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   SEASONAL GUIDE

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   WINTER    [to Top]

        For Canadian birding records, the winter season is generally considered December through February inclusive. Late fall stragglers are ticked off on winter lists, but many of our winter birds don't really arrive until the latter part of December, a few move in even later. For Ottawa birders the winter gets into high gear with the Christmas Bird Census (CBC) season. The Ottawa/Hull Christmas Bird Count, which normally takes place on the first Saturday in the count period, is the first in the area and is scheduled near the boundary of late, late autumn and early, early winter. Other area CBC's include the Dunrobin/Breckenridge count, usually on the last day of the count period; and the Carleton Place count. Dates of these counts are announced in the Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club's (OFNC) newsletter Trail & Landscape and on the OFNC's Bird Status Line report in early December.
        Often it is well into December before sigificant snowfall arrives, though some years Ottawa is white from early November. The first really cold weather often arrives in late December. By really cold I mean twenty below zero Celsius (or four below Fahrenheit). When this happens the hangers-on among the birds, such as the gulls that make the daily migration between the dump and the river, decide to head south, at least as far as the St. Lawrence River.
        Come January 1st the 'truly diseased' among us begin their year lists. The holiday season has kept many avid birders from the field while celebrating with family.
        Visiting birders from the south come in late January or February for the best shot at staked out 'northern' speciaties like Gyrfalcon, Great Gray Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Gray Partridge, Black-backed and Three-toed Woodpeckers, Bohemian Waxwing, White-winged and Red Crossbill which are often present at this time.
        Believe it or not, the first "spring" migrants begin to reach Ottawa in mid-February! Horned Larks begin to accumulate in area farmland about that time.
        The more common winter species, by habitat, are as follows:
  • Open Water: American Black Duck, Mallard, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser.
  • Farmland or Open Country: Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk (most years), Gray Partridge (decreasing), Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Horned Lark, Common Crow, European Starling, Snow Bunting, House Sparrow.
  • Weedy Scrubland, Forest Edges or Second Growth: Gray Partridge (decreasing), Mourning Dove, American Tree Sparrow, Snow Bunting, Common Redpoll (some years), American Goldfinch.
  • Forestland: Great Horned Owl, Blue Jay, American Crow, Common Raven (north), Black-capped Chickadee, Pine Grosbeak (some years).
  • Deciduous Forest: Ruffed Grouse, Barred Owl, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Bohemian Waxwing (most years), Common Redpoll (some years), Evening Grosbeak.
  • Coniferous Forest: Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pine Siskin (some years).
  • Urban: Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, American Crow, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Bohemian Waxwing (most years), European Starling, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, House Sparrow.

   SPRING    [to Top]

        Spring (or spring migration), as defined by Ottawa birders, is roughly March through May. Aside from the Horned Larks, most migrants don't come near until there is a definite warming trend. The earliest ones are either winter-hardy or risking their lives to get a headstart.
        Early March is fairly slow, but provides local birders with the opportunity to indulge in the old tradition of owling. This comes in two forms, nighttime and daytime. Nighttime owling is easier in the respect that, given it is a night when owls deign to call, the area of search isn't as critical. Good sites exist in the South March Highlands (see Dunrobin & Carp Ridges) and in and around the Marlborough Forest (see Richmond Fen & the Marlborough Forest). The disadvantage of nighttime owling, of course, is the lack of visibility. Daytime owling beats that problem in one way; but, of course, the owls have habits that make them difficult to find. And there is a lot of woods out there. This is where birding isolated green sites within the city comes into play. Clyde Woods is one such site where it is possible to find, and actually see, several species of owl.
        The event which marks the beginning of spring migration for many birders in the Ottawa area is the breakup of the ice and the flooding at Cobbs Lake Creek near Bourget, the South Nation River near Riceville and Bear Brook near Carlsbad Springs, in late March or very early April. This brings in thousands of geese and ducks, stopping here for days or sometimes weeks, on their way farther north. Up to 100,000 Canada and 5000 Snow Geese can be seen, as well as up to 50,000 Northern Pintail and small numbers of many other waterfowl. After their visit here, they will often stop over at Baie Noire and Grand and Petit Presqu'ile.
        Peak warbler migration, what's left of it, occurs in the 2nd and 3rd weeks of May. Favorite spots are Britannia Park, Shirley's Bay, Clyde Woods and Vincent Massey Park.
        The movement of gulls and terns along the Ottawa River provides a popular late spring - early summer birding opportunity. This is the time to find Arctic Terns and out-of-the-ordinary gulls.
        The more common spring species, by habitat, are as follows (many of the migrant land birds are not present until May):
  • Open Water: Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Osprey, Spotted Sandpiper, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Belted Kingfisher, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Bank Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow.
  • Marshlands, Ponds & Sewage Lagoons: Pied-billed Grebe, American Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Green-winged Teal, American Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, Hooded Merganser, Virginia Rail, Sora, Common Moorhen, Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Bank Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow, Marsh Wren, European Starling, Nashville Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Palm Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird.
  • Farmland or Open Country: Canada Goose, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, American Kestrel, Gray Partridge (decreasing), Killdeer, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Eastern Kingbird, Horned Lark, Tree Swallow, Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow, American Crow, European Starling, Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Bobolink, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Sparrow.
  • Weedy Scrubland, Forest Edges or Second Growth: Northern Harrier, Gray Partridge (decreasing), American Woodcock, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Black-capped Chickadee, House Wren, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, European Starling, Warbling Vireo, Nashville Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, American Tree Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Northern Oriole, House Finch, American Goldfinch.
  • Forestland: Turkey Vulture, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Ruffed Grouse, Great Horned Owl, Pileated Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Blue Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Veery, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, European Starling, Tennessee Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Northern Cardinal, Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, American Goldfinch.
  • Deciduous Forest: Broad-winged Hawk, Barred Owl, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Wood Pewee, Least Flycatcher, Tree Swallow, White-breasted Nuthatch, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Wood Thrush, Red-eyed Vireo, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Northern Oriole, Evening Grosbeak.
  • Coniferous Forest: Red-breasted Nuthatch, Swainson's Thrush, Blackpoll Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, Purple Finch, Pine Siskin (some years).
  • Urban & Suburban: Ring-billed Gull, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Chimney Swift, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, House Wren, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Northern Oriole, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow.

   SUMMER    [to Top]

        Breeding season is always fun. Centrally located Gatineau Park is wonderful for a combination of hiking and birding. The Canadian Shield, upon which it is located, is the southerly boundary of several breeding species in the local terms.
        There are some wonderful canoe routes that provided opportunities to birders.
        There are many excellent area marshes, including the superlative Richmond Fen (see Richmond Fen & the Marlborough Forest) where there is a colony of the rare and elusive Yellow Rail.
        Shorebirds migrate through the area from April to November, with a brief lull in late June; but early June and July and August are great times to visit the local sewage lagoons. One just never nose!
        The more common summer species by habitat, are as follows:
  • Open Water: Common Loon, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Mallard, Osprey, Spotted Sandpiper, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Black Tern, Belted Kingfisher, Tree Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow.
  • Marshlands, Ponds & Sewage Lagoons: Pied-billed Grebe, American Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Green-winged Teal, American Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Northern Harrier, Virginia Rail, Sora, Common Moorhen, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Black Tern, Alder Flycatcher, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Bank Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow, Marsh Wren, European Starling, Nashville Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird.
  • Farmland or Open Country: Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Gray Partridge (decreasing), Killdeer, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Eastern Kingbird, Horned Lark, Tree Swallow, Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow, American Crow, European Starling, Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Bobolink, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Sparrow.
  • Weedy Scrubland, Forest Edges or Second Growth: Northern Harrier, Gray Partridge (decreasing), American Woodcock, Mourning Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Downy Woodpecker, Alder Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Black-capped Chickadee, House Wren, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, European Starling, Warbling Vireo, Nashville Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Northern Oriole, House Finch, American Goldfinch.
  • Forestland: Turkey Vulture, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Ruffed Grouse, Great Horned Owl, Pileated Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Blue Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Winter Wren, Veery, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, European Starling, Yellow Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Ovenbird, Northern Cardinal, Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, American Goldfinch.
  • Deciduous Forest: Broad-winged Hawk, Barred Owl, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Wood Pewee, Least Flycatcher, Tree Swallow, White-breasted Nuthatch, Wood Thrush, Red-eyed Vireo, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Northern Oriole.
  • Coniferous Forest: Red-breasted Nuthatch, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Purple Finch.
  • Urban & Suburban: Ring-billed Gull, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Chimney Swift, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, House Wren, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Northern Oriole, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow.

   AUTUMN    [to Top]

        The confusing fall warbler passage is late August through September. The land bird migration continues through October with sparrows and blackbirds being the majority of the later transients. Wintering passerines, such as American Tree Sparrow and Snow Bunting, begin arriving in October.
        Shorebird migration continues through October, petering out in November. Waterfowl migration begins in earnest in September, peaks in late October, and extends into very early winter. Northern gulls are looked for in local dumps and along the river from October onward.
        The more common autumn species by habitat, are as follows:
  • Open Water: Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Green-winged Teal, American Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Oldsquaw, White-winged Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Osprey, American Coot, Spotted Sandpiper, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Belted Kingfisher, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow.
  • Marshlands, Ponds & Sewage Lagoons: Pied-billed Grebe, American Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Green-winged Teal, American Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Northern Harrier, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Dunlin, Common Snipe, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Water Pipit, European Starling, Palm Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird.
  • Farmland or Open Country: Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, American Kestrel, Gray Partridge (decreasing), Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Horned Lark, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, American Crow, European Starling, Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Snow Bunting, Bobolink, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Sparrow.
  • Weedy Scrubland, Forest Edges or Second Growth: Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Gray Partridge (decreasing), Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Black-capped Chickadee, House Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, European Starling, Warbling Vireo, Common Yellowthroat, American Tree Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Snow Bunting, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Finch, Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch.
  • Forestland: Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Ruffed Grouse, Great Horned Owl, Pileated Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, European Starling, Tennessee Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Northern Cardinal, Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, American Goldfinch.
  • Deciduous Forest: Barred Owl, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-eyed Vireo, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Evening Grosbeak.
  • Coniferous Forest: Red-breasted Nuthatch, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Swainson's Thrush, Blackpoll Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, Purple Finch, Pine Siskin (some years).
  • Urban & Suburban: Ring-billed Gull, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow.
Return to Birding Ottawa Table of Contents.


Through the seasons in Ottawa

View from Parc Brébeuf in Winter
Winter


View from Parc Brébeuf in Spring
Spring


View from Parc Brébeuf in Summer
Summer


View from Parc Brébeuf in Autumn
Autumn


Copyright 2000 - 2009     Larry E. Neily
Last update:  October 23, 2009