May is for the Birds

Blackburnian Warbler perched on a tree
A Blackburnian Warbler. Image courtesy of Bob Bell.

Now is the time to see the amazing natural event that is annual spring bird migration! Spring migration begins in mid-March and ramps up through April, before peaking in mid-May with the arrival of the colourful warblers. Some birds are returning to the Burlington area to choose a breeding territory, while others stop over briefly to rest and refuel before continuing north. The finale comes in late May, with a few shorebirds (sandpipers, plovers) visiting us briefly on their journey to their Arctic breeding grounds.

When and Where to Watch Birds

Generally, good birding can be had from 7 to 9 a.m. After that time, the birds may become less active, though you can still see some throughout the day. Use binoculars if you have them. Birds can be seen in any greenspace, but there are certainly hotspots around the city for better viewing (see Tourism Burlington’s birding page). Don’t have binoculars? Did you know that the Burlington Public Library and City of Burlington have a free binocular lending program?

World Migratory Bird Day

On May 13, 2023, let’s celebrate World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD)! It’s the perfect time to appreciate birds and how they enrich our lives and lift our spirits, while considering how we can help them.

  • In Burlington, Mayor Meed Ward will issue a proclamation in recognition of WMBD this month.
  • Bird Friendly Hamilton Burlington will have an information table at Beachway Park on Saturday, May 13, outside BurlingtonGreen’s Eco-Hub headquarters at 1094 Lakeshore Rd. (red brick building between the playground and concession building). Feel free to stop by and chat about birds, plus join a guided bird walk at the beach geared toward beginner and intermediate birders. Watch BurlingtonGreen‘s social media for times and details.
  • On May 13, the Brant Street Pier lights will be lit blue until 10 p.m. (in recognition of this year’s WMBD theme, “Water: Sustaining Bird Life“), and will then go dark to raise awareness of Lights Out actions for birds. 
Brant Street Pier with lights darkened.

Take Action for Birds

In April 2022, Burlington was officially certified as a Bird Friendly City (BFC) by Nature Canada, thanks to the bird-friendly efforts of the community, the City of Burlington, and Bird Friendly Hamilton Burlington which led the application process.  To date, 19 Canadian municipalities have been BFC certified, including one other in Halton Region: Halton Hills.  Together, we’ve made great progress, but there’s much more to do. Below are ways you can help:

1. Lights Out Until End of May

The bright ‘skyglow’ of cities at night can lure migrating birds off-course into urban settings, where they can meet with a variety of fatal hazards, such as outdoor cats, and collisions with windows and glass railings. You can help keep migrating birds safe by turning off or dimming non-essential lighting, or closing curtains and blinds at night, at home and at work, until the end of May, and again in the fall.

Video courtesy of World Migratory Bird Day.

The City of Burlington strives to minimize non-essential lighting at night in its buildings, both to the benefit of birds and energy savings. The LED streetlight retrofit program undertaken in Burlington a few years back also reduces uplight contributing to skyglow.

2. Glass Treatments

See for tips on how to properly treat windows and glass railings to greatly reduce the risk of bird collisions at home or work.

The City of Burlington has begun using bird-friendly glass (dot markers) in a few new and renovated buildings, such as Mountainside Community Centre, City View Park Pavilion, and the Skyway Community Centre (under construction). In the community, you may have also noticed that sections of the Joseph Brant Hospital have bird-friendly glass. 

Bird friendly glass at City View Park.

3. Outdoor Cats

Domestic cats outdoors are by far the number one threat to birds. Consider keeping your cats indoors or in an enclosed ‘catio’. Please do not let pets roam at large, in accordance with the City of Burlington’s Animal Control Bylaw.

Take Action Burlington! Help keep migrating birds safe by turning off or dimming non-essential lighting, or closing curtains and blinds at night, at home and at work, until the end of May, and again in the fall. Collectively, we can make a difference.

This post was submitted by Dave Tourchin, Bird Friendly Hamilton Burlington team member.

3 thoughts on “May is for the Birds

  1. Thanks for the post! Another great webpage for bird-friendly window treatments options is:

    Also, this great website gives forecasts predicting when a high number of birds are expected to be migrating at night (data not yet available for Canada, but you can gauge busy nights for us by looking at the southern shore of Lake Erie). Tip: high bird migration nights may correlate with really good birdwatching the next morning. See


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