Wipe-off those binocular lenses and keep your field notebooks handy

The Bruce Trail Conservancy is looking for citizen scientists to help us better understand the diversity, distribution and population sizes of at-risk bird species on the Niagara Escarpment.

Whether you are a trained ornithologist, birding enthusiast, or casual observer, your sightings can help.

Photo: Bobolink by Gary Hall


Why Citizen Science?

Monitoring species at risk, by providing data on where a species was sighted, its abundance, and if any breeding behaviour was observed, is an important component in their recovery. However full scale monitoring is costly, in terms of monetary and human resources, and requires a dedicated lead organization to oversee the work.

Citizen science is a powerful way to collect much needed data while participating in an activity you already love, hiking! 

Whether you are a trained ornithologist, birding enthusiast, or casual observer, recording and submitting your bird sightings while enjoying the Bruce Trail will help track diversity, population sizes, and ultimately help protect Ontario's natural heritage.

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At-Risk Bird Species to look for

There are currently 36 at risk bird species in Ontario (OMNR 2015). This ranges from species listed as special concern (lowest risk of extinction or extirpation) to endangered (highest risk of extinction or extirpation). Watch for these species on your next Bruce Trail hike:

Acadian Flycatcher
American White Pelican
Bald Eagle
Bank Swallow
Barn Owl
Barn Swallow
Black Tern
Canada Warbler
Cerulean Warbler
Chimney Swift
Common Nighthawk
Eastern Meadowlark
Eastern Wood Pewee
Eastern Whip-poor-will
Golden Eagle
Golden-winged Warbler
Henslow's Sparrow

Hooded Warbler
Horned Grebe
King Rail
Kirtland's Warbler
Least Bittern
Loggerhead Shrike
Louisiana Waterthrush
Northern Bobwhite
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Peregrine Falcon
Piping Plover
Prothonotary Warbler
Red Knot
Red-headed Woodpecker
Short-eared Owl
Wood Thrush
Yellow Rail
Yellow-breasted Chat

Find out more about each bird and its status >>


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How to Collect Data

Download our Observation Form (.pdf, 160.1 KB)
(If the form opens within your browser, save a copy to your computer and open it with Adobe Reader.)

The type of data we are looking for is called non-standardized - no need to wake up at 4 am and follow a strict protocol. Just get outside and bird! However there is certain information you will need to collect to make your sighting useful:

1. Your contact information
2. Date of observation
3. Accurately identify the species
4. Location (see note below)
5. Time (optional)
6. Duration of observation (optional)
7. Number of individuals observed (optional)
8. Any other interesting information (optional)

Location: Where on the Bruce Trail were you when you made the observation? Please include the overall section of trail (i.e. Sydenham), km marking, trail name (if a side trail), or GPS coordinates. The more specific you can be the better we can track the species and determine if it is on BTC-managed land.

Send your sighting and/or your completed survey form to:


Or by mail to:
The Bruce Trail Conservancy
Species at Risk Project
PO Box 857
Hamilton, ON  L8N 3N9

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Notes on being a respectful citizen scientist

Minimizing disturbance to the bird we are observing is the main concern for every citizen scientist and field biologist. This includes:

  • staying on the trail
  • keeping your distace from the observed bird
  • paying attention to cues like alarm calls


During breeding season: The reproductive success of our species at risk is of great concern. We want our birds to have many young that successfully leave the nest! Disturbance to adults, young, and the nest can reduce that success.

During the winter: Reducing disturbance allows birds to conserve energy (by not having to fly away), continue to forage for much needed food, and reduces the chances predators will spot them (by not alarm calling). Please be a respectful citizen scientist.

Keeping locations confidential: While it is very exciting to document the occurrence of a Species at Risk (SAR), please keep in mind that locations where SAR are detected are considered to be extremely sensitive. These locations should not be shared on public forums or disseminated outside of recognized conservation programs.

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The Cornell Lab of Ornithology - All About Birds www.allaboutbirds.org
A great tool to help identify birds, their calls, and learn about their biology and natural history.

Audubon Society http://birds.audubon.org/birdid


The Warbler Guide www.thewarblerguide.com
For those hard to identify fall warblers!

eBird Canada http://ebird.org/content/canada/
An international online checklist program that allows the birding community to report on and access information about birds. It was launched by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society to provide information on the abundance and distribution of bird species globally. Create an account for free and use their simple step-by-step system for submitting your sighting. Check out regional and local maps and engage with other birders. Track your sightings and create a life list.

BirdLog App http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/birdlog/
The BirdsEye BirdLog app for iOS and Android smartphones allows for quick-and-easy data entry into eBird directly from the field.

Natural Heritage Information Centre (NHIC)
The NHIC is an arm of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources that collects, reviews, manages, and distributes information for species of conservation concern. Observations sent to the NHIC are reviewed and entered into the provincial record to help study and protect the province's natural heritage. No account needed. Enter only the basics - species name, date, location, and contact information. Or go all out and record and enter detailed behavioural observations, nesting information, habitat description, land use and disturbances, etc. All information you submit will be kept confidential.

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry - Species at Risk List

Bird Watching Guide (thanks to Alyssa!)


Bird Watching for Children


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