Raise Your Binoculars, Londoners!

Three bird species to look for along the Thames River this summer.

Year after year, spring’s arrival is announced by the hearty calls of well-travelled songbirds signalling the close of another icy Canadian winter. The practice of aesthetically observing our avian friends took flight in the 18th century, thanks to the works of pioneering British naturalists. Today, birdwatching is one of Canada’s fastest growing hobbies, and served as the theme of last weekend’s event to raise awareness on the importance of healthy waterways.

Our Eagle Eyes bird-watching hike, organized in partnership with Bird Studies Canada, was a fantastic kick-off of the Explore The Thames event series. Many bird species rely on the forests and grasslands bordering the Thames River as breeding grounds, provisioners of food, and habitats. As we strolled through Komoka Provincial Park, we were rewarded with glimpses of Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks, Black-Capped Chickadees, and the vibrantly blue Indigo Bunting.

More than just a sight for ‘soar’ eyes, birds are key ecological players that are important in controlling insect and rodent populations, dispersing seeds, and pollinating plants. Ecologists and conservation scientists consider many Canadian bird species to be indicators of changes in biodiversity, habitat quality, pollution, disease—and in the case of the Thames, freshwater health.

Our hikers were fortunate enough to observe 50 unique avian species (a full list can be found here) during our 2-hour hike along the river—here’s an overview of a few of the species we managed to spot!


The Bald Eagle

Covering an impressive range from coast to coast, bald eagles occupy a number of watery habitats that include lakes, rivers, marshes, and coastal areas. This iconic North American species is an emblem of conservation success, having bounced back from the devastating DDT poisoning that occurred in the 1960s. Bald eagles can be identified by their ‘bald’ white head, dark brown body, and bright yellow legs and bill—a novice birder’s delight.

(Photo Credit: National Audubon Society)


The Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker, with its distinct sound and look, is the largest woodpecker in Canada. The drumming sound this species creates as it bores into old trunks and branches can be heard up to 1 kilometre away. Pileated woodpeckers have a black body decorated with thick black and white stripes spanning from bill to chest. The male’s red moustache is the species most distinguishing visual feature.

(Photo Credit: www.natureswaybirds.com)


The Baltimore Oriole

Overwintering in the neotropics and Southern United States, the song of these migratory birds is a true herald of springtime. Baltimore Orioles can be identified by their orange breast and shoulders, their black head, back, wings and tail, and the occasional baseball fan cheering for its arrival. These birds occupy open patches of habitat and are well-adapted to parks and suburban areas.

As we gear up for our next event, we would like to thank Gregor Beck of Bird Studies Canada, who provided an engaging and enthusiastic tour of Komoka Park; the amazing park staff that provided insights and guidance and kept us from getting lost; and finally, all the wonderful participants that were in attendance.

For all our newly minted birders out there—keep your binoculars raised to spot some of the other great events we have coming up along the Thames!

All photos (except where noted) taken by Jade Prévost-Manuel on June 1, 2019. More photos of the event can be found here.


Explore the Thames is made possible thanks to the support of: