Last updated: 11:30 AM ET, Wed June 08 2016

5 Great Canadian Birding Getaways

Features & Advice | Monica Poling | June 08, 2016

5 Great Canadian Birding Getaways

PHOTO: Scarlet Tanager, Point Pelee National Park. (Photo courteThinkstock

With a total area that covers nearly 10 million square kilometres and encompasses eight geo-climatic regions, including one of the longest coastlines in the world, Canada has long been a favorite resting place for migratory birds. Whether your passion is watching Arctic birds in the far north or woodland birds inside the nation’s provincial parks or shorebirds at play along the coastal regions, Canada is sure to have a location where you can spot a few new birds for your life list.

If you’re ready to grab your binoculars and camera and head out for some first-class Canadian ubirdwatching this summer, here are a few great places to start:

Beaverhill Lake, Alta.: Located in Alberta’s Beaverhill Lake area at the intersection of two popular bird flyways, the town of Tofield welcomes hundreds of thousands of snow Geese every spring. Every April, Tofield partners with the Edmonton Nature Club for the annual Snow Goose Chase, which includes organized bus tours led by experience guides, starting from C$ 45 per person.

Churchill, Man.: Take a break from watching polar bears and beluga whales to enjoy Churchill’s other popular recreation pursuit—birdwatching. The region is comprised of many habitats that are favourable places for birds to nest: wet tundra, dry tundra, boreal forest, wetlands, freshwater creeks, the Churchill River estuary and the Hudson Bay. Popular birds found in the area include Harris and Fox Sparrow, Red-necked Phalarope, Stilt Sandpiper, Hudsonian Godwit, Pine Grosbeak, Willow Ptarmigan, Parasitic Jaeger, and the extremely rare Ross' Gull. Explore the area with Churchill Nature Tours, which offers a comprehensive 14-day getaway, including birdwatching, and is priced from U$ 4,195 per person.

Machais Seal Island, N.B.: During nesting season, New Brunswick’s Machais Island is a haven for pelagic birds, including thousands of Atlantic Puffins, but also the Razorbill Auk and Common and Arctic Terns. Accessing the island can be tricky, due to the notorious sea conditions around the lower Bay of Fundy. Sea Watch Tours is the only company in Canada allowed to access the island and only 15 people are permitted to land there each day. Day tour programs start from C$ 115 per person.

Point Pelee and Long Point, Ont. Two of North America’s most travelled migratory bird routes are found in Point Pelee and Algonquin Park along the shores of Lake Erie. In Algonquin Park, look for boreal chickadee, spruce grouse and black-backed woodpecker and in Point Pelee, keep any eye out for red-bellied woodpecker, white-eyed vireo and warblers—up to 35 species of warblers have been spotted in Point Pelee. Adventure Canada offers an in-depth exploration of the area, starting from C$ 2,740 per person.

Niagara Falls, Ont.: With Its geographic location and thriving ecosystem, Niagara Falls an excellent place for birders, especially those looking to see bald eagles, ducks, geese and swans, as well as a huge variety of gulls. In December, the Ontario Field Ornithologists organize a member-guided, one-day exploration of the area as part of the Niagara River Gull Watch.

Bonus: Three International Birding Destinations

If you’re looking to spot a more exotic series of birds, a trip abroad might be in order. Here are a few international destinations offering distinctive birding opportunities this year.

Bass Island, Put-in-Bay, Ohio, United States
For an easy, cross-border jaunt, set sail for Bass island with Miller Ferry Line. Located between the Crane Creek area of Ohio and Point Pelee National Park in Canada, Bass Island is home to a huge variety of shorebirds, marsh birds, ducks, gulls and raptors. Once at Put-In-Bay, walk over to the iconic Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. The 100-metre memorial, which commemorates Admiral Perry’s victory in the War of 1812, also doubles as a bird observatory. Check with the Lake Erie Island Conservatory for regularly scheduled bird banding opportunities.

In the heart of Central America, Honduras is home to more than 740 varieties of birds, including the Scarlet Macaws, Keel-Billed Motmot, and Lovely Cotinga. From November 4 to 13, 2016, five birdwatching teams will be led by world-renowned birding authorities in the inaugural Honduras Birding for Conservation Tours. Birders will visit three key locations: The Mayan Ruins of Copan, The Western Highlands and Lake Yojoa and the north coast rain forest around the Lodge and Spa at Pico Bonito. To make things extra interesting, the participant who spots the most tropical species on this trek will have the opportunity to direct USD$ 30,000 in prize money towards an approved Honduras conservation project of their choice. The tour is sponsored by The Honduras Government, The Lodge and Spa at Pico Bonito and numerous other local organization.

Islands of Atiu, Cook Islands
The unspoiled rainforest and vast coastline of the island of Atiu in the Cook islands are home to some of the most rare birds in the world, including the Rarotonga Flycatcher. Once faced with extinction, the species now thrives at the Sanctuary of Atiu, where the population has grown from 30 to 200. Book a tour with George Mateariki, often called Birdman George, who is employed by the Takitumu Conservation Area to look after the Flycatchers. His three-hour tour explores the trails of Atiu, area beaches, the local plants and of course, the birds. The tour includes a daily picnic, but be sure to book on Sunday, as that’s when George supplies food from his family's earth oven. 

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