“According to Google Maps, we are on the fastest flyway possible”

By Sid Chaurasia

So many of us have so many plans for March Break and our well-deserved vacation. We humans have built so much and have done so much to grow our planet. But even though we are at the top of our food chain and have amassed a human empire, we still need to acknowledge the other species with which we co-exist. This one goes to birds. The Greater Toronto Area has approximately 410 species of birds, and so many of them are taking a voice this spring.

According to the Toronto Biodiversity Series, there are four paths or flyways the migratory birds take while flying to North America: Central, Pacific, Atlantic and Mississippi. Each flyway corresponds with a geographical asset, like the coastlines, Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains. Here in Toronto, we boast plenty of trees and a natural woodland and forested habitat. So, just like the people, it’s only natural that the wildlife flock here, too.

In middle to late February, the first birds of the season start to arrive. First, we have the small horned larks, also called Prairie Larks. They arrive on warmer days alongside blackbirds. The most common is the Red-winged Blackbird, named for its brilliant vermillion splash on the wing. These common birds arrive in big numbers, like the Ring-billed Gull.

With the beginning of March come the birds of prey, like eagles, certain hawk species like the Rough-legged and Red-tailed, and Turkey vultures. And if you’re lucky enough to live near the lake like we do here in Centennial, you’ll notice that the second the ice and frost starts melting and the water temperatures rise, the waterfowl start coming in.

The sparrows and songbirds also enter Toronto in the thousands, just like Grackles, which are in the crow family. Towards the end of March, the rest of the hawks pour in like the Red-shouldered, with their raptor cousins, the Saw-whet Owls. And of course, those Canadian icons – geese. The Greater Snow, Cackling, Canada, and Ross varieties all arrive along with the heaviest flying bird in North America – the Great Blue Heron!

So whether you plan to vacation in a northern cottage or to chill at home, just look up once in a while. Someone up there’s making a journey, and the best we can do is cheer them on.