Birding And Bird Banding At Ruthven Park

Situated between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, and along the Canadian heritage Grand River, Ruthven Park offers a unique location to see a variety of birds. The diversity of the site with its Carolinian forests, farm fields, slough forest, butterfly meadow and open spaces attracts birds year round.

Enjoy bird watching at many of the feeders on the site or follow the bird banders during migration season as they make their rounds of the property to gather “caught birds”. The main focus is on migratory neotropical birds who fly north from locations in South America, Mexico, the Caribbean or southern US locations to breed and forage for food. Towards the end of summer after they have had their young, fattened up, they begin their journey south.

Ruthven Park is one of two banding stations of the Haldimand Bird Observatory. The licenced banders participate in the Canadian Migratory Bird Monitoring and follow a set protocol.

Bird banding refers to the “tagging” of migratory and breeding birds. The birds are safely captured in the mist nets of traps on the ground and then are carefully carried back to the banding lab in small cloth bags (which help to reduce stress) where they are banded by a licenced bander. Each bird received a small band which displays a unique 9-digit number. If recovered banders can identify the bird as an individual with a “history.” Before birds are released they are measured, species is recorded as well as the sex, age, wing length, fat stores, weight, muscle mass, overall condition of the bird, and the date when captured.

The banding lab is a hub of activity during banding season. After a morning banding, the banders and many volunteers that assist them gather important information. This is forwarded to Bird Studies Canada and to a banding lab in Maryland where it is tabulated and entered into a continent-wide network that tracks the movement of individuals and species. Up to 2,000 birds and 85 species can be banded in a season.

Why band birds? Birds can tell us more about our environment and the effects of climate change. Recording the information has over time allowed trends to be determined and can indicate if certain populations are declining, expanding or stable. It can also aid land use planning, stewardship projects, determine ecosystem health and encourage actions to implement rehabilitation measures for birds that are being lost or are at risk. With the loss of bird habitat through urban sprawl and cutting of forests, we know that birds are facing critical threats.

Come out to enjoy and watch the birds, enhance your birding skills or connect with other birders. Book a group visit (schools do) and see birds up close. Some of the most notable species have been a variety of Warblers (Prothonotary, Cerulean, Golden-winder and Hooded), Yellow-breasted Chat, Louisiana Waterthrush, Acadian Flycatcher and Yellow-breasted Chat.

For the past few years, the banding lab has extended their season into October-November to band Saw-whet owls. This is scheduled after dark when the weather is reasonable. Ruthven Park also features a birding festival each fall – visit the Ruthven Park blog for details as the season approaches.

We welcome novice and experienced banders. Visit the bird banding blog to see results of the daily activities of the banding lab.

Winter Hours – October 10/17 to May 18/18

The Gate House: (office) open Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm

The Mansion: by appointment only

Contact Us:
Phone: (905) 772-0560 
Toll-free: (877) 705-7275

Mailing Address: 
243 Haldimand Hwy. #54,
Box 610
Cayuga, ON N0A 1E0