Spring Migratory Songbird Spotter Guide

Canada Warbler

Many bird species migrate through Peel Region every spring and fall as they move between their wintering grounds in the south and their breeding grounds further north. They make these long and difficult journeys every year so they can take advantage of high insect abundance and lower competition in Canada while they raise their young.


Tips for Bird Identification

Learning to identify (ID) birds can be overwhelming. You can’t learn to ID all birds overnight; it takes lots of practice and patience. To start, try not to get bogged down with the small details of bird ID. Instead, watch the bird for as long as you can. Make a mental note of the following main characteristics before you start looking at a field guide:

  • Size – compare the size of the bird to one you know well.
  • Shape – become familiar with the shapes of different bird groups.
  • Colour(s) – notice the main colour(s) of the bird.
  • Field mark – make note of any obvious patterns and markings.
  • Behaviour – notice posture, feeding habits and location and flight patterns.
  • Habitat – notice if the bird is in a forest, meadow or near water
  • Sound – with practice you can identify birds just by their song. Learning mnemonics (using words that mimic the rhythm and pattern of a bird’s song) can help you remember some songs.

Using this guide, try to ID this bird based on the following description:

  • A sparrow-sized bird that is more elongated with a thin bill.
  • Feeding in shrubs by flying under leaves picking off insects in a forest with many shrubs.
  • Mostly yellow and grey with dark streaking on the breast, a black mask, and white patches on the shoulders.
  • Would perch on a branch and sing a musical Weeta-weeta-weeteo.

* answer on bottom

The Story of Migration

During migration, birds need ‘stopover’ locations to rest and refuel, especially when they cross large barriers like Lake Ontario. Even a small corner of the lake from St. Catharines to Mississauga is a 44 km direct flight. Not all stopover locations along the urbanized lakeshore in Mississauga are ideal. There are many threats such as predation by cats, collisions with buildings and inadequate food supply. Rattray Marsh in Mississauga, however, is a good stopover point after a long journey. It gives us a rare opportunity to see birds that spend most of the year in the tropics or in the north.

Rattray Marsh

During migration, birds need to eat food that will give them enough energy to fly to the next stopover. Many birds rely on spiders and insects, such as caterpillars, flies, bees and midges, as their main food source – especially during spring migration. During fall migration, many birds will also eat berries and seeds. Native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers are best at providing insects, berries and seeds for migrating birds.

Naturalizing your property and planting native vegetation helps the environment and attracts resident and migratory birds. Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) offers programs and resources that support native plant gardening, landscaping and naturalization.

Your Green Yard program offers workshops and presentations on native plant gardening and landscaping to local residents within the Credit River watershed.

Greening Corporate Grounds program offers advice, landscape concept plans and planting events to businesses and institutions within the Credit River watershed and Peel Region.

For additional landscaping fact sheets
and resources, visit:

Answer: Magnolia warbler