Birding in Thunder Bay

June 2024

Spring is a wonderous time of the year where nature flourishes. In early spring, many birds leave their winter grounds in the south and head north to their breeding grounds. It is fascinating to see the variety of species who come to our area to raise their young.

Whether you are a beginner birdwatcher or a lifelong birder, most will agree that exploring the world of birds is a relaxing and enjoyable activity. You can observe and listen to birds pretty much anytime and anywhere. Each species has its own unique plumages and calls, that pique our interest to learn more about our feathered friends. The best time of the day for birding is when birds are most active, usually between dawn and 10am. In spring and summer, birds tend to sing early in the morning. In late morning, birds usually retire to shady spots and don’t sing as much. A second burst of activity occurs from late afternoon until sunset. Songbird migration is usually late March until the end of May with peak warbler migration in mid-to-late May.

If you are keen and want to learn more about the birds in our area, finding a good pair of binoculars will ensure you get a detailed look. In recent years, binoculars have become available at reasonable prices. Go for a full-size pair. Mini-binoculars or opera glass-type are light weight but do not provide enough light or power for a good birding experience. The 8 x 42 magnification is a popular choice for most kinds of birdwatching. They are powerful enough to focus on the details of the bird, and the optics ensure a bright and clear view.

There are different ways to connect with others to learn about birds. Join a local birding group or participate in planned events and hikes. The Thunder Bay Field Naturalists and the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority host several planned outings in the spring, summer, and fall. In late May, the Dorion Birding Festival, which is hosted by the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority, is a two-day planned birding event with top notch local birding guides. If you are a Facebook user, join Thunder Bay District Birds to see what others are seeing.

There are many places to see birds in Thunder Bay District. Many of these areas have hiking trails and guided footpaths that weave along forested areas and waterways.
McKellar Island Bird Observatory is a great place to view and learn about birds. The Observatory is a bird migration monitoring and banding station through which pass thousands of birds each year. The staff use very thin nets, called “mist nets” that are set in the forested areas around the property. The birds can’t see the nets and some fly into them.

A biologist checks the nets every 1/2 hour during May, August, September, and October, extracts the captured birds and documents their identification and measurements. Once data is recorded, the birds are then banded and released. Everyone is welcome to visit their field station and accompany a biologist as they check the nets. They will answer any of your bird questions and it is a great place to take photos! You can contact them either on Facebook at or by email to You can visit McKellar Island Bird Observatory by travelling down the Thunder Bay expressway and over the Main Street bridge to Keefer Terminal, then right on Island Drive, over the Fish Bridge and left on Baffin Street.

Hurkett Cove is a birding hotspot. Birding experts consider Hurkett Cove to be one of the top birding sites in northwestern Ontario. The site is maintained by the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority and has a pavilion with picnic tables and displays. A walk down the trail connects you into the forest and to rich marshland. These habitats are what draw these birds here during their migration. Songbirds, raptors, waterfowl, and shorebirds can all be seen in the cove or along the Black Bay shoreline. Don’t forget to bring your camera and binoculars! Hurkett Cove is located in Dorion, off Highway 11/17. Turn east onto Black Bay Drive and follow the signs to Hurkett Cove Conservation Area.

Birding has become a popular activity for any age group. With the warmer weather arriving, take some time to step out in nature to see the wonders of the bird world. Happy birding!

For more information or the Thunder Bay Naturalists and their Nature Guide, go to

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.