

Common Loon

American Bittern

Cooper's Hawk

Chipping Sparrow

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Cliff Swallows

Virginia Rail

DSC_9927 (1)_edited.jpg

Spotted Sandpiper

Green Heron

Palm Warbler 1_edited.jpg
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher_edited.jpg
American Pipit 3_edited.jpg

White-throated Sparrow

White rumped Sand1_edited.jpg

Great Crested Flycatcher


White-rumped Sandpipers

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Black-billed Cuckoo

Scarlet Tanager

Swainson's Thrush

Magnolia Warbler

Baltimore Oriole

Blue-winged Warbler

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

American Pipit

Nashville Warbler

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Palm Warbler






There are few birds that herald spring with as much verve and enthusiasm as the Red-winged Blackbird. With its raucous song, flashing red wing patches, and aggressive antics, it cannot help but command respect. Upon its arrival, the marshes once more come alive and memories of winter are quickly spirited away.











There is a dramatic difference in colouration between the sexes. The male is glossy black with bright red shoulder patches (epaulettes) that are edged with yellow. Such finery serves him well for defending his territory and attracting a mate. The streaky brown feathers of female birds provide cryptic camouflage that is invaluable during times of brooding eggs and raising young. Red-wings are medium-sized songbirds with females being slightly smaller than males.



Distribution and Breeding Activity

The Red-winged Blackbird ranges throughout North America from southern Alaska, the Yukon and Northwest Territories and coast to coast in the rest of Canada and the United States. It is one of the most common land birds found in North America. It winters throughout most of the USA and as far north as southern British Columbia. Some birds venture farther south to areas such as Baja and Costa Rica. It is opportunistic and may be found in a variety of habitats including marshes, pastures, and meadows. Their migration northward begins as early as February and by August the reverse is true.

It is not an elusive bird. Territorial defence between males begins immediately upon arrival on the breeding grounds. Vigorous bouts of aerial display and loud calls of “O-KEE-REE” alternate with quiet times for feeding and resting. Morning is often the most active time for heightened male rivalry.

Female birds arrive several weeks after the males. Their return marks the most active time in the marsh. Males are usually polygynous and each male may have multiple females resident in his territory. During this period females are often pursued by their own males and by neighbouring interlopers who dare to transgress territorial boundaries.


The breeding cycles of females in any given territory are generally not in sync with each other. One may be brooding when another enters the area. Pair bonds last only for the breeding season and males and females exist for the rest of the year in separate-sex flocks.


Female Red-wingeds are solely responsible for building the nest. A marvellous piece of avian construction, the cuplike nest is woven of reeds or other grasses most often in or near marshes or riparian habitats. It is suspended approximately 1 to 3 metres (3 to 8 feet) above the ground by anchoring the structure to vertical stems of adjacent grasses or shrubby branches. The nest is then lined with finer grasses in preparation for egg laying.


Incubation of 3-5 pale bluish-green eggs (spotted and mottled with purplish brown) is by the female alone. The 10-12 day incubation period yields altricial young that remain in the nest for 11-14 days. Both parents feed them a diet of insects. Two, occasionally three, broods are produced each year. Remarkably, although adult birds are unable to do so, young birds that tumble from the nest have some ability to swim over short distances.


Sadly, Red-winged Blackbirds commonly serve as Cowbird hosts, while eggs and nestlings are often predated by other marsh dwellers such as mink, raccoons and birds like the marsh wren.



Grass and other seeds make up the largest portion of a Red-winged’s diet, although berries, spiders, insects, caterpillars, grubs and even snails round it out. At bird feeders, they are particularly fond of millet seed (Personal Observation).


Conservation Concerns

Red-winged Blackbirds may be some of the most numerous land birds in North America, but that does not mean their future is entirely secure. Remember the Passenger Pigeons whose flocks darkened the sun? Where are they now?


Because marshes and a proximity to wetland habitat are crucial for insuring continued Red-winged populations, these birds are vulnerable to the drainage of wetlands for new housing tracts and the expansion of agricultural and industrial lands.


Pesticides and herbicides take their toll both on the birds themselves as well as on their sources of food. Adult Red-wings may also fall prey to winged predators such as hawks and owls.



Female Red-winged Blackbird

Female with nestlings

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