South Shore IBA Fauna

Bioblitz Reports from the South Shore

2017 – Miller Family Nature Reserve (PDF)

2016 – Little Bluff (PDF)

2015 – Pt. Petre (PDF)

2014 – Ostrander Pt. (PDF)


Avian Species at Risk in the IBA

The Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario is an independent body that classifies native plants or animals in 1 of 4 categories of at risk status.

  1. Extirpated: lives somewhere in the world, and at one time lived in the wild in Ontario, but no longer lives in the wild in Ontario
  2. Endangered: lives in the wild in Ontario but is facing imminent extinction or extirpation
  3. Threatened: lives in the wild in Ontario, is not endangered, but is likely to become endangered if steps are not taken to address factors threatening it
  4. Special Concern: lives in the wild in Ontario, is not endangered or threatened, but may become threatened or endangered due to a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats

Plants and animals are automatically protected (if classified as #1, 2, or 3) from being harmed or harassed. Species classified as #4 are not included in this protection.

The following avian species documented in the IBA have been classified as Threatened: Barn Swallow, Bobolink, Canada Warbler, Chimney Swift, Common Nighthawk, Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Golden Winged Warbler,  Least Bittern, Olive-sided Flycatcher,  Red-headed Woodpecker.   Special Concern: Bald Eagle, Eastern Wood Pewee, Grasshopper Sparrow and the Black Tern   Endangered:  King Rail (although documentation for this species in the IBA is historical.)

All photos by Ian Dickinson unless otherwise noted.

Black Tern

  • Marshes and open water
  • 20-26 cm, adults have a black head and under parts, forked tail, straight pointed bill, slender shape and long, narrow wings
  • Eats mainly insects, hovering just above the water as they pick their prey off the surface
  • Build floating nests in loose colonies in shallow marshes, especially in cattail
  • In winter they migrate to the coast of northern South America
  • Have been observed foraging above the Lighthall Marsh

King Rail

  • Ontario’s largest rail – 40cm tall
  • Looks much like a giant version of the more common Virginia Rail
  • Long, slightly curved bill, long legs, thin body, which allows it to move easily between cattail stalks – hence the expression “thin as a rail”
  • Chest and neck are a dull cinnamon orange, while the back is a mixture of rust and brown streaks
  • The sides of the body are blackish with thin, vertical white bars
  • Heard but rarely seen in densely vegetated freshwater marshes with open shallow water that merges with shrubby areas – prefer larger, coastal wetlands
  • Nest nest is a dinner-plate sized platform made of plant material, placed just above the water in shrubs or clumps of other marsh plants (photo:  Mark Peck)

Common Nighthawk

  • 21 to 25 cm, with long, narrow, pointed wings, and a long tail that is slightly notched
  • Head and eyes are large for its size
  • Dark brown plumage with black, white, and buff specks, allowing it to blend in with roost sites – gravel beaches, rocky outcrops and burned woodlands
  • In flight look for wide white stripe near the tip of the wing
  • Females have buff-coloured throat while males have a white throat
  • Traditional nesting habitat – open areas with little to no ground vegetation (e.g. logged areas, rock barrens, lakeshores, rail yards)
  • Observed in the IBA along roadways/shorelines at dusk (call is a nasal ‘peent’)

Olive-sided Flycatcher

  • Medium- sized songbird about 18-20 cm long.
  • Feathers along its sides and back a deep brownish olive-gray colour against a white front
  • Often perch at the top of tall trees, waiting for flying insects (their prey)
  • Loud, three note whistle “quick, three beers”
  • Found along natural forest edges and openings especially with tall snags and trees to use for foraging perches
  • Breeding habitat usually consists of coniferous or mixed forest adjacent to rivers or wetland – in Ontario it commonly nests in White and Black Spruce, Jack Pine and Balsam Fir
  • Migrate through the IBA in late May or early June.

Eastern wood Pewee

  • Small forest bird, 15 cm long
  • Greyish-olive on their upper parts, pale under parts, pale  wing bars
  • Clear, three-part song,  “pee-ah-wee”
  • Often observed perched in an upright position – eats mostly small, flying insects
  • Lives in the mid-canopy layer of forest clearings and edges of deciduous and mixed forests – most abundant in intermediate-age forests with little understory vegetation
  • Arrive in the IBA arriving in late May

Grass Hopper Sparrow

  • Small brown songbird with a streaked back and buffy white under- parts – soft insect-like song
  • White stripe down the centre of its crown and a flat look to the top of its head,  conical, beige bill
  • The young have a streaked breast in the first fall
  • Lives in open, short grassland areas
  • Nests on the ground in hayfields, pasture, alvars and prairies – prefers areas that are sparsely vegetated –  this preference for breeding habitat makes the IBA a perfect fit for it
  • Leaves Ontario in the fall to migrate to the southeastern United States and Central America for the winter

Bald Eagle

  • Well-known bird of prey with a bright white head, neck and tail, and a dark brown body
  • Massive yellow beak and legs – young eagles are mostly brown, variably speckled with white
  • Wingspan just over 2m
  • Soar on flattened wings and in silhouette show as much head and neck in front of the wing as there is tail projecting behind
  • Nest in large trees, almost always near a major lake or river where they do most of their hunting
  • Fish are their main source of food but also prey up to the size of ducks
  • Frequently feed on dead animals including White-tailed Deer
  • During the winter they are seen in the IBA along shorelines or on the ice

Wood Thrush

  • Medium-sized songbird – 20 cm long – slightly smaller but similar to  American Robin
  • Rusty-brown above and white under parts and large blackish spots on the breast and sides
  • Forages for food in leaf litter or on semi-bare ground eats larval and adult insects and plant material
  • The Wood Thrush lives in mature deciduous and mixed (conifer-deciduous) forests. They seek moist stands of trees with well-developed undergrowth and tall trees for singing perches – loud, musical phrases
  • Prefer large forests, but will also use smaller stands of trees. They build their nests in living saplings usually sugar maple or American beech
  • Wood Thrush breed in the wooded areas of the IBA and winter in Mexico and Central America

Red-headed Woodpecker

  • Medium-sized, 20 cm long – easily recognized for its vivid red head, neck and breast – body is black and white
  • Strong bill helps it dig holes in wood to find insects, its food source in the summer – in the winter, it eats nut
  • Adults often return to the same nesting site year after year. Both parents incubate the eggs and then tend to the young
  • The Red-headed Woodpecker lives in open woodland and woodland edges – often found in parks, golf courses and cemeteries
  • Prefer areas with many dead trees, used for nesting and perching
  • Winters in the U.S.  moving around for food – a few stay the winter in southern Ontario if there are adequate supplies of nuts
  • Rare but regular in the IBA every year.

Golden-winged Warbler

  • Small songbird – about 11cm  – white undersides, distinctive yellow wing patches and forehead – males have a black throat and black patch behind their eyes; females have the same markings in grey
  • Pairs build their nests on the ground, where the female lays two to six eggs
  • During breeding, they eat insects only (caterpillars, moths, other winged insects, and spiders)
  • Prefer nest areas with young shrubs surrounded by mature forest – locations that have recently been disturbed, such as field edges, hydro or utility right-of-ways, or logged areas
  • We see Golden-winged Warblers in the IBA during migration

Canada Warbler

  • Small songbird – males brighter yellow than females with blue-grey back and tail
  • Blue-grey head,  distinctive necklace of black stripes across its chest
  • Breeds usually in wet forest with well- developed, dense shrub layer that conceals the nest near or on the ground
  • Winters in South America in dense shrub understories of mature cloud and rain forests, second-growth forests, as well as coffee plantations
  • Found in the IBA during migration

Eastern Whip-poor-will

  • Medium-sized 22-26 cm
  • Mottled brown and grey feathers that blend in with its surroundings
  • Becomes active at dusk and rests during the day – more commonly heard than seen
  • Most vocal during bright, moonlit nights calling”Whip-poor-will” over and over
  • Areas with a mix of open and forested areas
  • Forages in these open areas and uses forested areas for roosting and nesting
  • Lays its eggs directly on the forest floor, where its colouring means it will easily remain undetected by  predators
  • Breeds in the IBA and annual surveys have counted 30+ calling individuals (photo: Mark Peck)

Chimney Swift

  • Small bird, 12-14 cm
  • Sooty brown, cigar-shaped body, long slender wings and a lighter throat
  • Acrobatic and erratic flight pattern and high-pitched chattering call
  • Spends most of its time flying and feeding on insects in the air
  • Before European settlement they nested on cave walls and in hollow trees or tree cavities; today are found in and around urban settlements where they nest and roost in chimneys and other man made structures
  • Stay close to water as this is where the flying insects they eat congregate
  • Nest in urban of Prince Edward County and foraging in the IBA

 Cerulean Warbler

  • Small songbird – 10-12 cm
  • Adult male is deep blue on top, with white under parts and a distinctive blue-black band across the throat
  • Adult female is blue-green on top, with whitish under parts that often appear to have a yellowish tint
  • Both males and females have two prominent white wing bars and white tail spots
  • Feeds mainly on insects during the breeding season and on nectar during the non-breeding season
  • Breeds in canopy of mature, deciduous forests
  • Winter in the Andes Mountains in South America
  • Often make foraging stops in the IBA during spring and fall migration


  • Medium sized songbird found in grasslands and hayfields
  • In breeding season, males are black with a white back and yellow collar – they have a bubbling flight song
  • By late summer, males lose their breeding plumage to resemble the female’s tan colour with black stripes
  • Bobolinks spend much of their time out of sight on the ground feeding on insects and seeds
  • Historically they lived in tall grass prairie and open meadows – now they are more common in hayfields
  • They build nests on the ground in dense grasses – both parents usually tend to their young, sometimes with a third Bobolink helping
  • Common in the IBAin fall migration –  they breed in the grasslands and hayfields just to the north of the IBA boundary

Barn Swallow

  • Medium-sized songbird 15-18 cm
  • Males have a glossy steel-blue back and upper wings, a rusty-red forehead and throat, a short bill and a broad blue breast band above its tawny underbelly
  • Males haves long tail feathers which form a distinctive, deep fork
  • Female have shorter tails, the blue of upper parts and breast band are less glossy, and her underside is paler
  • Nests are cup-shaped mud nests almost exclusively on human-made structures such as open barns, under bridges and in culvert
  • Commonly nest in the IBA and surrounding area

 Least Bittern

  • Smallest member of the heron family – 30cm
  • Brown and beige plumage with large chestnut wing patches
  • Dark crown and back – tan throat with whitish streaks and the belly is white.
  • Legs and beak are bright yellow
  • Prefers cattail marshes with a mix of open pools and channels
  • Builds its nest above the marsh water hidden among the cattails
  • Eats mostly frogs, small fish, and aquatic insects
  • Lighthall Marsh in the IBA is an ideal habitat for breeding Least Bittern

 Eastern Meadowlark

  • Medium-sized songbird 22-28 cm
  • Bright yellow throat and belly, a black “V” on its breast and white flanks with black streaks – backs are mainly brown with black streaks
  • Long, pointed bill
  • Song is composed of a series of clear whistles, often slurred together and descending in pitch
  • Breed primarily in moderately tall grasslands, such as pastures and hayfields – also found in weedy borders of croplands, roadsides, orchards, airports and shrubby overgrown fields – small trees or fence posts are used as song perches
  • Eastern Meadowlarks are often sighted along the roadways of the IBA where they breed