ONTARIO (Essex County)(SE)

Lat:41o59´00´´S/82o30´10´´W 1564ha (1,113 ha of marsh and 1,564ha of forest) flat, 175msl 

Ramsar site 

May (09.05.96-18.05.96)


Birding Site Guide

This is a 10km peninsula jutting S into Lake Erie (Great Lakes) at the southern extreme of mainland Canada. Migration is best in spring when many thousands of birds of 360+ species can be found, including provincial and national rarities. 

To Reach Point Pelee it is best to go via Toronto then on to Leamington, accommodation can be found at Leamington and it is then only a few km to the national park, following the signs (though you may still need to ask directions). We stayed at a guesthouse on the outskirts of Leamington and drove into the park daily. 

At the entrance you will need to buy an entry ticket, then it is possible to either drive (extra for vehicle) or walk in. Walking is fine as there is a visitor centre selling refreshments further in. There is also a tractor pulled train from the centre (halfway along the peninsula) to the point. Be warned if you drive in and park where you should not, the park authorities have the power to issue parking tickets and will do so quickly. Pelee Island can be reached by boat from Leamington. 

We were lucky with the weather as the evening we arrived there was a huge hail and thunderstorm which grounded thousands of migrants overnight and when we arrived at the park gates next day every bush and tree was teeming with birds. Just around the gates in 2 hours in an area the size of an average garden we had 5 species of thrush in the same bush, 19 species of warblers, 4 species of woodpeckers, flycatchers and vireos and 3 species of wrens, both orioles and much else besides! 

From the Cat-tail cafe and visitor centre there are many trails, pick up a map there and from here it is possible to get then train to the point, though we often walked and birded. Here it is advisable to check the regularly updated ‘latest sighting’ board and it is possible to take the train to the point and bird the vast open lake for ducks The site regularly supports over 10,000 of the individuals in populations of Common Merganser (Goosander) and 50,000 Red-breasted Merganser and gulls. As well as the trails there is also the option to walk along the beaches. 

Anything can and does turn up, some days can be amazing for raptor passage, with such oddities as Mississippi Kite appearing. Gulls have included Black-headed Gull, rare on this side of the pond. The warblers especially can be simply overwhelming in numbers. Then you always have to keep your ears open for the cry of “Kirtland’s Warbler” or some other equally sought after species. Only one or 2 Kirtland’s are usually found each spring. Be aware the park gets extremely busy (400,000 visitors a year in such a tiny area), especially on spring weekends, not just with birders but families on days out, and it can be difficult to find a quiet area to bird, if that is what you are after. 

Away from Pelee there is Hillman’s Marsh, Harrow Sewage Works and Kopegaren Woods within easy reach by car and can offer some different species. Hillman’s Marsh and Harrow Sewage Works produced most of the waders on our list as well as Bald Eagle at the former. Rhonda is a couple of hours from Pelee but also worth doing for Pileated Woodpecker, Ruffed Grouse and Wood Duck, however we only heard the ‘pecker and never saw the grouse, but there were other birds new for us such as Golden-crowned Kinglet, White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadee, Pine Siskin, Blackpoll Warbler and Eastern Bluebird. Later we added Lesser Yellowlegs and Belted Kingfisher. 

Other sites which can be visited on day trips from Pelee area that we included to a lesser degree were Saint Claire which has a large reedbed, but we only saw Yellow-headed Blackbird and Mute Swan. At Tremblay we saw Redheads at last and some Lesser Scaup. 

Closer to Toronto we briefly birded Port Rowan and Long Point. We saw little at the first place but at Long Point we added Canvasback, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Mourning Warbler and a lot of other species we had already seen at Pelee. 

Anyone who can add more details on the places in these accounts please email BSG (don’t forget your name) and full site write ups can then be done for all these areas. 

Species seen 

  • not all sites given only first or most frequent
  • GAVIIFORMES: Gaviidae
  • Common Loon Gavia immer P
  • PODICIPEDIFORMES: Podicipedidae
  • Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps M
  • PELECANIFORMES: Phalacrocoracidae
  • Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus many sites
  • Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias many sites
  • Great Egret Ardea alba many sites
  • Green Heron Butorides virescens B
  • Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax M
  • American Bittern Botaurus lentiginosus M
  • ANSERIFORMES: Anatidae
  • Mute Swan Cygnus olor S
  • Canada Goose Branta canadensis many sites
  • Wood Duck Aix sponsa R
  • American Wigeon Anas americana many sites
  • Gadwall Anas strepera M
  • Green-winged Teal Anas carolinensis M
  • Mallard Anas platyrhynchos many sites
  • Blue-winged Teal Anas discors many sites
  • Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata H
  • Canvasback Aythya valisineria L
  • Redhead Aythya americana T
  • Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis P
  • Surf Scoter Melanitta perspicillata M
  • Bufflehead Bucephala albeola P
  • Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator PM
  • Common Merganser Mergus merganser B
  • Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis M
  • FALCONIFORMES: Cathartidae
  • Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura many sites
  • FALCONIFORMES: Accipitridae
  • Mississippi Kite Ictinia mississippiensis P
  • Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus M
  • Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus P
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk Accipiter striatus P
  • Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii M
  • Red-shouldered Hawk Buteo lineatus P
  • Broad-winged Hawk Buteo platypterus P
  • Swainson's Hawk Buteo swainsoni P
  • Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis P
  • FALCONIFORMES: Falconidae
  • American Kestrel Falco sparverius A
  • Merlin Falco columbarius P
  • Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus RS
  • GALLIFORMES: Phasianidae
  • Ring-necked Pheasant Phasianus colchicus H
  • GRUIFORMES: Rallidae
  • Virginia Rail Rallus limicola RS
  • Sora Porzana carolina M
  • Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus M
  • American Coot Fulica americana many sites
  • CHARADRIIFORMES: Recurvirostridae
  • American Avocet Recurvirostra americana M
  • CHARADRIIFORMES: Charadriidae
  • Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola many sites
  • Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus H
  • Killdeer Charadrius vociferus many sites
  • CHARADRIIFORMES: Scolopacidae
  • American Woodcock Scolopax minor P
  • Short-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus griseus M
  • Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularius several sites
  • Solitary Sandpiper Tringa solitaria several sites
  • Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes RH
  • Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres M
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla H
  • Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla H
  • Dunlin Calidris alpina MH
  • Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis P daily
  • Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus several sites
  • American Herring Gull Larus smithsonianus P
  • Bonaparte's Gull Larus philadelphia P
  • Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla P
  • Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia several sites
  • Black Tern Chlidonias niger daily
  • Common Tern Sterna hirundo daily
  • Forster's Tern Sterna forsteri M
  • COLUMBIFORMES: Columbidae
  • Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura daily
  • STRIGIFORMES: Strigidae
  • Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus R
  • CAPRIMULGIFORMES: Caprimulgidae
  • Common Nighthawk Chordeiles minor P
  • Whip-poor-will Caprimulgus vociferus P
  • APODIFORMES: Apodidae
  • Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica P
  • APODIFORMES: Trochilidae
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird Archilochus colubris P daily
  • CORACIIFORMES: Alcedinidae
  • Belted Kingfisher Ceryle alcyon R
  • PICIFORMES: Picidae
  • Red-headed Woodpecker Melanerpes erythrocephalus P
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus P
  • Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens daily
  • Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus P
  • Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus P
  • PASSERIFORMES: Tyrannidae
  • Yellow-bellied Flycatcher Empidonax flaviventris L
  • Willow Flycatcher Empidonax traillii L (Traill's)
  • Alder Flycatcher Empidonax alnorum L (Traill's)
  • Least Flycatcher Empidonax minimus P daily
  • Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe P
  • Eastern Kingbird Tyrannus tyrannus P
  • Great Crested Flycatcher Myiarchus crinitus P
  • PASSERIFORMES: Alaudidae
  • Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris B
  • PASSERIFORMES: Hirundinidae
  • Bank Swallow Riparia riparia daily
  • Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor daily
  • Purple Martin Progne subis D
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis K
  • Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica daily
  • Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon pyrrhonota D
  • Cave Swallow Petrochelidon fulva
  • PASSERIFORMES: Regulidae
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet Regulus satrapa R
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula daily
  • PASSERIFORMES: Bombycillidae
  • Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedrorum P
  • PASSERIFORMES: Troglodytidae
  • Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus P
  • House Wren Troglodytes aedon daily
  • Marsh Wren Cistothorus palustris P
  • Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensis daily
  • Brown Thrasher Toxostoma rufum P
  • Eastern Bluebird Sialia sialis PR
  • Veery Catharus fuscescens daily
  • Gray-cheeked Thrush Catharus minimus P
  • Swainson's Thrush Catharus ustulatus daily
  • Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus P
  • Wood Thrush Hylocichla mustelina P
  • American Robin Turdus migratorius daily
  • PASSERIFORMES: Polioptilidae
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea daily
  • Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus KR
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch Sitta canadensis daily
  • White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis P
  • PASSERIFORMES: Certhiidae
  • Brown Creeper Certhia americana P
  • Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata daily
  • American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos daily
  • PASSERIFORMES: Sturnidae
  • European Starling Sturnus vulgaris daily
  • PASSERIFORMES: Passeridae
  • House Sparrow Passer domesticus daily
  • PASSERIFORMES: Vireonidae
  • White-eyed Vireo Vireo griseus P
  • Yellow-throated Vireo Vireo flavifrons P
  • Blue-headed Vireo Vireo solitarius daily
  • Warbling Vireo Vireo gilvus P
  • Red-eyed Vireo Vireo olivaceus PR
  • PASSERIFORMES: Fringillidae
  • Purple Finch Carpodacus purpureus P
  • House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus P
  • Pine Siskin Carduelis pinus R
  • American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis daily
  • PASSERIFORMES: Parulidae
  • Blue-winged Warbler Vermivora pinus P
  • Golden-winged Warbler Vermivora chrysoptera P
  • Tennessee Warbler Vermivora peregrina P
  • Orange-crowned Warbler Vermivora celata P
  • Nashville Warbler Vermivora ruficapilla daily
  • Northern Parula Parula americana P
  • Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia daily
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler Dendroica pensylvanica daily
  • Magnolia Warbler Dendroica magnolia daily
  • Cape May Warbler Dendroica tigrina daily
  • Black-throated Blue Warbler Dendroica caerulescens daily
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler Dendroica coronata daily
  • Black-throated Green Warbler Dendroica virens daily
  • Blackburnian Warbler Dendroica fusca daily
  • Pine Warbler Dendroica pinus P
  • Prairie Warbler Dendroica discolor P
  • Palm Warbler Dendroica palmarum daily
  • Bay-breasted Warbler Dendroica castanea daily
  • Blackpoll Warbler Dendroica striata P
  • Black-and-white Warbler Mniotilta varia daily
  • American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla daily
  • Prothonotary Warbler Protonotaria citrea P
  • Worm-eating Warbler Helmitheros vermivorum P
  • Swainson's Warbler Limnothlypis swainsonii daily
  • Northern Waterthrush Seiurus noveboracensis PR
  • Louisiana Waterthrush Seiurus motacilla P
  • Kentucky Warbler Oporornis formosus P
  • Mourning Warbler Oporornis philadelphia P
  • Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas daily
  • Hooded Warbler Wilsonia citrina P
  • Wilson's Warbler Wilsonia pusilla P
  • Canada Warbler Wilsonia canadensis P
  • Yellow-breasted Chat Icteria virens PR
  • PASSERIFORMES: Thraupidae
  • Scarlet Tanager Piranga olivacea P
  • Summer Tanager Piranga rubra P
  • PASSERIFORMES: Emberizidae
  • Eastern Towhee Pipilo erythrophthalmus P
  • Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina DP
  • Clay-colored Sparrow Spizella pallida P
  • Field Sparrow Spizella pusilla P
  • Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis A
  • Henslow's Sparrow Ammodramus henslowii P
  • Grasshopper Sparrow Ammodramus savannarum P
  • Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia AP
  • Lincoln's Sparrow Melospiza lincolnii daily
  • Swamp Sparrow Melospiza georgiana AP
  • White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis daily
  • Harris' Sparrow Zonotrichia querula R
  • Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis P
  • PASSERIFORMES: Cardinalidae
  • Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis daily
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak Pheucticus ludovicianus daily
  • Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanea P
  • PASSERIFORMES: Icteridae
  • Bobolink Dolichonyx oryzivorus MP
  • Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus daily
  • Eastern Meadowlark Sturnella magna AP
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus S
  • Rusty Blackbird Euphagus carolinus P
  • Common Grackle Quiscalus quiscula daily
  • Brown-headed Cowbird Molothrus ater daily
  • Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula daily
  • Orchard Oriole Icterus spurius DP


  • A Highway 21
  • B Elm-lee Guest House
  • D Dealtown
  • H Harrow Sewage Works
  • L Long Point
  • M Hillmans Marsh
  • P Point Pelee NP
  • R Rhonda
  • S St. Claire
  • T Tremblay

  • Whitetail Deer Odocoileus virginianus
  • Red Fox Vulpes vulpes
  • Eastern cottontail Sylvilagus floridanus
  • European Hare Lepus europaeus
  • Eastern Chipmunk Tamias striatus
  • Muskrat Ondatra zibethica
  • Raccoon Procyon lotor 


In all 360+ species of bird have so far been recorded. Nationally rare bird species include Prothonotary Warbler, King Rail, Sedge Wren, Least Bittern, American Bittern, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, Loggerhead Shrike and Eastern Bluebird. The site also supports the globally threatened bird Piping Plover. At least 100 bird species are known to breed in the park, these include American Black Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Mallard and Wood Duck. In the marsh itself, many species congregate in the shallow ponds, including Double-crested Cormorant, American Coot, and herons and grebes. 

Other Fauna 

There are 42 species of mammal, with the commonest being Muskrat Ondatra zibethicus . Predators include Mink Mustela vison and Raccoon Procyon lotor other mammals include Longtail Weasel Mustela frenata , Meadow Vole Microtus pennsylvanicus , White-footed MousePeromyscus leucopus , Deer Mouse P. maniculatus , Meadow Jumping Mouse Zapus hudsoniusand in winter Eastern Cottontail Sylvilagus floridanus, Coyote Canis latrans and Whitetail DeerOdocoileus virginianus

Some 28 species of reptiles and amphibians have been recorded. Common in the marsh are American Toad Bufo americanus,Green Frog Rana clamitans melanota, Northern Leopard FrogR. pipiens and becoming rarer North American Bullfrog R. catesbeiana . The eastern barrier ridge, as well the marsh area, is a valuable turtle-nesting habitat. Species include Spiny Softshell Turtle Trionyx spiniferus, possibly a rare turtle. Thirty-four fish species, both sport and non-sport, inhabit the marsh. 

Seven fish species, two amphibians, three turtles, one snake and one mammal species occurring at the site are rare, threatened or endangered in Canada. Point Pelee is internationally recognised as a major staging area for migratory monarch butterflies (up to 20,000) and dragonflies. 

Of the 70 species of vascular plants eight are rare, threatened or endangered in Canada, including two nationally rare species, Justicia americana and Hibiscus palustris. The trough section of the Point Pelee marsh holds rare species such as Ipomoea pandurataAgastache sp. and Lactuca floridana

A Directory of Wetlands of International Importance, Ramsar Information sheet www.wetlands.org/RSDB/_COP9Directory/Directory/4CA026.html 

Author: BSG