Birding in the Credit River Watershed is a Hoot

bird, woodpecker

Winter is a great time to get your binoculars out when tree leaves have fallen and branches are bare. Birding is an activity you can do year-round all across the Credit River Watershed.

Birding is actively observing birds in their natural habitats as a hobby. Whether you’re a seasoned birder or new to the activity, here are five birds you can see during the fall and winter and which CVC park you may find them at:


Snowy owl sitting on tree branch
Snowy owl

There’s no denying that the sight of an owl can be a magical experience. There are over 200 different owl species worldwide. A group of owls is called a parliament.

Great horned owls start breeding as early as December. Their mating call “hoot” can be heard just before the sun goes down. During mating season owl hoots increase. Males use their hoots to attract females.

Unlike most owls, snowy owls are not nocturnal. Day time is a great time to see them because they can often be seen perched on the top of fenceposts and telephone poles.

You could see a snowy or great horned owl at Upper Credit Conservation Area and Island Lake Conservation Area.

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee standing on tree log
Black-capped chickadee

With its little black hat, the black-capped chickadee can be easily identified. They are named after their “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” call when they get alarmed. During the summer, you can hear their “cheeeese-burg-er” song to attract a mate and defend their territory.

As black-capped chickadees nest in tree cavities, they prefer mature forests, woodlands and other treed habitats. They will occasionally nest in bird houses that mimic these cavities – a great way to attract them to your yard.

You could see this species at Meadowvale Conservation Area and Silver Creek Conservation Area.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk perched on tree branch
Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawks are the largest hawks by weight in the Credit River Watershed and seeing this bird in person does not disappoint. As with most raptors, the female is nearly one third larger than the male and may weigh up to 1,460 grams.

Their habit of feeding in agricultural fields has made them a hardy species in our changing environment. In fact, red-tailed hawks are one of a few species that have flourished as our forests become smaller and open spaces have increased.

Like owls, they can be seen throughout the watershed perched on hydro-lines and in dead trees along roads and highways. You could see this species at Rattray Marsh Conservation Area and Meadowvale Conservation Area.

Northern cardinal

Northern cardinal perched on tree branch
Northern cardinal

Northern cardinals are one of the most recognizable birds in the watershed, but they weren’t always here. They’ve been expanding their range northward due to warmer weather, supplemental winter feeding and more available habitat along forest edges.

Northern cardinals use a variety of habitat including open woodlands, forest edges, hedgerows and even backyards if there’s enough small trees and shrubs to support nesting.

You can see this species year-round at Limehouse Conservation Area and Ken Whillans Resource Management Area.

Hooded mergansers

Hooded merganser standing on thr ground
Hooded merganser

Check out that hairdo! Hooded mergansers get their name from the hood or crest of feathers on their head that they can raise or lower. They perform this action during courtship to attract a mate, and it can dramatically change the size and shape of their head.

This species typically uses forested wetlands in the summer but will use a wider range of habitats during the rest of the year. You can see them in open waters of small freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers and seasonally flooded forests.

Be sure to catch a sight of this species at Island Lake Conservation Area and Rattray Marsh Conservation Area before the ice freezes over.

Birding is the perfect combination of spending time in nature and learning about the wildlife that we share this precious environment with. Birds are just about everywhere we look outside.

Do you have exciting birding photos or experiences of your own? Share them with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Learn more about our conservation areas.

By Kimberley Laird, Associate, Marketing and Communications and Christina Kovacs, Specialist, Natural Heritage Management

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