Top 10 birds to look for this spring

It’s officially spring! That means birds are returning from their southern wintering grounds and ready to grace you with their colourful and melodic presence. Here are our picks for the top 10 birds to spot this spring.

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Red-breasted nuthatch

You can find these little birds (they’re slightly smaller than black-capped chickadees) in most provinces year-round, but they do move farther north to breed come spring. Misnomer alert: these nuthatches have orange, not red, underparts. Well, close enough.

Purple finch

Only adult males are purple (ish). Henry David Thoreau described this fellow as having “the crimson hues of the October evenings.” Purple finches also know how to bust a move; they “dance” to attract females. A male will fluff out his feathers and hop around a potential mate.

Baltimore oriole

Orioles love fresh fruit. Cut oranges in half and hang them from your trees to attract them. Where does the name Baltimore come from, you ask? These birds have plumage that matches the colours in the crest of a famous British family (the Baltimores, of course).

Hermit thrush

It’s not the flashiest of birds, but it may have the most haunting voice. Birders have nicknamed the hermit thrush “swamp angel” because it’s considered one of the most beautiful singers in North America. Sorry, Adele.

Indigo bunting

The bluest of all our blue birds, these buntings sing cheerfully across eastern North America all through spring and summer. You can’t miss ’em.

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Gray catbird

Half cat, half bird. Just kidding. These slender avians get their name because their calls sound a little like the cries of a kitten. Catbirds are also excellent mimics; they can copy the songs of more than 40 other species, plus imitate frog calls, and mechanical noises.

Chipping sparrow

Male and female chipping sparrows look almost identical; that’s unusual in bird world. To tell the difference, watch their behaviour. Males sing, and females do all the nest-building.

Western tanager

Parts of Eastern Canada get the scarlet tanager come spring and summer, but lucky cottagers in the west may spot this species. Western tanagers breed farther north than any other tanager, even as far as the Yukon and Northwest Territories.

Brown creeper

You can spot a brown creeper because it, well, creeps—up tree trunks, to forage, that is. These birds use their thin, curved beaks as tweezers, pulling insects from the crevices in between bark.

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Orange-crowned warbler

You probably won’t be able to identify this warbler by an orange crown (it’s tough to spot). But you will likely notice them at the sapwells drilled by sapsucker woodpeckers. Along with hummingbirds, warblers take advantage of this free-flowing food source in early spring.


Hey! It’s almost our virtual Spring Cottage Life Show! Ahead of the bird spring migration season, online show-goers can hear from expert birder and Director of Citizen Science and Community Engagement for Birds Canada/Oiseaux Canada, Jody Allair, about the exploding popularity of bird watching. Jody will reveal some recognizable bird songs to listen for at the cottage, and chat with Editor of Cottage Life magazine, Michelle Kelly, about ways to make your property bird-friendly. 


Register for the virtual show here:


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