A pair of bald eagles nesting in the spring.

Kawarthas and Northumberland | Kawartha Lakes Tourism

Best bird watching and birding events in Ontario

A pair of bald eagles nesting in the spring.

Kawarthas and Northumberland | Kawartha Lakes Tourism

Ontario offers some of the finest bird watching experiences in Canada. There are almost 500 species of birds to spot and close to 300 species that breed in the province.

In terms of numbers and variety, peak birding is the spring and fall. During these seasons, migrating songbirds, shorebirds, waterfowl and birds of prey select sites for temporary pit stops on route to and from their nesting destinations. However, bird watching in Ontario is a four-season activity thanks to the bird species that reside in the province year-round.

Bird watching doesn’t require bank-breaking gear, but you will want a few items to maximize your birding experience. These include the best bird watching binoculars in your price range, a field guide, a camera with a decent zoom and good-quality bug spray. Additionally, excellent bird-watching apps will help you with bird identification in the field, such as eBird and Merlin.

Find the top birding events, bird watching hotspots and bird sanctuaries in Ontario.

Southwestern Ontario

The unique location, climate and topography of Ontario’s southernmost region serve as the perfect staging site for various bird species during migration seasons. You may even catch a rare sighting, as was the case when a roseate spoonbill was viewed at Springwater Conservation Area in Aylmer in 2023.

Canada’s Southcoast Birding Trail identifies a network of birding hubs, observatories and events with a handy downloadable map.  

Point Pelee National Park

Over 300 species migrate through one of Canada’s smallest yet most ecologically diverse parks, making it one of the most popular and prolific spots in Ontario for birding.

Special events at Point Pelee are always a bit hit. Join fellow bird observers during the annual Festival of Birds in May to welcome the return of the spring birds. In early February, the Visitor Centre hosts the annual owl prowls.

Location: 1118 Point Pelee Drive, Leamington

Pelee Island

Located on the path of two major birding migration routes, Canada’s southernmost community is a designated Important Birding Area.

The annual Springsong: A Celebration of Birds and Birding takes place in mid-May at the Pelee Island Heritage Centre. This event is attended by notable authors and ecologists, including Margaret Atwood, Lawrence Hill and David Suzuki in the past.  

Hillman Marsh Conservation Area

Explore the unique shorebird habitat of marsh and mudflats along the birding trail, take in the sights from a bird blind or the viewing tower and check out the educational display at the visitor centre at this nature preserve.

Over 100 bird species have been recorded migrating through this area, including sandpipers, ducks and warblers.

Bird lovers are welcomed to the Shoreline Celebration held during May each year.

Location: 1826 Mersea Road 2, Leamington

Holiday Beach Conservation Area

Well known for its exceptional bird watching and photography opportunities from the viewing deck, Holiday Beach is also the site of the annual fall Festival of Hawks. In mid-September, eager birders flock to see migrating hawks and raptors in flight. The celebration is held in partnership with the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory.

The park operates seasonally between April and mid-October.

Location: 6952 County Road 50, Amherstburg

Jack Miner Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Established in 1904, the Jack Miner Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Kingsville is a great spot to get up close and even feed waterfowl. 

The Migration Festival is held each year in late October with special activities and birding demonstrations.

Location: 332 Road 3 West, Kingsville

Rondeau Provincial Park

Rondeau Provincial Park, Ontario’s second oldest provincial park, is a world renowned bird watch destination.

The Festival of Flight event held in May each year attracts birdwatchers from near and far to celebrate the return of spring and the annual songbird migration.

Location: 18050 Rondeau Park Road, Morpeth

Long Point Bird Observatory 

Located just outside of Long Point Provincial Park on the shores of Lake Erie in Norfolk County, this research station and visitor centre welcomes visitors to observe the rich birdlife during the spring and fall migrations.

Over 400 bird species have been observed in the area so lots of opportunity to add to your birding life list.  

The annual World Migratory Bird Day is observed at the station on the second Saturday of May.

Location: 13 Old Cut Boulevard, Port Rowan

Canadian Raptor Conservancy

Also located in Norfolk County, a visit to the Canadian Raptor Conservatory should be on every bird lover’s itinerary. Note, visits are by appointment only.

The organization provides education, research and rehabilitation for various species of birds of prey including owls, eagles, hawks, falcons and vultures.

The centre also hosts incredible bird of prey events, workshops and flight demonstrations, where are great for bird enthusiasts and photographers.  

Location: 2848 Front Road, Vittoria

York, Durham and Headwaters

North of Toronto, the rural landscapes of farms, meadows and fields in Central Counties attract a host of bird species and birders.

Luther Marsh Wildlife Management Area

Surround Luther Lake are wetlands, forests and fields that provide a refuge to a variety of wildlife. Over 260 bird species have been reported making this one of the top places to enjoy bird watching in the area.

Location: 034588 21 Side Road, Grand Valley

Huron, Perth, Waterloo and Wellington

From friendly chickadees to a majestic snowy owl sighting on a back country road, bird watching is a year-round activity in and around Waterloo and along the Grand River.

The Grand River watershed is a significant waterway that travels south from Dufferin County and empties into Lake Erie with several tributaries along the way.

And a highlight in Stratford is always the annual release of the mute swans on the Avon River in early April.

Dryden Tract

Designated as an Environmentally Significant Policy Area, the Dryden Tract is within the northern limit of the Carolinian forest zone and home to rare Carolinian forest bird species.

Over 130 species have been observed in the area including warblers, cuckoos and even owls.

Location: 1785 Alps Road, Cambridge 

F.W.R. Dickson Wilderness Area

Winter birding is equally as magical as the summer season in this nature preserve.

Follow the figure eight recreational trail through the forest, thickets and wetlands and keep a lookout for an assortment of sparrows, woodpeckers, nuthatches and friendly chickadees willing to stop for a visit in exchange for a few sunflower seeds along the boardwalk.

Location: 699, North Dumfries Township Road 5, Ayr

Kawarthas and Northumberland

The diverse landscapes of wetlands and woodlands, lakes and fields attract a variety of different species to Kawarthas and Northumberland.

Nesting platforms throughout this region offer the chance for a rare sighting of majestic ospreys each spring. Keep safety in mind when located close to roads and highways. 

Carden Alvar Provincial Park

The Carden Alvar Provincial Park, an Important Bird & Biodiversity Area (IBA) in Kawartha Lakes northwest of Lindsay is a globally rare ecosystem.

The flat limestone landscape with alvars, shrubs, grasses and wildflowers is home to over 200 species of birds, including the largest breeding population of loggerhead shrike in Ontario.

Two marked hiking trails provide visitors with a view of the habitat. The Couchiching Conservancy introduced a Passport to Nature program that promotes guided and self-guided walks and other events.

Location: Cardon

Presqu’ile Provincial Park

Located along Lake Ontario, Presqu’ile Provincial Park is another Important Bird and Biodiversity Area known for large numbers of migrating waterfowl, warblers and shorebirds.

During the Warblers and Whimbrels Weekend, birders are treated to bird walks and sightings of smaller migrating warblers and shorebirds.  

Location: 328 Presqu’ile Parkway, Brighton

Southeastern Ontario

Discover several key birding hotspots and experiences from Prince Edward County and stretching along the St. Lawrence River.

Eastern Ontario Birding specializes in guided birding tours throughout the region.

Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory

Prince Edward County was designated as an IBA in 1998 and has continued to serve as a major staging point for migrating birds including sparrows, finches, cardinals and warblers.

The Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory provides banding and research on migrating bird populations.

In addition, birding activities like guided walks and tours, bird banding demonstrations and workshops are offered. The Observatory also hosts the annual Spring Birding Festival in mid-May and owl sighting events in the fall.

Location: 6056 Long Point Road, Milford

Birdhouse City

Just outside of Picton, the Macaulay Mountain Conservation Area is a unique attraction of approximately 100 birdhouses.

The charming and whimsical birdhouses are maintained and restored by volunteers and house tree swallows, bluebirds, wrens, chickadees and purple martins.

Location: 224 County Road 8, Picton

Mac Johnson Wildlife Area

Located within the Frontenac Arch Biosphere, east of Kingston, the wetlands and open waters in the Mac Johnson Wildlife Area are visited by majestic Trumpeter Swans, thanks to a long-running conservation and restoration program.   

The area is managed by Cataraqui Conservation and the reservoir is designated as a provincially significant wetland. Follow the Wildflower Loop, an educational interpretive trail through the watershed.

Location: Debruge Road, Brockville

Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Home to over 200 species of birds, the Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary, part of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, offers excellent bird watching opportunities.

Look for waterfowl, raptors and other species from the winding self-guided nature trail through forest, fields and wetlands.

Special events and programs are held by Friends of the Sanctuary, such as feeding the geese in the falls.

Location: 5591 Morrisons Road, Ingleside

Bruce, Grey and Simcoe

MacGregor Point Provincial Park

Lake Huron’s shoreline sees a great deal of bird activity, especially during migration seasons.

The annual Huron Fringe Birding Festival in late May and early June coincides with the end of migration and the beginning of nesting season. This multi-day event celebrates the biodiversity of the area with guided hikes, bird identification workshops and other birding adventures.

Keep a sharp eye out for black-crowned night herons and American egrets touching down on the Bruce Peninsula.

Location: 1593 Bruce Road 33, Port Elgin

Chantry Island

Just north of the coast of Saugeen Shores, Chantry Island is a designated migratory bird sanctuary that welcomes cormorants, seagulls, egrets and herons.

Cruise from Southampton to the island to view the birds and tour the heritage lighthouse with the Marine Heritage Society.

Location: Chantry Island

Wye Marsh

Established in 1978 as a National Wildlife Area, Wye Marsh has since been designated a Provincially Significant Wetland due to the variety of species that inhabit it, including Trumpeter Swans.

Open year-round, the park features a great boardwalk and trail network as well as nature appreciation programs like guided tours and birds of prey demonstrations.

Location: 16160 Highway 12 East, Midland

Algonquin Park, Muskoka and Parry Sound

Swaths of mixed forests and freshwater lakes and rivers through Muskoka and Algonquin Park provide the ideal habitat for a wide variety of migratory and breeding birds.

Muskoka Field Naturalists have compiled a comprehensive list of excellent birdwatching hotspots throughout the region.

Algonquin Provincial Park

Ontario’s iconic park is a great destination to appreciate Canada’s national bird, the whiskey jack or Canada jay. And to listen for the enchanting call of the loon from across the water.

Check out birding events and sightings from the Visitor Centre or connect with the Algonquin Wildlife Research Station.  

Location: Ontario 60

Bracebridge Water Treatment Trail

Known locally as “the Lagoons”, the ponds at the Bracebridge water treatment center are one of the best places for birding in the area. Sightings have included migrating shorebirds and numerous species of warblers. The best access is via James W. Kerr Park.

Along the Bracebridge section of the Trans Canada Trail, a hiking trail connects the Lagoons to nearby Henry Marsh, another excellent birding location.

Location: 130 Beaumont Drive, Bracebridge

Torrance Barrens Conservation Reserve

Just south of Bala, the Torrance Barrens Conservation Reserve is a popular night sky and star gazing spot, but during the day, the spotlight is on the birds.

There is a selection of trails of varying lengths and six designated camping sites. Keep an eye out for field sparrows, vireos and eastern towhees, as well as blue herons, sandhill cranes and waterfowl in the marshes.

Location: Southwood Road, Bala

Haliburton Highlands to the Ottawa Valley

Experience incredible birding opportunities from the shores of the Ottawa and Madawaska Rivers to the Algonquin Highlands and rural stretches of farm and forest in Ontario’s Highlands.

Haliburton Forest & Wild Life Reserve

Hundreds of kilometres of hiking trails provide ample year-round bird watching opportunities in this massive nature reserve.

Join Yours Outdoors and Royal Canadian Falconry on a Predator Prowl at the Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre to learn about raptor species and meet a few in person.

Location: 1095 Redkenn Road, Haliburton

High Lonesome Nature Reserve

Located in the Pakenham Hills, within a Provincially Significant Wetland, this nature reserve features eight kilometres of marked trails that wind through forest, meadow and wetlands.

Location: 867 Carbine Road, Pakenham

Northern Ontario

Bucket list bird watching opportunities exist in Ontario’s beautiful and rugged wilderness from Superior Country to Sunset Country in the northwest and from Algoma Country up to the remote saltwater shores of Hudson Bay.

Chapleau Crown Game Preserve

Located in Algoma Country, Chapleau is the world’s largest crown game preserve at over 700,000 hectares.

In addition to moose, bear, wolf and beaver, you could spot bird species like bald eagles, osprey, herons and owls.

Location: Algoma Country

St. Joseph Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary

On the tip of St. Joseph Island, Fort St. Joseph is National Historic Site and a designated migratory bird sanctuary.

Migratory birds rest in spring and fall with over 200 different species recorded, including waterfowl, shorebirds, warblers, woodland birds and birds of prey.

Location: 185 Fort Road, Hilton Beach

Sunset Country

In Ontario’s northwest, Sunset Country is a birders’ playground.  

Pelicans, cranes, snowy owls and bald eagles have been spotted in and around the Sable Islands and Rushing River Provincial Parks and up to the shores along Lake of the Woods. Northwest of Lake of the Woods is one of the highest densities of nesting bald eagles in Ontario.

Pei lay sheesh kow 

Pei lay sheesh kow is a designated IBA that covers Tidewater Provincial Park. Its name in Cree translates to “an area that abounds with birds”.  

If you make the long trek north to James Bay in the spring and fall, you may be rewarded with sightings of waterfowl, migrating shorebirds such as sandpipers or the red knot, as well as loons, pelicans, cranes, owls and eagles. Look for seals and beluga whales too. 

East of Moosonee, the Hannah Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuary lies within the Moose Cree First Nation homelands and offers refuge to ducks, sandpipers, gulls, snow geese and other waterbirds.

Location: Moosonee

Hamilton, Halton and Brant

Mountsberg Raptor Centre

Located within Mountsberg Conservation Area, this educational facility is home to both native and non-native birds of prey, including hawks and owls. Unique experiences include private raptor encounters, hawk walks and bird-of-prey presentations.

Location: 2259 Milburough Town Line, Campbellville

Last updated: April 29, 2024

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