Birds of the Credit
Approximately 264 bird species have been observed in the Credit River Watershed, many of which breed here within our forest, wetland and open meadow communities. This large number reflects the diversity of habitats and conditions that exist, from the northern regions characterized by forests, wetlands and agricultural lands, to the southern more urbanized regions of the watershed. For example, some birds prefer to nest in the interior portions of large forests, while others prefer open meadow or shrubby habitats. Some species are often found in evergreen forests, while others prefer habitats dominated by deciduous tree species. Of special interest, the Lake Ontario shoreline is an area where many migratory birds stop-over during their long flights; this adds many uncommon or rare birds to the list. In fact, 24 of the bird species detected in the watershed are considered to be Special Concern, Threatened, or Endangered. Profiles of several birds are below.
This owl prefers dense, moist forests, especially near lakes, streams, rivers and swamps. They are very sensitive to human disturbance and do not thrive in close proximity to humans. People that camp in northern Ontario are familiar with the clear-voiced barking sound “who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all”.
Black Capped Chickadee
The Chickadee is a common species in the Credit River watershed and can be seen throughout the year. As they nest in tree cavities, chickadees prefer mature forests, woodlands and other treed habitats. They will, however, nest in bird houses that mimic these cavities.
Brown Headed Cow Bird
The brown-headed cowbird prefers grasslands and agricultural fields as feeding areas. This preference has allowed brown-headed cowbirds to adapt to the agricultural landscape of southern Ontario when they spread from the prairies. Cowbirds do not create their own nests, but rather lay their eggs in the nests of other birds (brood parasitism). This is very detrimental to the birds whose nests the eggs are laid in.
This common waterfowl species is one of our best-known species, but it has earned a bad reputation in the southern portion of the watershed. The Canada goose thrives in human-influenced areas that have mown lawns extending right down to a waterbody (such as a lake or river); when natural vegetation remains adjacent to the water, geese are wary of potential hidden predators and often avoid the area. Human feeding has also allowed this species to over-winter in areas with open water and abundant food supplies. Relocation measures have been taken with the Mississauga resident population in an attempt to control overpopulation of this species.
Cape May Warbler
Warblers are small, brightly coloured songbirds, who like to feed on small insects. The Cape May warbler is particularly special in this way, as their preferred diet is spruce budworms. As a result, this species is usually only seen in the Credit River Watershed during spring and fall migration. Even then, they are difficult to see as they tend to perch high in the canopy.
This is an introduced species from Europe that flourishes both in natural and in urban environments. They travel in large flocks and prefer to nest in tree cavities and buildings. They nest much earlier than many other species and therefore take suitable nesting sites away from our native songbirds.
Great Blue Heron
The great blue heron is one of the watershed’s largest and showiest bird species. They can often be seen wading in ponds and rivers while hunting for food. This species is able to readily coexist with humans as long as there are undisturbed nesting sites in woodlands, where they can create nesting colonies.
The mallard is a common species, and is often the only duck that many people are familiar with. This is probably because it can easily adapt to living close to people. Mallards are known as “puddle” ducks because they prefer to breed in small streams and ponds. They are the ducks that make the “quack” call that we associate with all ducks.
Mockingbirds like to feed in edge habitats with abundant fruit producing trees and shrubs. Their name comes from their unusual song, which mimics the songs of other birds around them. They are in the same family as brown thrashers and grey catbirds, who also mimic other birds’ songs. Mockingbirds may even spend the winter in the watershed if there is sufficient food supply.
The ovenbird is a species that prefers to nest in large mature forests. They get their name from the fact that they build nests on the ground that look like little ovens. As a result of nesting on the ground, they are sensitive to disturbance. This species is not often found in urban areas, as nest predation by cats and dogs can be high in these areas.
Pileated woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers found in Canada . They are very distinctive, with a black body, a red crest, and white stripes on their neck and face. This species prefers to inhabit large blocks of forest with mature trees, which are necessary for feeding and nesting. They are rarely seen out in the open, but may frequent beaver ponds and floodplains. Even if you haven’t seen this woodpecker, you may have noticed evidence it has left behind. Pileated woodpeckers make the large rectangular holes in trees close to the ground. They primarily do this while searching for carpenter ants and beetle larvae (their preferred diet), but also in order to create spaces for roosting or nesting. These holes also become important habitat for other bird species.
This common forest species is often heard, but is seldom seen. Their “drab” greenish-brown colour blends in well in the habitats they reside, much to the chagrin of those who can hear their ” here-I-am, where are you” song. Red-eyed vireos prefer deciduous forests that are relatively undisturbed by humans. They consume large quantities of insects and caterpillars harmful to tree foliage and are an effective predator of gypsy moths, tree hoppers, scale insects and others.
Red-tailed hawks are the largest hawks in the Credit River Watershed. They can be seen throughout the watershed, perched on hydro-lines and in dead trees along roads and highways. 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 have become smaller and open spaces have increased.
Red-winged Black Bird
This is one of the most abundant and widespread bird species in North America . The red-winged blackbird prefers to nest in marshes, but will use hayfields and grassy roadsides. For these reasons it has adapted quite well to living alongside humans. This is an easy species to locate, as the males have very loud songs in the spring and always sing in noticeable locations.
This species, commonly referred to as a “seagull,” is found throughout the watershed. It prefers locations close to water, but has adapted so easily to living in urban and agricultural settings, that it is considered a pest in many areas. There are many species of gull in Southern Ontario, none of which are named “seagull”. Ring-billed gulls, so named because of a black ring that circles their otherwise yellow beak, can be seen in the parking lots of fast food restaurants and at the local landfill site. To get a glimpse of them in their natural environment one only needs to travel to Lake Ontario ‘s shores.
Rock pigeons were introduced from Britain and Europe in the early 17th century and have since flourished, particularly in the urban and agricultural environment. This species is sometimes considered a pest in these areas.
Grouse nest at the base of trees on the ground. They are nervous birds that wait until the last minute before they fly away from danger. They feed on the ground in birch and poplar forests and are most commonly found in the northern portion of the watershed.
Scarlet tanagers are found in larger, mature deciduous and mixed forests. In spite of their brilliant colour, they can be difficult to see because they are slow and secretive and feed in the treetops. Scarlet tanagers are sensitive to both pollution and deforestation, which is reflected in the lack of breeding records in the Greater Toronto Area.
The turkey vulture has numerous adaptations for life as a carrion eater. These adaptations include a lack of feathers and the presence of red-coloured skin on their head & feet (the latter being designed to attract heat). This large bird uses vertical columns of rising warm air much like an aerial glider would, allowing them to travel long distances without using much energy. They prefer nesting on cliffs and therefore the Niagara Escarpment provides suitable habitat for them.
The wild turkey is a bird that was close to disappearing from the Credit River Watershed, but whose population has made a comeback in the last decade. In 1984, this species was re-introduced to Southern Ontario by the Ministry of Natural Resources. Turkeys can often be seen in groups in agricultural fields, especially in the northern portion of the watershed.
The wood duck is the only duck in the Credit River Watershed that perches in trees. It also nests in tree cavities, and therefore prefers secluded swamps for nesting. This is CVC’s most colourful duck, but it is seldom seen, as it is very sensitive to human disturbance. The wood duck’s habitat preferences allow it to use habitats that other ducks find unsuitable.