Essential Wildlife Habitat


The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is home to a wide variety of fish, birds, insects, and mammals. Some of these species occupy specialized ecological niches and require specific types of habitat to survive.

Unfortunately, many wildlife habitat and essential nesting sites in the region have been degraded or, in some cases, completely destroyed — the result of forest management techniques, agricultural land uses and ongoing urbanization

Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) helps to combat the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation by creating features such as nest boxes, perching poles, and brush, log, and rock piles that mimic natural habitat conditions.

Providing necessary habitat gives our terrestrial wildlife, aquatic species and migratory birds greater opportunity to maintain and increase their populations.

duck in a wooden shelter


All restoration projects involve some form of essential habitat creation. The specific habitat structures that we install are determined by the species and habitat needs of each project.

We base these decisions on a number of factors, including both current and historical data on flora and fauna, ecosystem type, and surrounding land use.

Wildlife habitat is made up of many different elements: plant life, rocks, decaying trees, brush and soils. TRCA sometimes also incorporates special conditions, such as seasonally flooded pools, to further tailor habitat to specific species.

Optimizing the types of habitat structures used in TRCA’s restoration projects will improve overall biodiversity in the region. See below for examples.

essential wildlife habitats used in TRCA restoration projects
1. Terrestrial log tangles: Habitat for small mammals. 2. Aquatic log tangles: Habitat for fish and other aquatic species. 3. Bat box (See Nest Box Program below). 4. Turtle nesting area: Turtles prefer sand and fine gravel to lay their eggs. 5. Snake hibernaculum: Underground chamber filled with rubble and brush where snakes can overwinter. 6. Basking log: Cold-blooded animals, such as turtles, need heat from the sun to maintain their body temperature and metabolic function. 7. Grebe platform: A floating platform on which birds can build their nests. 8. Raptor pole: Viewing/hunting perch for birds of prey. 9. Bird box (see Nest Box Program below).


Nest Box Program

Since the launch of its Nest Box Program in 2000, TRCA has installed more than 1,500 artificial cavity nesting boxes across all of the watersheds within its jurisdiction.

While the program originally focused specifically on the Wood Duck, it now creates artificial habitats for a number of cavity-nesting song birds, owls, ducks, pollinators, and mammals.

tree swallow in wooden nesting box

While the list of species changes from year to year, the most common boxes constructed are for:

  • Tree Swallows
  • Barn Swallows
  • Eastern Blue Birds
  • Black-capped Chickadees
  • Great Crested Flycatchers
  • Red-headed Woodpeckers
  • Screech Owls
  • Barred Owls

  • Wood Ducks
  • Goldeneye Ducks
  • Mergansers
  • American Kestrels
  • Brown Bats
  • Flying Squirrels
  • Red Squirrels
  • Fisher Cats

Boxes are also constructed for various solitary bee and pollinator species.

With so many boxes available, TRCA is able to place them strategically in suitable habitats across a wide variety of restoration and conservation projects.