Tommy Thompson Park: A Key Biodiversity Area

Every year in May, Tommy Thompson Park (TTP) hosts hundreds of visitors to the annual Spring Bird Festival.

As a part of the Toronto Bird Celebration, the festival attracts birdwatchers and nature lovers to explore the unique urban wilderness of TTP and witness a stunning variety of birds as they flutter through the trees and shrubs.

bird watchers at Tommy Thompson Park

With over 334 recorded species, Tommy Thompson Park is one of the best bird watching spots in Toronto.

What Makes TTP Such a Great Birding Destination?

Red-breasted Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser photographed at Tommy Thompson Park.

In 2022, Tommy Thompson Park achieved recognition as a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) by the KBA Canada Coalition. KBAs are sites that play a significant role in maintaining biodiversity in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems.

Tommy Thompson Park’s KBA designation was due to globally and nationally significant numbers of four species: Ring-billed Gull, Double-crested Cormorant, Red-breasted Merganser, and Chimney Swift presence within the park.

Ring billed gull
Ring-billed Gull
Double-crested cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant. Photo: Gail Fraser

Additionally, Tommy Thompson Park serves as an important stopover point for migrating birds, butterflies, and other insects due to its diverse biological communities and strategic location along Lake Ontario.

Thanks to ongoing habitat enhancement and restoration efforts, these birds continue to thrive in the park’s ecosystem!

Here are some of the birds that you may be lucky to see during the festival:

Baltimore Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
Black-throated Green Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Black-throated Green Warbler:

The Black-throated Green Warbler, with its lemon-coloured face, is a common bird found in various habitats across North America. Bird watchers recognize its distinctive song – sometimes transcribed as “trees trees I love trees.”

It belongs to a closely related group of warblers, including Townsend’s, Hermit, and Golden-cheeked, and is the easternmost member of this quartet – and the only one found in Toronto.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak:

Male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are vividly coloured birds that stand out with their black, white, and rose-red plumage. Females and immatures have a more muted appearance with brown and white streaks and a distinctive facial pattern.

These birds are often found in forest edges and woodlands. While they tend to sound like American Robins, they can also make a sharp sound – like the squeak of a sneaker.

Baltimore Oriole:

The Baltimore Oriole, a small blackbird belonging to the icterid family, is frequently found in eastern North America during its migratory and breeding season.

Distinguished by their blazing orange colour, these birds have a preference for fruit, nectar, and insects, making them attracted to backyard feeders.

Warbling Vireo:

The warbling vireo is a small songbird found across North America. Identified by their plain appearance, with gray-olive upperparts and white underparts washed with faint yellow, they have a subtle facial pattern including a whitish stripe over the eye. Their most distinctive feature is their fast, rollicking song.

Keep an eye and ear open for these species – and at least 80 others – at the Spring Bird Festival.

Guided by Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s (TRCA) conservation principles and a commitment to wildlife protection, the park’s dedicated staff has spearheaded various habitat enhancement and restoration initiatives.

Some of the successful projects include the introduction of Common Tern reef rafts to provide nesting habitat, and the wetland creation project that provides year-round habitat for resident and migratory birds.

A tern raft at Tommy Thompson Park
A tern raft at Tommy Thompson Park. (Image captured by one of TRCA’s trail cams.)

Songbird migration monitoring is conducted in spring and fall at the Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station (TTPBRS) on Peninsula D.

As part of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network, TTPBRS data informs population trends and guides local, regional, and continental bird conservation initiatives.

Visitors are welcome to visit the research station in the morning (weather/wind permitting) from April 1 to June 9, and from August 5 to November 12.

Embark on your own journey through this Key Biodiversity Area on May 11 at the TRCA Spring Bird Festival!