From the Amazon to the Arctic: Five migratory birds to spot right now in Canada
Meet the long-distance travellers on your doorstep! These migratory birds fly to Canada for spring.
Each spring, Canada's skies are filled with the sights and sounds of millions of birds arriving home from their southern wintering grounds. From the Canadian Arctic to the Amazon Rainforest their journeys span the continents. For many Canadians, these birds have become a key part of their spring!
Throughout Hello Spring you have been sending us the migratory birds you are seeing in your area, and we wanted to highlight five of the hundreds of species that spend their spring in Canada.
Perhaps one of the most appropriately named species, the yellow warbler really brightens up a spring day! A common species that you can see right across Canada. Yellow warblers are small, social, and very vocal. Their song sounds like "sweet, sweet, Canada, sweet." Keep your eye out for them hopping around in thickets and trees feeding on insects. When trying to identify them, look out for their distinct rusty red stripes.
Thanks Karen for this beautiful yellow warbler photo in Gatineau, Que.
Bobolinks are returning to southern Canada where they breed in the prairies, meadows, and other grassland habitats. Bobolinks make an epic 20,000 km journey from their wintering grounds on the grasslands of southern South America. Bobolinks are known for their unique song, which sounds like a cartoon robot and elaborate aerial displays, where the males rise above the grass to try and impress females and defend their territory.
Like many grassland birds, bobolinks are listed as threatened, and their population has declined due to a loss of suitable prairie habitat.
One of Canada's most striking birds, the common eider is spending spring breeding along most of our north and east coast. Common eiders migrate in large groups with thousands of them travelling together. You can often see eiders bobbing offshore, and despite their large size, they are fantastic swimmers, feeding on mussels, clams, scallops, sea urchins, starfish, and crabs, which they catch at the bottom of the bays they live.
Their migration varies depending on where they live in the country, some travel large distances from the Arctic to the east and west coast, while others travel shorter distances from the islands of New Brunswick and Newfoundland further offshore into the Atlantic.
American white pelicans
American white pelicans are maybe not a species you would expect to see on the Canadian prairies but each year they travel here looking for love. They are a huge bird, one of the largest in North America with a wingspan up to three metres. Pelican colonies can be found across Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and even as far north as the Northwest Territories.
For many people across the prairies, the arrival of the pelicans in April is a sign that spring is finally on the way!
Calliope Hummingbirds are Canada's smallest bird! Despite being no heavier than a penny, these remarkable birds migrate several thousand kilometres each year. These hummingbirds are the smallest long-distance migrant in the world. Their migratory route begins in the pine-oak forests of southwestern Mexico, they travel north along the Pacific Coast to their breeding grounds in central interior B.C. and southwestern Alberta! Calliope hummingbirds are an early arrival and can be spotted in Canada when snow is still on the ground. Amazingly, when migrating south, many will follow the Rocky Mountains to take advantage of summer wildflowers; feeding on nectar to survive their long journey!
Most of our magical migratory birds are back in Canada and it's not too late to show us your spring! Submit your image at the bottom of this page or post on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #HelloSpringCBC!
Connel is a wildlife conservationist and educator and the host of Hello Spring. He has researched migratory songbirds and owls for most of his career, focusing on species that migrate past his house on Vancouver Island.