Most of Ontario's population lives in the south, accounting for about forty percent of Canada's population. It is also where you can also find an abundance of birding hotspots, with frigid winter and dense forests, national parks, and lakeshores.
The state is reputable with exceptional biodiversity and is home to a vast range of avian life. Thus, if you wish to discover more about the common birds you might encounter across this populous region, please read on.
Let's make your birding experience even more rewarding by learning more about these backyard birds and identifying them effortlessly.
- The Most Common Backyard Birds in Ontario
- Watch This!
- Frequently Asked Questions
The Most Common Backyard Birds in Ontario
You'll never run out of spectacular opportunities to view wildlife in their natural habitats while in Ontario. Observing these birds is not only entertaining; it also sparks our interest in their conservation.
Through this article, we bring together some well-known facts about the birds you will likely encounter around the state. We share the surroundings with our feathered friends, and becoming well-equipped with better identification will help us enjoy observing them.
May our increased knowledge of these creatures inspire us to create a wildlife-friendly environment. We know that food, water, and shelter comprise a healthy sanctuary for these birds, but nest boxes, bird feeders, and birdbaths also make an excellent addition.
Check out the overview of the backyard birds you can expect to see in Ontario:
1. Black-Capped Chickadee
Despite its more widespread population in North America, the black-capped chickadee is the most prevalent species at bird feeders in Ontario. These small birds are adept at finding food sources and behave fearlessly.
On the other hand, Carolina chickadees might have a similar-looking black head, but their back, wings, and tail have a soft gray shade.
Contrary to the boreal chickadee with a dark brown cap, this chickadee sports a black cap with an extensive white cheek and a black bib.
It also has buff-colored sides, rust-brown flanks, and greyish-black wings with white edges. Likewise, for better identification, you may look for the bird's thin black bill, short neck, and sizable head that highlights its round-shaped body.
You're more likely familiar with this chickadee if you have a bird feeder in your backyard. Attracting this creature is convenient if you have available food sources, nesting materials, and shelter.
Together with the northern cardinals, these chickadees significantly depend on feeding stations when overwintering. As summer approaches, these chickadees abandon the bird feeders to excavate nests in rotten stumps where they raise their large families.
Otherwise, you will find this chickadee in deciduous or mixed forests and wooded urban parks. Regarding food preferences, this bird's primary diet consists of spiders, conifer seeds, and other bird seeds.
2. American Goldfinch
The American goldfinch is among the backyard birds easily noticeable due to its bright yellow plumage. It also has black wings, forehead, and tail with white markings during spring and summer. This songbird also has a pale brown or olive plumage in winter, with black wings and a white wing bar.
The lesser goldfinch looks similar, except for its black crown with olive-brown to black cheeks and back, unlike the American goldfinch with a yellow head. American goldfinches lay four to six pale bluish-white eggs with brown spots.
Additionally, these colorful species breed later than other birds and prefer to eat hulled and black oil sunflower seeds. Likewise, the bird enjoys feeding on nyjer in a tube feeder with numerous ports.
Its range extends from Canada to Mexico, mostly frequenting thickets, open woodlands, weedy fields, orchards, gardens, and anywhere where thistles are abundant.
3. Baltimore Oriole
A Baltimore oriole is an unmistakable sight in Ontario with its bright orange plumes and black hood with white wing bars on its black-colored wings. The females and juveniles have a dull yellow shade, a gray to brown head up to their back, and yellow tails with two white wing bars.
Such a bird is fond of dense foliage or colorful flowers and likes perching high in broadleaf trees, except in deep forests.
You may also encounter Baltimore orioles near the Namakan River, the forest edges, open woodlands, backyards, parks, and orchards. It has various songs sounding like clear whistled notes and likes to feed on insects and ripe fruits, such as oranges and cherries.
This oriole is often solitary except during its breeding season; it is well-known for beautifully crafted nests hanging in treetops. Baltimore orioles start becoming visible in the state to roost during early summer and leave in early July.
4. Mourning Dove
These doves are accidental species in Ontario, as their kind typically breeds from the southern part of the United States to northern South America.
You will quickly distinguish a mourning dove with its brownish shade, tan head, long black bill, and gray wings.
The females look paler; they're less iridescent around the neck and show lesser gray on the head. Many birders confuse this bird with the Eurasian collared-dove or the white-winged dove, but mourning doves are smaller and without a black half-collar on their necks.
Besides woodland edges, these doves inhabit agricultural areas, lowland open country, and dry coastal forests.
However, mourning doves appear more frequently near fresh waters and enjoy hearty meals of black sunflower seeds. Such a dove is primarily a ground feeder; it flies fast and is noticeable with its powerful wingbeats.
The Canadian Wildlife Service is finally allowing a mourning dove hunt for the first time in fifty-eight years. Despite its cooing song that sounds like someone in mourning, this species is a well-known game bird throughout its range.
5. White-Breasted Nuthatch
The white-breasted nuthatch is a favorite sight in any bird feeder. The males have a gray-colored back, black cap, white underparts with rust-brown undertail, and wings with black and white marks. On the contrary, females appear the same except for their lighter shade and a gray crown instead of black.
You can tell this bird apart from red-breasted nuthatch since only the latter has a black eye line. It likes areas with oak and pine trees, such as wooded suburbs and mature broadleaf woods, but the bird also frequents backyards and parks.
A white-breasted nuthatch loves to eat insects, larvae, suet, and sunflower seeds. So, if you wish to attract these nuthatches into your backyard, you can try planting native oaks, hickories, maples, spruces, and pines.
6. Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Generally, ruby-throated hummingbirds are loners, but abundant food sources, such as bird feeders, or sapsucker drillings, attract them in large numbers. During the winter, these tiny hummingbirds spend time in the tropics before migrating north to breed in Ontario.
These hummers are the only birds residing in most of southern Canada and the eastern half of the United States.
Fifteen other species of hummingbirds live in North America, all of which occur in the West. The sight of this hummingbird is unmistakable with its bright red throat.
You will notice that a medium-sized hummingbird male features a throat that shifts to iridescent green in a side light or darker in poor lighting conditions. Many birders find it exciting to watch this hummingbird in flight, as it can hover and fly sideways, backward, and upside down.
Such a bird is a regular visitor at feeders and tube-shaped flowers, like trumpet vines; occasionally, they pluck tiny insects from spider webs or midair. The energetic existence of ruby-throated hummingbirds mainly occurs in areas abundant with nectar-rich flowers.
You can attract this tiny bird by planting red or orange flowers. Aside from backyards, you may also observe these hummingbirds in woodlands, forest edges, meadows, and grasslands.
7. Song Sparrow
The song sparrow is what many birders generally describe as prevalent, as you can see it almost anywhere. This Ontario summer bird frequents fields, gardens, garbage dumps, lakeshores, marsh borders, beaches, and even deep in the forests.
It is easily noticeable with its brown crown with a grey stripe down the middle, medium-sized body, round-shaped head, and short bill.
Song sparrows also have brown-streaked chests and flanks, which is how they differ from the house sparrows that feature black streaks instead of brown. These streaks gather at the center of their breasts, but the number of bars varies across the bird's range.
A song sparrow displays a preference for small weeds and grass seeds in fall and winter but mainly eats insects in summer. Its backyard favorites include ground feeders filled with seeds, thickets, and birdbaths.
8. Blue Jay
Those who have a bird feeder in Ontario are undoubtedly familiar with the jaunty blue jay, which migrates south to Louisiana in winter. Nonetheless, most jays remain in the state all year round.
These large birds are well-known for their aggressive behavior towards other birds.
These jays are the only species capable of cracking shells open to feast on the meaty part inside. A foolproof way to attract blue jays is to have abundant sunflower seeds in your feeders.
To identify a jay, you can look for its blue-gray plumage, prominent crest, white belly, and black bill. Its wings and tail have white and black bars, but the black markings on its face and neck vary between individuals.
The bold white bars in its outer tail feathers are more visible when this jay is in flight. If you like to encounter a blue jay, it mainly inhabits forest edges, deciduous forests, parks, and gardens.
9. Pileated Woodpecker
The pileated woodpecker, also known as the king of the woods, is distinguishable with its predominantly black plumage with white stripes on the face and neck. It is among the common birds in Ontario, and the most sizable of its kind, with an extensive triangular crown and crest explaining its mystical status.
Several experiments show that pileated woodpeckers can identify between underlayers of wood by using ultraviolet perception; these birds employ targeted foraging for the most productive timber.
Pileated woodpeckers commonly occur in woodlands, swamps, and wooded backyards; their diet consists of fruits, nuts, seeds, insects, and suet on a mounted feeder. You will quickly know it's somewhere near with this woodpecker's loud, strident calls.
10. Red-Winged Blackbird
Red-winged blackbird males are all black, except for featuring a bright red and yellow patch on their shoulders. Females are brown with heavy streaks underneath.
Red-winged blackbirds are prevalent throughout Ontario, except in the extreme northern regions; nevertheless, they are common birds in summer.
During their breeding season, you will mostly encounter these blackbirds in marshes and wet areas. The red-winged blackbird also occurs in ditches and croplands; it forages for seeds, berries, and insects.
Occasionally, it visits feeding stations and establishes its territory by letting out a raspy sound and displaying its flashy wings. The males typically sit on high perches while females lurk in vegetation, searching for food.
11. Northern Cardinal
A male northern cardinal is striking in its brilliant red shade with a black mask, prominent crest, and red bill. On the contrary, females are predominantly brown with red accents. Despite their abilities to adapt to any environment, northern cardinals are regular in-dwellers of private backyards, woodland margins, gardens, and thickets.
Often in pairs, these birds forage on or near the ground in shrubberies and trees, searching for fruits, seeds, insects, and spiders. The bird sports a wedge-shaped beak, so it's unsurprising how it can feed on various seed types.
It searches for berries on treetops during the fall season, and in winter, it forages seeds on haystacks.
12. Downy Woodpecker
The downy woodpecker is a tiny bird, ranking as one of the ten smallest woodpeckers worldwide. It is not unusual to see this bird frequenting hummingbird feeders in Ontario's southern regions.
Impressive as it is to observe such species, the male downy woodpeckers would even tap on your window if your feeding station is empty.
Many individuals mistake this bird for the similar-looking hairy woodpecker, which is more sizable yet inconspicuous unless you compare them side by side. Hairy woodpeckers also have black-streaked faces and long, thin bills.
It's hard not to notice these woodpeckers when you're around them because of their acrobatic skills, which are way better than the larger birds. The bird has black shoulders, white underparts, a red nape patch, and spotted outer tail feathers.
The downy woodpecker prefers open woodlands with weedy edges or broadleaf trees. It mostly consumes insects but wouldn't mind eating nuts, suet, and cracked sunflower seeds.
Frequently Asked Questions
What bird species are rare in Ontario?
Acadian flycatcher, cerulean warbler, and red-headed woodpecker are species inhabiting Ontario forests and are the rarest birds in the country. Habitat loss is a significant concern in this region, as only eleven out of the eighty percent of forests remain.
The Acadian flycatcher, with white throat and breast contrasting its greenish crown, is an endangered species. The olive-green Henslow’s sparrow with brown streaks is an endangered species too. While the Canada warbler, the bird with a bright yellow breast, is a special concern.
What Ontario bird sings at night?
Some species are nocturnal and only communicate after dark because that's when they're awake. Other birds might be active in the daytime, yet they sing at night while looking for mates or food and reacting to danger.
Besides the reputable owls, reed and sedge warblers, nightingales, nightjars, and corncakes are the other birds you will encounter singing extensively at night in Ontario.
What is Southern Ontario's most common bird?
Many birds find a home in Southern Ontario due to the abundance of different natural habitats. American robins from North America are visible in the southern regions in spring, while the ruby-throated hummingbirds flock around fuchsias in summer.
Nevertheless, blue jays and black-capped chickadees are the easiest to spot around the area. Others are not as prominent but also occur in the southern parts of Ontario, such as the indigo bunting and the catbird.
Birds enrich Ontario's biological diversity; you can even determine the environment's health through them. Attracting and feeding birds, especially during the colder months, can help preserve their population.
May you find this a handy reference, a treasure trove of relevant information, best practices, and advice about bird identification in Ontario. Individual observation, awareness, and knowledge of natural phenomena lead to better bird identification.
While physical characteristics are easily noticeable, location and time of year are also crucial in birdwatching. Sometimes it will surprise you; even your choice of plants in your garden can attract and foster wildlife in your neighborhood.