All year

Many of the birds found in the garden live here year round. These “resident” species include Downy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, House Sparrow, and House Finch. However, keep an eye out for other resident species. Cooper’s Hawks have been found all year at the garden in recent times.

The Fletcher Wildlife Garden (FWG) is a unique 6.5-hectare complex of thickets, woodlot, pond, ravine and open weedy fields located in the middle of Ottawa. Birding at the garden is excellent and, when combined with the adjacent Rideau Canal, Dominion Arboretum, and extensive fields of the Central Experimental Farm, the FWG provides a diversity of habitat attractive to a wide range of birds.

Downy Woodpecker; photo Christine Hanrahan

Redwing Blackbird on cattails in the Amphibian Pond; photo D. Gordon E. Robertson


By mid-March that true harbinger of spring, the Red-winged Blackbird, is heard giving its ringing “oka-ree” call, soon followed by Killdeers, Eastern Phoebes, Tree Swallows, and Barn Swallows.

By mid-May, the great spring migration is well underway. Now is the time to get out at dawn and scan the ravine, thickets, the Old Woodlot, and the slope below it. You’ll find a variety of birds including warblers, flycatchers, vireos, sparrows, and thrushes. Look also for American Woodcocks along with White-throated Sparrows and Fox Sparrows searching last year’s leaf litter for insects.

Baltimore Oriole; photo D. Gordon E. Robertson


Birds migrate north from the tropics to find safe sites to rear their young. Many of the birds observed in the garden nest in the Ottawa region, although not at the FWG where, for some species, the habitat is too limited. But although they may not breed in the garden, they clearly find it a valuable stopover point for feeding and resting. Backyard habitats designed to encourage wildlife provide these same benefits.

Yellow Warbler; photo D. Gordon E. Robertson

We’ve placed nest boxes all over the garden, particularly around the pond where they have been taken over by numerous pairs of Tree Swallows. Barn Swallows have occasionally nested under the eaves of nearby buildings, and we have put nesting ledges on the Resource Centre for both Barn Swallows and American Robins. A pair of American Kestrels have in the past used the nest box placed high on the old barn, a substitute for a natural cavity. As the FWG has reverted from parkland to a more natural state, we’ve found increasing numbers of birds nesting in the garden; examples include Yellow Warblers, Eastern Kingbirds, American Redstarts, and Baltimore Orioles. House Wrens and Great Crested Flycatchers have also used the nest boxes around the pond since 2018.

In 2018, a Wood Duck box was added to the northern shore of the Amphibian Pond. It remained unused that year but in 2019, success. Nine ducklings hatched and joined mother in the pond.  Perhaps it will become a regular breeding site.


As summer gives way to fall, birds increasingly feel the call to warmer climates. From late August through September is a time of great activity. Swallows begin flocking in large numbers in July, and warblers, vireos, thrushes, and other species arrive again from further north to fuel up for the long journey south.

Scan the thickets spilling down the ravine for Fox Sparrows and the taller trees for Blue-headed Vireos and other passerines. Birds usually sing less once the breeding season is over, becoming quite silent except for various chirps or “chip notes.

This is also the time when fruit such as Riverbank Grapes, crabapples, plums, and elderberries are ripe for the eating. Flocks of birds often arrive specifically to fuel up for their migration south.

Take a seat at one of our new benches at the Amphibian Pond and at the Ravine area near the Resource Centre to watch the feeding flocks. Many Mallards and Wood Ducks and the occasional Canada Goose with take a brief rest in the pond before fly south.

Female Mallard showing its distinctive blue speculum with white borders; photo D. Gordon E. Robertson

Northern Cardinal at seed feeder; photo Gordon Robertson

American Goldfinch


When the weather shifts to snow and falling temperatures, flocks of winter finches may be found in some numbers if their northern food supply decreases. At the FWG, look for Pine Grosbeaks, Evening Grosbeaks, Common Redpolls, and White-winged Crossbills. Northern Shrikes can also be found most years. Big flocks of Bohemian and Cedar Waxwings have been seen regularly in recent years.

Two feeders in the garden, one near the Resource Centre and another on the south edge of the Old Woodlot, are supplied with seed by the OFNC. FWG provides suet, peanuts, and nyger seeds for extra nutrients for the winter fowl. On particularly cold days, these are busy spots, attracting a variety of birds including Black-capped Chickadees, White- and Red-Breasted Nuthatches, House and Purple Finches, Northern Cardinals, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Mourning Doves. They are also the places to check for the occasional rarity.

Cumulative species list

Much of our bird list was compiled by the late Bill Holland whose daily visits to the garden made him an institution and a wonderful source of information for beginning birders. We are very grateful to him for his work.

Some species on this list have been observed only once, some not more than a few times. A few of the species noted as breeding have done so only sporadically. As of July 2019, we’ve recorded 152 species but we continue to update the list. Please report your sightings to us at or on eBird.

Breeding evidence is noted with an asterisk alone (*); species that we think are nesting are followed by an asterisk and a question mark (*?).

Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
American Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron*
Turkey Vulture
Canada Goose
Snow Goose
Wood Duck*
American Black Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Green-winged Teal
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Grey Partridge
Ruffed Grouse
Wild Turkey
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk
Bald Eagle
American Kestrel*
Peregrine Falcon
Virginia Rail
Spotted Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
American Woodcock
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Glaucous Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove*
Black-billed Cuckoo
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl*
Great Grey Owl
Long-eared owl
Boreal Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Common Nighthawk
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Hairy Woodpecker*
Downy Woodpecker*
Northern Flicker*?
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Willow flycatcher
Least Flycatcher*?
Eastern Phoebe*
Great Crested Flycatcher*
Eastern Kingbird*
Western Kingbird
Northern Shrike
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo*
Red-eyed Vireo*
Blue Jay
American Crow*
Common Raven
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow*
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow*
Black-capped Chickadee*
Red-breasted Nuthatch*
White-breasted Nuthatch*
Brown Creeper
House Wren*
Winter Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Grey-cheeked Thrush
Swainson’s Thrush
Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin*
Grey Catbird*
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher*
European Starling*
Water Pipit
Bohemian Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing*
Tennessee Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler*

Chestnut-sided Warbler*
Magnolia Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Pine Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Palm Warbler
Black-and-White Warbler
American Redstart*
Mourning Warbler
Common Yellowthroat*
Wilson’s Warbler
Canada Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
Eastern Towhee
American Tree Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow*
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow*
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Snow Bunting
Northern Cardinal*
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird*
Eastern Meadowlark
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle*
Brown-headed Cowbird*
Baltimore Oriole*
Pine Grosbeak
Purple Finch
House Finch*
White-winged Crossbill
Common Redpoll
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch*
Evening Grosbeak
House Sparrow
Black-crowned Night-Heron

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This page was revised on 15 June 2021
© Fletcher Wildlife Garden
Text: Christine Hanrahan
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