Frequently Asked Questions

This page is intended for non-TOC people and answers some commonly posed questions. The text of the questions has come from emails received at the website from the public and the answers are edited replies sent by TOC members to the person who originally posed the question.

TOC Club
– Club matters
– Outside contacts

General Birding
– Best time
– Bird houses
– Where to Go
– Established birds (Northern Mockingbird)

Photography
– Equipment

Care of Birds
– Help Save Declining
Bird Populations
– Dead Birds
– Injured Birds
– Ownership
– Botulism
– Attacking Windows
– Landing on Buildings

If you have a question not answered here, please .

TOC ClubTop

Club Matters

Can I get involved in club activities?

All Club outings (including the Fall Field Day and the Christmas Bird Count) are open to the public. Other club activities are open to TOC members and their guests.

How do I join the club?

Please click here to go to our membership page for more information.

How serious a birder do I have to be to join the TOC?

Our definition of a “serious birder” is someone who is or has been actively involved in observing and identifying birds, other than casual observations obtained from watching a feeder. We have birders of all ranges of ability. Our by-laws suggest that commitment to the objects of the club is as important as birding ability. The bylaws mention: “the strength of the individual’s ornithological background and commitment to advancing the aims of the Club.”

Outside Contacts

Can you post a link to our bird friendly B&B on your site?

Unfortunately no, we cannot. We get too many requests of this nature to be able to handle any of them.

What would it take to get someone from your organization to come and do a little presentation?

Sorry but we don't have someone available to do presentations. We are a volunteer organization.

General BirdingTop

Best Time

What time of the year is best for bird watching in Toronto, when I can see maximum number of Eastern birds? I am planning to visit Toronto in between March-May. Where can I get checklist of birds in/around Toronto?

There is good birding in all months of the year but probably the peak of spring migration during mid-May is the best time to see the maximum number of birds. The TOC publishes an annotated list of the Birds of Toronto. See the About Us/Publications page for details about ordering a copy.

Bird Houses

I need advice from a naturalist or ornithologist on what bird houses to make and where to put them.

A couple of suggestions. Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows are the best if you are in a rural area with pasture land nearby. You can simply place the boxes on the tops of fence posts and monitor their success. (But see the last paragraph below.)

I would suggest putting the boxes out in pairs (i.e. 1 box on two fence posts side by side and then leave 10 fenceposts before you start the next pairing of boxes). This will allow the bluebirds and swallow to establish territories without excluding each other. You will also pick up House Wrens, House Sparrows and European Starlings in the boxes.

I would also suggest you put up a couple of screech-owl boxes if you have a woodlot nearby. You may also pick up American Kestrel in the owl boxes as well. The owl boxes should be place higher in the trees 4–5 m with the hole placed opposite to storm direction. Placing the boxes near a stream or wet woodland is also helpful.

Bill Read of the Ontario Eastern Bluebird Society informs us that “We do not endorse putting boxes on trees or fence posts as they become food for raccoons. ”. Please consult the Society’s website page here for their suggestions. If you are interested in the bluebirds and Tree Swallows their site gives lots of information and assistance. Bluebird Trails are very popular in the province and they will be able to give you some excellent advice.

Ontario Birding Locations

I am going to be camping around Lake Superior end of June & am wondering if, among all the publications listed, you could help me reduce it down to about two particularly about "hotspots". Anything you could recommend would be gratefully received.

I would recommend you get a copy of Clive Goodwin’s Birdfinding Guide to Ontario.

Established birds
(Northern Mockingbird)

Is the Northern Mockingbird established in the Toronto area and how many are needed to say a species is established in an area?

There are over 400 pairs in the GTA and most ornithologists would consider them established here. There is no single definition of ‘established’ in the sense of your question; it depends on the species involved. Most discussions of ‘established’ in birding circles concern questions of whether an introduced species is considered established and hence countable for listing purposes. This does not apply to Northern Mockingbirds, which have been gradually extending their range northwards into southern Ontario over the last 100 years or so, and doing so naturally, i.e. without human intervention except in terms of habitat modification due to urbanization.

For more information on their status in the GTA please see:

Smith, R.B.H and Winnie Poon. 2006. The Changing Status of the Northern Mockingbird in the Greater Toronto Area. Ontario Birds 24(3):106-159.

PhotographyTop

Recommended Equipment

I am enthralled with your great photos wondering if some one might give me some tips on what to purchase for photo equipment preferably digital to get the same quality pictures of birds with the lens. Would anyone there know what the best digital camera is for taking pictures of birds and other nature? We haven't purchased a camera yet, and we would appreciate any input.

There is no best camera for taking photos of birds. Each photographer has a different preference. It depends on how much you want to spend. Point-and-shoot digital cameras are at the cheaper end of the price range but results can be acceptable if you buy a top end point-and-shoot. Digital SLR cameras produce the best quality photos and cost thousands of dollars depending on which body and lens you buy. Generally the more you spend on a camera the better the photos will be. Take hundreds of photos and learn by experience. Also join a photography club or take a course.

Care of BirdsTop

Help Save Declining
Bird Populations

How can I do something to help save declining bird populations?

Please click here to consult our “What You Can Do to Help Save Birds” page.

Dead Bird

Today I have found what I think is an American Kestrel, dead, on my front porch near several bird feeders that we have on our front lawn. I am not sure the reason of it's demise, but think maybe it flew into the front of our house. I am wondering if this bird would be wanted by some organization as it seems to be in perfect state of preserve. A beautiful specimen. Can you please advise before I must dispose of this bird?

The contact is the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources office in Aurora: (905) 713-7400.

When I arrived home from work today, I was saddened to find a beautiful bird close to my house in the backyard of what seems to be an Oriole of some sort. To my surprise I looked around and there was another one lying deceased in my driveway .I was very concerned and immediately called the Public Health department, as we had found a dead Starling near the shed a week earlier. Well the Public Health was not concerned and passed me on to animal services. They advised me that there is no bird watch at this time. And to just put the birds in the garbage. Please advise if they are rare and what should I be doing about this?

These are probably window kills. Public Health gave you the correct advice to dispose of them. You could take them to the ROM but they're likely decaying already.

Injured Bird

Is there any info on what to do with an injured bird? They sometimes hit the window and die but today one hit my window and was still alive. I wasn't sure what to do and the Humane Society was closed. I put a box over it with a small opening to keep it warm as it was very cold and windy. It did eventually come out and hop around. It didn't fly away even when I came outside, until I approached more closely. I would appreciate any info for future reference.

The best technique with injured birds that fly into windows is to place them on Kleenex in a closed cardboard box with 2 or 3 small air holes. Put the box in a quite dark place for a few hours or overnight if late afternoon. Do not check it. Let the bird rest and recover without stress. To release the bird don't open the box inside to avoid it escaping and crashing around in your home. Take the box outside. Open it facing the light near its habitat. The bird will either fly out or it will have died of its injuries. Dead birds can be returned to their habitat or wrapped in a plastic bag and put in the garbage. Dispose of the box and wash up.

The Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) has a page on How to Help an injured bird that has lots of good advice, including links to the Toronto Wildlife Centre

Ownership

I am a Metis woman, who was given eagle feathers by her now-estranged status Indian husband. He received them from the local MNR (I was with him). An eagle had been caught in a trap and he was given the eagle with a ‘certificate’ or something he signed. When we were taking it apart he gave me the feathers. Am I able to keep these feathers? I have made them into a fan and they are very special to me and are used in traditional ceremonies only. I know I can’t take them into the US, but I’m wondering about here.

The eagle feathers you were given by your previous husband are legally yours in Ontario. The legal owner of eagle feathers is prohibited by law from selling them, but you can give them as a gift to another person. You are correct about not taking your eagle feathers into the United States. It is prohibited under US laws protecting eagles. However, you can take them to other parts of Canada because you are the legal owner under Ontario law.

I have a question about who would be entitled to ownership of a Bald Eagle if it was struck and killed by a car or train. If someone reported and claimed it but another person picked it up before the first person could, who would have a legal right to own that bird and get a permit. Do you have any information concerning a situation like this?

You did not mention where the eagle was killed by a car or train. Each province has different laws regulating eagles. In Ontario you must take the eagle to an office of the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). Before you can possess it legally, you must explain to the MNR how and where the eagle was obtained and it would be inspected by a conservation officer or biologist to determine the cause of death. If it passes inspection, the MNR issues a permit called a “Certificate of Reporting” in your name. The certificate (permit) is needed to have it mounted by a taxidermist. Please note that in Ontario it is unlawful to sell the eagle or trade it for any consideration. However, it can be legally given to another person or donated to a museum, school, etc.

The second part of your question is more difficult to answer. If you accidentally killed the eagle with your car, you would have first choice of ownership provided the above MNR conditions are met. If it were hit by a passing train, then the person who gets it first normally would have the right to own it subject to MNR approval. If there is a disagreement about ownership, the MNR can give you advice .Please note that wild eagles in Ontario are crown property of province unless a permit is issued. If the MNR finds any evidence that the eagle was not killed accidentally or that it died unnaturally, then it remains crown property.

Disclaimer: The above is only for your general information. It must not be considered as legal advice. Please contact the provincial government where the eagle was found.

Botulism in Lake Ontario

I live on the shores of Lake Ontario in Oakville, and I have heard that there is an increase in the botulism poisoning in the lake. This seems to be very evident this spring as I have seen virtually no wildfowl and no new broods on the lake. There have also been reports of dead birds being washed up on the shores.

Please could you advise me whether this is correct and if so do you know what is being done about it, both at Provincial and Federal level.

I am not aware of botulism being found on the lake yet this year. It usually starts to show up in August and September when water temperatures are more favourable. Most of the waterfowl analysis is being conducted at the University of Guelph and a search of their website may provide you with additional information. As for waterfowl broods, most should be hatched out by now in southern Ontario. I am not sure what the numbers are like this year but around the GTA we expect to see considerable predation and waterfowl control measures.

Attacking Windows

Everyday now, about 3 times a day, for about a week , a robin seems to be trying to get in the windows of our house. The favourite is the sliding glass door onto the deck but it also flies up against other windows as well. It will do this for an hour at at time and it starts at 6:15 – 6:30 am. We wondered if it was trying to mate with a reflection in the window but after a day or two wouldn’t you think it would figure it out? Maybe it likes the look of the fireplace, it is still pretty cool out. I give up. Any answers?

Spring has sprung and Robins and Northern Cardinals go a little crazy! The behaviour you are witnessing is courtship and the establishment of territory. Simply put, the Robin sees its reflection in the window and thinks it is looking at another Robin. If you are busy establishing your territorial boundaries this is unacceptable! Northern Cardinals are also famous for this behaviour and will attack car mirrors and windows. This should end in a week or so but may continue sporadically afterwards for a few weeks. Consider yourself lucky that a woodpecker is not using your tin roof to establish it’s territory!

Landing on Buldings

Yesterday, April 16, I was painting a condo on the 33rd floor on Bay St. As I looked out the window I kept seeing a large bird soaring above and around the buildings. It was some distance away so I could not get a good look other than to say it was large and eagle–like in nature. It was dark brown in colour. It kept landing on top of one of the buildings for a few minutes only to take off again and make another circle around the skyscrapers. Any idea what this bird was? I can’t imagine any self respecting eagle or hawk taking up residence in downtown Toronto.

It is unlikely to be an eagle because they are pretty shy as far as raptors go and not many hang out in city environments! The most liklely species would be a Turkey Vulture. Vultures rely on thermals for soaring and some of the best thermals at this time of year are generated from office towers. A lot of Turkey Vultures are moving through the area at the moment and they are often seen in and around some of the larger skyscrapers and office towers. The bird is large, dark and looks very much like an eagle or hawk. It tends to soar with the wings lifted in a bit of a “v“.