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Fall is for the birds

Raptors, songbirds and shorebirds abound during the fall migration

Pine warbler © Laura Young

TORONTO, September 12, 2017 – The start of fall is an exciting time for bird enthusiasts as summer fledglings become air-borne adults and join others of their kind on route to warmer climes. This mass exodus is happening all around us.

“Fall is one of my favorite times of year to watch birds, especially raptors. When we talk about bird migration, most people think of spring. They don’t realize that the fall migration features an incredible variety of species that can be seen from late August through to early November,” says Anne Bell, Ontario Nature’s Director of Conservation and Education.

Birds embarking on their journey south have been spotted throughout Ontario – with many hawks, hummingbirds, waterfowl and warblers already on the move. The coming months will showcase scores more. During a leisurely evening stroll you may spot swallows, swifts or nighthawks as they swoop and dart after the insects they eat. If you head to Lake Ontario or Lake Erie, you may see a turkey vulture or even a golden eagle.

Sadly though, many Canadian bird populations have experienced significant declines over the last 40 years. In Ontario, habitat loss threatens grassland and wetland birds, and songbirds are killed by cats and collisions with buildings. But not all of the news is bad. Restrictions on pesticide use have helped falcons, hawks and other raptors to recover in recent years.

You can see many of the diverse bird species traveling through Ontario this fall by joining a local birding hike. Ontario Nature’s provincial partners including The Ontario Field Ornithologists and Bird Studies Canada, and numerous local Ontario Nature member groups lead walks to birding hot spots across the province.

You can also visit a bird observatory or bird banding station to help researchers and other volunteers count the birds that pass by. It’s a great opportunity to learn about Ontario’s avian wildlife while collecting important data that biologists will use to develop conservation strategies for species in decline.

So, while you are enjoying the cooler temperatures and changing leaf colours, look up. There is a lot more going on this fall than you may realize.

For more information or to arrange an interview:

Photos and local contact information for interviews are available.

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Ontario Nature protects wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement. Ontario Nature is a charitable organization representing more than 30,000 members and supporters, and 150 member groups across Ontario. For more information, visit ontarionature.org.


  • The fall migration occurs from August to November, and peaks in September.
  • 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Convention Act which is designed to protect at-risk migratory birds in Canada and the United States.
  • The State of Canada’s Birds 2012 notes that on average, Canadian bird populations have decreased by 12% since the 1970s.
  • Migratory shorebirds have declined by more than 40%; Arctic shorebirds have declined by 60%.
  • Birders counted more than 7,000 broad-winged hawks in one day at Toronto’s Hawk Hill in fall 2011.
  • Ruby-throated hummingbirds, Ontario’s only hummingbird, migrate from Ontario’s southern boreal forest to Mexico and Central America. They are the only hummingbirds that cross large bodies of open water.
  • Flying between the Arctic and Antarctic each year, Arctic terns have the longest migration of any bird.