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Birds of the Fletcher Wildlife Garden

The Fletcher Wildlife Garden (FWG) is a unique 6.5-hectare complex of thickets, woodlot, pond, ravine and open weedy fields located in the middle of Ottawa. Birding at the garden is excellent and, when combined with the adjacent Rideau Canal, Dominion Arboretum, and extensive fields of the Central Experimental Farm, the FWG provides a diversity of habitat attractive to a wide range of birds.


Many of the birds found in the garden live here year round. These "resident" species include Downy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, House Sparrow, and House Finch. However, keep an eye out for other resident species. Cooper's Hawks have been found all year at the garden in recent times.


By mid-March that true harbinger of spring, the Red-winged Blackbird, is heard giving its ringing "Oka-ree" call, soon followed by Killdeers, Eastern Phoebes, Tree Swallows, and Barn Swallows.

By mid-May, the great spring migration is well underway. Now is the time to get out at dawn and scan the ravine, thickets, the Ash Woods, and the slope below it. You'll find a variety of birds including warblers, flycatchers, vireos, sparrows, and thrushes. Look also for American Woodcocks along with White-throated Sparrows and Fox Sparrows searching last year's leaf litter for insects.


Birds migrate north from the tropics to find safe sites to rear their young. Many of the birds observed in the garden nest in the Ottawa region, although not at the FWG where, for some species, the habitat is too limited. But although they may not breed in the garden, they clearly find it a valuable stopover point for feeding and resting. Backyard habitats designed to encourage wildlife provide these same benefits.

We've placed nest boxes all over the garden, particularly around the pond where they have been taken over by numerous pairs of Tree Swallows. Barn Swallows have occasionally nested under the eaves of nearby buildings, and we have put nesting ledges on the Interpretive Centre for both Barn Swallows and American Robins. A pair of American Kestrels have in the past used the nest box placed high on the old barn, a substitute for a natural cavity. As the FWG has reverted from parkland to a more natural state, we've found increasing numbers of birds nesting in the garden; examples include Yellow Warblers, Eastern Kingbirds, and Baltimore Orioles.


As summer gives way to fall, birds increasingly feel the call to warmer climates. From late August through September is a time of great activity. Swallows begin flocking in large numbers in July, and warblers, vireos thrushes, and other species arrive again from further north to fuel up for the long journey south.

Scan the thickets spilling down the ravine for Fox Sparrows and the taller trees for Blue-headed Vireos and other passerines. Birds usually sing less once the breeding season is over, becoming quite silent except for various chirps or "chip notes."


When the weather shifts to snow and falling temperatures, flocks of winter finches may be found in some numbers if their northern food supply decreases. At the FWG, look for Pine Grosbeaks, Common Redpolls, and White-winged Crossbills. Northern Shrikes can also be found most years. Big flocks of Bohemian Waxwings have been seen regularly in recent years.

Two feeders in the garden, one near the Interpretive Centre and another on the south edge of the Ash Woodlot, are supplied with seed by the OFNC. On particularly cold days, these are busy spots, attracting a variety of birds including chickadees, nuthatches, finches, Northern Cardinals, and Mourning Doves. They are also the places to check for the occasional rarity.


Much of our bird list was compiled by the late Bill Holland whose daily visits to the garden made him an institution and a wonderful source of information for beginning birders. We are very grateful to him for his work.

Some species on this list have been observed only once, some not more than a few times. A few of the species noted as breeding have done so only sporadically. As of May 2013, we've recorded 151 species but we continue to update the list. Please report your own sightings to us at vanessa@magma.ca.

Breeding evidence is noted with an asterisk alone (*); species that we think are nesting are followed by an asterisk and a question mark (*?).

Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
American Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron*
Turkey Vulture
Canada Goose
Snow Goose
Wood Duck
American Black Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Gray Partridge
Ruffed Grouse
Wild Turkey
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk
American Kestrel*
Peregrine Falcon
Virginia Rail
Spotted Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
American Woodcock
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Glaucous Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove*
Black-billed Cuckoo
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl
Great Gray Owl
Long-eared owl
Boreal Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Common Nighthawk
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker*
Hairy Woodpecker*
Northern Flicker*?
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Willow flycatcher
Least Flycatcher*?
Eastern Phoebe*
Great Crested Flycatcher*
Eastern Kingbird*
Northern Shrike
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo*
Red-eyed Vireo*
Blue Jay
American Crow*
Common Raven
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow*
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow*
Black-capped Chickadee*
Red-breasted Nuthatch*
White-breasted Nuthatch*?
Brown Creeper
House Wren*
Winter Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Gray-cheeked Thrush
Swainson's Thrush
Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin*
Gray Catbird*
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher*
European Starling*
Water Pipit
Bohemian Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing*
Tennessee Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler*
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Pine Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Palm Warbler
Black-and-White Warbler
American Redstart*
Mourning Warbler
Common Yellowthroat*
Wilson's Warbler
Canada Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
Eastern Towhee
American Tree Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow*
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow*
Lincoln's Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Snow Bunting
Northern Cardinal*
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird*
Eastern Meadowlark
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle*
Brown-headed Cowbird*
Baltimore Oriole*
Pine Grosbeak
Purple Finch
House Finch*
White-winged Crossbill
Common Redpoll
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch*
Evening Grosbeak
House Sparrow


This page was revised on 4 August 2013
© Fletcher Wildlife Garden
Text: Christine Hanrahan
Photos: Christine Hanrahan, except Mallard by Diane Lepage and feeder by Gillian Mastromatteo
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