Species At Risk

Birds at Risk

Many Ontario birds are endangered

It's hard not to be fascinated by birds, with their ability to take flight and soar through the air – often at speeds that surpass any land animal. Ontario is home to almost 500 kinds of birds, from tiny hummingbirds to formidable raptors such as the peregrine falcon - the fastest creature on the planet.

Sadly, 31 kinds of birds are at risk of disappearing from the province, and the Eskimo Curlew and the Greater Prairie-Chicken are no longer found in Ontario at all.

Most Ontario birds are migratory, only spending the breeding season (spring through fall) in the province. They spend winters in the southern United States, the Caribbean, or in Central or South America. That means they face threats in different environments - plus during their flights north and south. Habitat loss is the most important factor in the decline of bird populations. Other threats include pesticides and domestic predators such as house cats.

Check out the links below to learn more about Ontario's birds at risk, including how you can help protect them.

Birds

Acadian Flycatcher
Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens)
endangered
The Acadian Flycatcher only spends about four months of the year in Canada. The rest of the time, it is migrating or wintering in the tropical forests of Central America and northern South America.
American White Pelican
American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)
threatened
These birds can cooperate in small groups to “herd” fish into shallow areas where they can be easily caught.
Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
special concern
The raspy scream of the bald eagle often heard on movies and TV is actually from a red-tailed hawk. This bird actually gives a sort of watery, gurgling trill that doesn’t sound like it suits the bird.
Barn Owl
Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
endangered
These birds hunt in the dark and have keen hearing – so keen they can capture prey even in total darkness.
Barn Swallow
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
threatened
Barn Swallows make the long flight to Central and South America each fall, returning to southern Canada – including Ontario – each spring.
Black Tern
Black Tern (Chlidonias niger)
special concern
The Black Tern is very social. It breeds in loose colonies and usually forages, roosts and migrates in flocks of a few to more than 100 birds, occasionally up to tens of thousands.
Bobolink
Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)
threatened
These birds migrate from Ontario to Argentina - one of the longest migrations of any North American songbird.
Canada Warbler
Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis)
special concern
This warbler is one of the last migratory songbird species to return to Canada in the spring and one of the first to leave at the end of summer.
Cerulean Warbler
Cerulean Warbler (Cardellina canadensis)
threatened
Since this warbler is a bird of the tree tops, it is often best identified from below. Birdwatchers will recognize adult males by the thin dark band that crosses the upper part of the predominantly white breast.
Chimney Swift
Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)
threatened
These birds breed and roost in chimneys as well as other manmade structures, including air vents, old open wells, outhouses, abandoned cisterns and lighthouses.
Common Nighthawk
Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor)
special concern
These birds have a specialized reflective structure in their eyes that improves their vision in low-light conditions, helping them find the flying insects they feed on at dawn and dusk.
Eastern Meadowlark
Eastern Meadowlark (Scalopus aquaticus)
(Sturnella magna)
The Eastern Meadowlark is not actually a lark, but a member of the same family as blackbirds and orioles.
Eastern Whip-poor-will
Eastern Whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferus)
threatened
Chicks seem to hatch near full moons, giving parents more light for foraging so they can supply the extra energy demands of their rapidly-growing brood.
Eskimo Curlew
Eskimo Curlew (Numenius borealis)
extirpated
The Eskimo Curlew is considered to be one of the world's most endangered birds and may already be extinct.
Golden Eagle
Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
endangered
The Golden Eagle has a wingspan of just over two metres and can weigh as much as six kilograms!
Golden-winged Warbler
Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera)
special concern
Golden-winged Warblers tend to nest in loose groups or "colonies" that contain up to ten pairs of breeding birds.
Greater Prairie-Chicken
Greater Prairie-Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido)
extirpated
The Greater Prairie-Chicken once numbered in the millions in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario, but disappeared from most of its Canadian range by the mid-20th century.
Henslow’s Sparrow
Henslow’s Sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii)
endangered
The Henslow’s Sparrow is a short-distance migrant, travelling only as far as the southern United States, primarily from Texas to Georgia.
Horned Grebe
Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)
special concern
Chicks can swim and dive as soon as they hatch, but usually spend most of their first week or so of life on their parents’ backs, nestled between the parents’ wings and riding along while the parents swim.
King Rail
King Rail (Rallus elegans)
endangered
During courtship, males present crayfish or small crabs to females in their bill.
Kirtland’s Warbler
Kirtland’s Warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii)
endangered
Kirtland’s Warbler is one of only a few warblers that have the distinctive habit of regularly pumping its tail up and down.
Least Bittern
Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis)
threatened
The Least Bittern is more likely to be heard than seen in its dense marsh habitat. The typical call given by males is a hollow, quiet “coo-coo-coo”. When alarmed, they can give a harsh “kek-kek-kek” call. They are most vocal in early morning and evening, but could potentially call anytime during the day or night.
Loggerhead Shrike
Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)
endangered
Shrikes are sometimes called "butcher bird" because they impale their prey on thorns, barbed wire or sharp twigs.
Louisiana Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush (Parkesia motacilla)
special concern
The Louisiana Waterthrush is among the earliest long-distance migrating birds to arrive back to Canada in the spring, typically arriving by mid-April.
Northern Bobwhite
Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus)
endangered
The male and female select the location for the nest and build it together. Both parents share the tasks of incubating eggs and caring for the young, however, it is not uncommon for one of the parents to incubate the first clutch once complete (often the male) while the other leaves to take another mate and start another clutch.
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi)
special concern
This bird’s loud and distinct “quick, three beers” song can be heard from up to a kilometre away.
Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
special concern
The peregrine falcon is one of the world’s fastest animals, and has been clocked diving for prey at speeds of 160 km an hour.
Piping Plover
Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)
endangered
Within an hour of hatching and drying off, chicks are able to find their own food.
Prothonotary Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea)
endangered
The Prothonotary Warbler was named after legal clerks in the Roman Catholic Church, known as prothonotaries, who sometimes wear a golden hood and a blue cape.
Red Knot rufa subspecies
Red Knot rufa subspecies (Calidris canutus rufa)
endangered
Factoid: This bird migrates from the central Canadian Arctic to southern South America, a distance of nearly 15,000 kilometres.
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)
special concern
In addition to a bill, woodpeckers have special anatomical features to help them dig holes in wood and find insects. A covering of feathers over the nostrils keeps out pieces of wood and wood powder. A long, barbed tongue searches crevices and cracks for food. And the bird's salivary glands produce a glue-like substance that coats the tongue and, along with the barbs, helps it capture insects.
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
special concern
Short-eared Owls are nomadic, meaning that individuals wander over large distances, usually settling in areas where prey densities are high.
Yellow Rail
Yellow Rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis)
special concern
In the breeding season, males can be heard almost always at night giving their distinct clicking sounds "tic-tic, tic-tic-tic", which sound like two stones being banged together. Birdwatchers will use pebbles to imitate the call and attract rails out to the edge of the reeds where they can be briefly observed.
Yellow-breasted Chat
Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens)
endangered
The Yellow-breasted Chat's song consists of a weird assortment of clicks, whistles ands even chuckles.