Enjoy Birdwatching: 14 Beautiful Canadian Birds

Birds are so unique! Their chirping and colourful feathers are quite pleasant. Their presence in the environment makes nature look even more beautiful.

Every bird has some other astonishing features. Today, I will unveil the wide variety of beautiful birds of Canada.

Birds have some distinctive features, like wings. Wings make them different from the other organisms on earth.

Moreover, they have a body that is so light in weight that it makes flying possible. Birds are found in all parts of the bird, and each type of bird is unique in its way.

Birds might seem popular only due to their beauty. But they are an extremely important part of our ecosystem. They even help disperse seeds, an essential step for pollination.

Colourful Canadian Birds To Watch

The following are some of the rarest Canadian birds you must know about.

1. Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary warblers are beautiful birds. They first appeared in the 1940s, and their news started spreading widely. These birds migrate all over the world every year.

About the Prothonotary warblers

They breed in Ontario and then travel to a wide variety of places worldwide.

They go to the eastern United States, West Indies, and some western states. The sad part is that this small bird has lost its habitat.

It has become one of the rarest birds in Canada. A wide variety of Warblers are found in British Columbia and Southern Canada. They include the Leaf Warbler and New World Warbler.

Simple, repetitive “sweet” notes make up the masculine bird’s simple, beautiful song.

Nesting Habits

A Prothonotary Warbler’s ideal nesting environment includes dead snags and branches with plenty of holes, which are always close to bodies of water, such as rivers, marshes, or shallow-root forests.

Low-lying tree cavities, such as those dug by the Downy Woodpecker, are highly sought-after as nesting locations. But the species will also build its nests in artificial cavities like nest boxes.

Eating Habits

Prothonotary Warblers aren’t picky eaters when it comes to food. They eat mostly water invertebrates, but they will also eat spiders, seeds, and snails that they can find on tree trunks, in the debris of fallen trees, and on the forest floor.

In addition to eating fruits and nectar, the birds also eat snails as part of their diet.

2. Citrine Wagtail

Motacilla citreola is also known as a Citrine Wagtail. It is a small bird in the Motacillidae family. It is one of those Canadian birds that cannot be spotted very often in the country.

J.M.Garg, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

About the Citrine wagtails

Citrine means yellowish colour. The bird’s name thus tells us a lot about the colour of the bird, yellow.

Citrine wagtails are generally sylphlike, and their length is around 5-7 centimetres long. A major feature that can help you find them easily is the continuous wagging of the tail.

The blue or black colour on the upper side is commonly found in the males, along with white colour on their remiges.

Other than these characteristics, citrine wagtails have yellow colour on their body. The yellow colour in their underparts is commonly seen diluting with white colour. It is spread all over except for their brownish little heads.

Nesting Habits

These birds make nests and lay 4-5 eggs. Motacilla citreolas are insectivorous birds. They generally prefer areas like bogs and meadows for habitat.

These are migrating birds. They have been spotted in different areas of the bird but are not seen as much as the other birds. Wagtails are also found in parts of British Columbia and Southern Canada.

3. Henslow’s Sparrow

Henslow’s sparrow is a small bird that breeds in wet and shrubby fields. It belonged to the passerelle family. John James Audubon named it in honour of John Stevens Henslow.

henslow sparrow
Dominic Sherony, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

About the Henslow’s sparrow

These birds usually have a brownish colour. They generally have a crown-like structure on their heads. Initially, these birds were classified as a part of Emberiza [genus]. They were known as Henlow’s bunting in those days.

The adult males of Henslow’s sparrow are expected to have streaked underparts. They are brown, along with a white belly and a white neck.

Identity of a Henslow’s sparrow

Their wings have a rusted colour. They have a short brownish bill. Above all these features, they also possess a short, forked tail, which is quite dark in colour.

Nest

An average Henslow sparrow builds nests situated close to the ground. They can be either open or closed. Nests of these brown birds can be found in grassy areas in small colonies.

These birds are continually decreasing in number. It is primarily due to the loss of habitat. Hence, Henslow’s sparrows have become one of the infrequent Canadian birds.

Eating Habits

These birds feed on the ground, mostly consuming insects (such as grasshoppers and beetles), berries, and seeds. Their melody moves quickly.

Other varieties, like the House Sparrow and Eurasian Tree Sparrow, are found in Southern Canada.

4. Snow Goose

The scientific name of the snow goose is Anser caerulescens. As the name suggests, a snow goose is a beautiful white bird and is explicitly found in North America and British Columbia.

About the Snow Goose

It is one of the uncommon birds of Canada. A snow goose generally has a length of 22-33 inches and a wingspan of about 4.5 feet! They have a strong, short bill with white cheeks.

These precious snow-coloured birds are known for their white plumage. However, a wide variety of snow geese have been noticed to have darker colours.

When this difference was first found, scientists declared they were different species. Later, these two types of birds had distinctive colours yet belonged to the same species.

Migrating & Nesting Habits

A unique feature of these pretty birds is that they indicate the changing seasons.

  • They fly towards the south during wintertime.
  • Their flocks are recognized due to their shape V.
  • They have a vegetarian diet. Grains are an essential part of their diet.
  • The time when winter ends is when they fly North for breeding.
  • During this time, they lay 2-6 eggs for the whole year. They are seen flying toward the Tundra region.

There has been a drastic decline in the number of snow geese. In 1916, the hunting of this species was banned. There is a sudden disappearance in the environment. Strict measures have been taken to save the snow geese since then.

5. Cackling Goose

The cackling goose is a bird that belongs to the genus Branta of black geese. It is the next on the list of occasionally spotted Canadian birds. These birds have a remarkable resemblance to the Canadian geese.

cackling goose
VJAnderson, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

About the Cacking Goose

Cackling geese typically feed in extended families and big flocks on grasses and other plants in open areas.

Their young stay with their parents for as least a year after hatching, whether they nest singly or in colonies. They can show up in flocks with other geese, such as Canada Geese.

Nest

Cackling Geese generally build their nests on islands in tiny lakes or marshes in the Polar Tundra (one subspecies occurs on islands in the Bering Sea).

Hunting Habits

They hunt in wetlands and meadows all year long. They forage in agricultural fields during migration and when on the wintering grounds. They spend the night roosting with other geese on lakes, reservoirs, or marshes.

Identity of Cacking Goose

The Cackling Goose resembles a smaller variant of the common Canada Goose; the two were once considered to be one species.

Although their plumage is nearly identical, Cackling Geese are more delicate, with stubbier bills, steeper foreheads, shorter necks (which are startlingly obvious in flying birds), and typically rounder heads.

The frequency of their calls is higher than Canada Goose. The smallest subspecies of the Cackling Goose, the minima, is just a fraction of the size of the maxima, the largest subspecies of the Canada Goose, which may weigh up to 11 pounds.

Usually Found At

For the majority of people, winter and migratory are the best times to seek cackling geese because they breed in isolated northern Canada and Alaska.

In the Pacific Northwest, California’s Central Valley, the southern Great Plains, and the Texas/Louisiana coast during these seasons can be extremely prevalent.

Top Bird Watching Destinations In Canada
Icy Canada

6. Barnacle Goose

The next among the rare Canadian birds is the Branta leucopsis. It is also known as the Barnacle goose. Barnacle geese belong to the Branta genus of black geese. They are recognizable due to their black plumage.

About the Barnacle Goose

These birds are medium-sized birds. They are generally 55-70 centimetres long and have a wingspan of 130-145 centimetres‘. The face and the belly of an average barnacle goose are usually white, and a part of the head is black.

Migrating & Nesting Habits

When barnacle geese are migrating, Canadian birds fly in a V-shaped structure. While they fly, their silver-grey underwing linings are vividly visible.

Barnacle geese give utmost importance to safety. They build their nests in mountainous and rocky regions away from predators.

Identity of Barnacle Goose

Canadian geese are known for being aggressive birds. They are very versatile and can live, nest, rear their young, and obtain food and other supplies in metropolitan settings.

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, “this has increased confrontations between geese and people.”

These Canadian birds are often parts of famous stories and legends. A legend narrates that this species of bird were born of driftwood.

The Agreement to Save the Species

The agreement on the conservation of African-Eurasian migratory waterbirds was an independent organization. It was formed to conserve bird species that migrated between Europe and Africa.

This policy extends to the Canadian archipelago and parts of the Middle East. This auspicious treaty applies to the Barnacle goose.

7. Trumpeter Swan

The Cygnus buccinator or trumpeter swan is the heaviest North American bird. It is one of the rarely spotted Canadian birds. These trumpeter swans can be recognized due to their white plumage and huge wingspan.

About the Trumpeter Swan

North America is the swan’s native continent. It reproduces in portions of Canada, the northern United States, and central and southern Alaska.

Although some populations move south in winter to ice-free lakes, it is prevalent across much of its range all year long. It can be seen as far south as Arkansas and Texas.

Breeding Habits

The breeding habitats of these Canadian birds are shallow ponds and serene lakes. They are also found in wide and slow rivers, marshes, and intact wetlands. These birds fly in a V-shaped flock and are non-migratory.

These swans inhabit marshes with deeper oceans or places with numerous rivers and creeks, always close to water. The water may be brackish, fresh, or saline. The eggs are laid in or next to the water.

Like the Trumpeter Swan, the Great blue heron is a huge wading bird that inhabits wetlands and the edges of open water. It belongs to the heron family Ardeidae.

There are five recognized subspecies of great blue heron, which are found throughout southern Canada.

Given the presence of a close water source, the subspecies found in Ontario are considered relatively migratory birds and can be found in a variety of environments, from southern marshes to northern boreal woods.

The location of this official bird is Prince Edward Island.

8. Blue Jays

Blue Jays is a passerine bird in the family of Corvidae. It is one of the beautiful Canadian birds that are occasionally spotted. There are four recognized subspecies of the blue jay.

These birds breed in both deciduous and coniferous forests.

Nest

Blue jay is a bird that mainly feeds on nuts and seeds. Besides, small vertebrates might also be a part of their diet at times. These birds build open nests on trees, and both genders do this nest construction.

Identity of the Blue Jay

Among the most widespread birds in Canada is the blue jay. Believe it or not, blue jays have a seven-year lifespan, and their feathers aren’t blue.

Their colour is a consequence of the feathers’ structure, which distorts light reflection and gives them a blue appearance. A Blue Jay feather would appear brown rather than blue if it were ground up or placed on a white, illuminated surface.

Blue jays are loud, assertive, and aggressive passerines. When not provoked, it is a somewhat sluggish flier (around 32-40 km/h (20-25 mph). It flies with its body and tail level and slow wing strokes.

Migrating & Nesting Habits

When it travels in open regions, its modest flight rates make it easy prey for raptors and owls. It has also been seen making a warning cry when hawks or other threats are around, and smaller birds frequently understand this call and flee accordingly.

A blue jay lays 2-7 eggs, bluish or light brown, and can commonly be recognized by the brown spots. The children of a blue jay generally remain with their parents for 1-2 months.

9. Ring-Necked Duck

Aythya collaris, also known as the ring-necked duck, is a diving duck found in freshwater ponds and lakes and is one of the infrequent Canadian birds.

The scientific name of this duck originated from a Greek word. It is mentioned in books by authors like Aristotle and is referred to as an unidentified seabird.

ring necked duck
Becky Matsubara from El Sobrante, California, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

About the Ring-Necked Duck

A ring-necked duck can vary from small to large, and the male birds resemble the Eurasian tufted duck. It is observed that the body size of the male birds is slightly larger than the females.

As the name already suggests, it has two white rings surrounding its grey bill. It gives the bird an exceptional appearance.

These birds have shiny angular heads with black backs. Some other distinctive features of this bird include white lines on its wings.

They also have pretty yellow eyes.

Eating Habits

Ring-necked ducks are omnivores. They get their food by diving into water bodies. Young ducklings, however, are dependent on worms, leeches, midges, and snails.

In any season, thick stands of submerging and emergent vegetation are favoured in shallow, freshwater marshes. The Ring-necked Duck is more omnivorous than other diving ducks, preferring to eat seeds, roots, and tubers.

Also consumed are aquatic invertebrates, particularly by females and their young ones.

Breeding Habits

In some grassland areas and boreal woodlands, ducks lay their eggs in tiny, forested ponds. They rarely live in saltwater bays.

During the winter, they are mainly found in lakes, ponds, rivers, or bays in southern North America. Ring-necked duck couples begin to form during the spring migration.

Unpaired ducks found in breeding grounds are almost always non-breeders. The partners only stay together for reproduction before splitting apart.

The bowl-shaped nest is built on water in dense emergent foliage of sedges and woody plants. The female lays one egg every day until she has deposited 8 to 10 eggs.

They are incubated for 25-29 days, and the female may stay with the young until they can fly.

10. Surf Scote

The Melanitta perspicillata, Surf Scoter, is a huge sea duck and are rare Canadian bird. These birds generally breed in Canada and Alaska.

Identity of Surf Scoters

The male surf scoters are black and have some white patches on their body. The patches are found on their nape and head. The females are slightly browned and look like small birds.

Mussels and benthic invertebrates are essential parts of their diet. Scoters generally migrate to places with a temperate environment. It is suitable for them in the winter season.

Ómar Runólfsson (omarrun), CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Vulnerable Period of Surf Scoters

These Canadian birds usually have a vulnerable period during July or August. That is when they shed their flight feathers and become flightless.

Before the shedding of the flight wings, they undergo a complete body moult. This week’s phase of the year lasts for around four weeks. During this time, the vivid colours of their body gradually get replaced with dull colours.

Scoters stay in big rafts on the ocean or in open bays and inlets during the non-breeding season.

Eating Habits

They virtually exclusively dive for food, capturing fish on the ocean floor as well as mussels from built-up areas. Although they can fly well, they need a running start along the river to take off.

Male birds actively protect their female partners, fending off intruders. Mollusks and crustaceans are the most popular foods throughout the winter.

Aquatic insect larvae comprise a major component of the food during the mating season. Pondweed and other aquatic invertebrates are also consumed by surf scorters.

11. Black-Capped Chickadee

By Paul Roedding on Shutterstock

The Black-Capped Chickadee is a North American songbird. The Black-Capped Chickadee is the provincial bird of New Brunswick, Canada.

About Black-Capped Chickadee

As the name suggests, it has a black cap. It also has a bib on its face with white sides. It has a short black bill and a gray back and tail.

Usually Found At

The Black-Capped Chickadee looks similar to the Carolina Chickadee. But it is larger and has wings with white edges. Moreover, the Black-Capped Chickadee is the state bird of Massachusetts and Maine in the United States.

Alaska, the southern portion of Canada, and the northern two-thirds of the US are home to black-capped chickadees.

These birds favour willow thickets, temperate forests, parks, cottonwood groves, and open woodlands. They don’t move unless there is a food shortage.

They frequently attend patio feeders and are most frequently spotted close to the boundaries of wooded areas. They dig holes into building their nests, mainly in dead trees or stumps, and are drawn to ecosystems with good places to build nests.

We can spot smaller flocks of Black-Capped Chickadee in the deep coniferous forest during the wintertime.

Black-capped chickadees frequently wander in small flocks when eating at feeders or in wooded areas. The male bird is placed above the female in their flock, while the elder birds are placed above the young.

They are energetic during the day, frequently gleaning or scavenging upside down while hovering and shrieking. They can be observed jumping along tree trunks or climbing up trees.

12. Northern Cardinal

By Bonnie Taylor Barry on Shutterstock

About The Northern Cardinal

The Northern Cardinal is a sizable songbird with a long tail, a short, relatively thick beak, and a prominent crest. Cardinals frequently perch with their tails pointing downwards and their bodies bent.

Small suboscine passeriform birds with multiple species in Central and South America, Tapaculos are comparable to the Northern Cardinal. They have a long tail that is bent and directed upward.

Identity of the Northern Cardinal

The Northern Cardinal is known as the Redbird. They are beautiful songbirds with a crest on their head and have beautiful crimson bodies with black masks on its face.

Females have a gray face mask. The Northern Cardinal has a loud, clear whistle that it uses to mark its territory. They usually feed on seeds, fruits, and insects.

Usually Found At

Usually foraging in couples, northern cardinals prefer to sit low in bushes and trees or browse on the ground or close to it.

They are frequently seen at bird feeders but may go unnoticed elsewhere, at least until you get used to their loud, metallic chip call.

Keep an eye out for Northern Cardinals in populated places like

  • back gardens
  • parks
  • hardwood trees
  • perennial shrub forest edges

In dense tangles of bushes and vines, Northern Cardinals build their nests.

Identical to the Northern Cardinal, the brown-headed cowbird is a blackbird that lives close to cattle, birdfeeders, and forestry edges. It may be found almost everywhere in Canada.

Problems faced by the Northern Cardinals

The northern cardinal is not regarded as threatened with extinction. However, they are vulnerable to a number of risks, including window crashes, attacks by stray or outdoor cats, and excessive use of pesticides and other chemicals.

These birds remain in less hospitable areas all year long as long as birders provide extra food in the winter. Because of these birds’ adaptability and willingness to use bird feeders, their distribution has extended further north.

13. Downy Woodpeckers

By Steve Byland on Shutterstock

Downy woodpeckers are the smallest woodpecker species in North America. They are very similar to hairy woodpeckers and have a white underside.

About Downy Woodpecker

The back of Downy woodpeckers is black with white spots on the feathers. Downy woodpeckers are known for their short pik-call. They produce drumming sounds as they peck into trees.

When these birds feed on trees, they delve deeper in the winter and pluck at the bark’s surface in the summer.

In North America, downy woodpeckers are native birds. The majority of the United States and Canada are included in their range. The majority of them live there permanently.

While birds in mountainous places might migrate to lower elevations, northern species might migrate further south.

How do they protect their domain?However, they can also be found in orchards, parks, and residential areas. Downy woodpeckers are found in forested regions, primarily deciduous forests.

Diurnal birds and downy woodpeckers prefer to spend their time alone. They are possessive and won’t allow other members of their species to enter their domain.

They use threat displays to defend their territories, such as

  • wing flicking or tail fanning
  • raising their crest and holding up their bill to attempt and drive the intruder away

If none of these strategies succeed, Downy woodpeckers will attack the intrusion and engage in aerial combat with them.

Usually Found At

They are frequently found in metropolitan backyards with old trees, especially during winter. They can eat suet and shelled peanuts from mesh birdfeeders there.

There are several calls made by downy woodpeckers, including the rattling call and a brief “pik” call. Like other woodpeckers, they pound into trees and make a drumming noise with their beaks. Their drumming is sluggish compared to those of other North American species.

14. Bald Eagle

Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

Identity of the Bald Eagles

The Bald Eagle is the national bird of the United States of America.

The Bald Eagle actually has a white head. It has a bright yellow beak and brown feathers. The toes of the Bald Eagle have large talons. It is mainly found in the United States, Canada, and Alaska.

Why Bald Eagles are Strong Fliers?

The bald eagle is a strong flier that glides on thermal convection currents. When soaring and flapping, it can achieve speeds of 56-70 km/h (35-43 mph), and when hauling fish, it can reach speeds of 48 km/h (30 mph).

Its diving speed ranges from 120 to 160 km/h (75 to 99 mph), yet it rarely descends vertically. Despite being anatomically less well adapted to quicker flight than golden eagles (particularly during dives), the bald eagle is thought to be extremely agile in flight.

Bald eagles have also been observed flying alongside and then swooping under geese, twisting around and sinking their talons into the other bird’s breast.   Depending on the area, it is somewhat migratory.

Final Thoughts

Urbanization has had some positive effects on the world. Several exotic birds are losing their homes and going extinct.

Caging birds is another unacceptable practice that many people follow. All of us need to understand that saving birds is our duty as human beings.

People should realize this before all the Canadian birds, and other birds worldwide go extinct.

Favourite FAQs

1. What’s the rarest bird in Canada?

The Roseate Tern is Canada’s most endangered bird. During the 1970s, the population of this endangered seabird plummeted dramatically. In Canada today, there are less than 250 adults of this specie.

2. What bird is on the Canadian $5 bill?

The belted kingfisher is featured on Canada’s $5 note. Because many Canadians born after 1965 were unfamiliar with the Red Ensign, several mistook the flag on the new note for an American flag, resulting in the “flag flap.” The belted kingfisher is represented on the reverse of the note amidst a landscape typical of its habitat.

3. What bird is Canada known for?

After millions and millions of votes were cast online, the grey jay was declared Canada’s national bird, tickling the sensibilities of some ornithologists. Although Canada has no official national bird, the Canada goose has traditionally been linked with the national identity of the country.

4. What is the national bird of Canada in 2022?

It is Canadian Geographic’s official pick for the National Bird of Canada. It is also known as the whiskey jack or Canada jay. The grey jay (Perisoreus canadensis in Latin, Mésangeai du Canada in French) is found in the friendly spirit in Canada’s vast northern boreal and mountain woods – including all 13 provinces and territories.

Last Updated on by Sanjana

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