There are many beautiful and stunning places to enjoy birding on the International Niagara River. This river is actually a strait that stretches from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.
WEATHER can be unpredictable in the Niagara Region, especially in the winter. When you are outdoors, pay attention to the weather and conditions that may affect your safety and enjoyment. There are places that you can observe birds from the safety of your car, others require short walks, and still others may include more rugged hikes. Dress appropriately and plan your trip according to the days conditions.
BIRDS CONNECT US
Birds on the Niagara is North America's only international bird festival. The United States and Canada share the international border which is defined along the whole length of the Niagara River Strait.
The legal border is not recognized by the birds. The birds come from and go to amazing places across the hemisphere and the whole globe. The birds that are here connect us to places and people across the globe, including the Arctic, the Caribbean, and the Amazon basin. Our conservation and leadership here helps protect those areas. Welcome to Birds on the Niagara!
International Birding is always an exciting adventure. Having an international border that links the United States and Canada and established as a natural waterway provides incredible cross-border birdwatching as you experience the power and beauty of the Niagara River Strait and Niagara Falls.
Border and Travel Information
This area is part of the Niagara River Corridor Globally Significant Bird Area, and on the U.S. side (as of February 2023), has been designated as an International Ramsar Wetlands of Significance.
Birds are attracted to this region. The Niagara waters that run from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario are full of fish and other bird food. Niagara Falls is about half-way between the lakes and mark the divide between the Upper River (Lake Erie side) the Lower River (Lake Ontario side). There is great habitat in all seasons along the shores and throughout the beautiful river. The Niagara River Strait acts as a flyway that connects two of the Great Lakes.
There are wonderful birding spots on the Canada shores that start at Lake Erie (Near Waverly Woods) and can be found all the way to Lake Ontario at Niagara on the Lake. Spots including Niagara Falls, Dufferin Islands, the Niagara Nature Glen, all the way Niagara on the Lake and Lake Ontario. From there you can see the skyline of Toronto! On the US side Buffalo's Outer Harbor acts as the Western Gateway to the Niagara River IBA with such places as Tifft Nature Preserve, Times Beach Nature Preserve, and the Buffalo Harbor State Park. From the urban landscapes and shorelines of Buffalo all up the River there are amazing birding and river watching spots. You will find places like Unity Island in Blackrock, Aqua Lane Park with a view toward Grand Island and an archipelago of small habitat islands off shore, to Beaver Island State Park, Buckhorn Marsh, Margerie Gallogly Wildlife Sanctuary on Grand Island, Niagara Falls State Park, Stella Niagara Preserve, and Fort Niagara and the mouth of the strait. You can find great birding almost everywhere.
THE NIAGARA RIVER CORRIDOR
The Niagara is a freshwater, flowing, permanent river, connecting two large freshwater lakes. It hosts numerous significant coastal fish and wildlife habitats including a riverine littoral zone in the upper Niagara River that is a unique ecosystem type in the Great Lakes. Rare and threatened ecological communities are present with at least 21 species such as the Blanding's turtle and the Lake Sturgeon. Seven species are on the IUCN Red List, such as the Black-capped Petrel (extremely rare), and the Piping Plover (extremely rare) both protected federally in the US. 45 species of wildlife found here are protected in New York State. The Niagara is an incredibly important overwinter site for water birds. 92 species of birds are known to overwinter on the site including large congregations of at least 40 species of waterbirds. The IBA designation lists 338 species of birds in all seasons can be found in Western New York and the Niagara Region of Ontario.
Winter bring a special time to the Niagara region. In many winters the Niagara waters remain open while the lakes and inland ponds and marshes are iced-over. This allows and encourages great concentrations of waterfowl including 25 or more species of ducks, geese, and swans, and 18 species of gulls and terns during the winter months. It is not unusual to observe concentrations of 10,000 or more individuals gulls, (including Bonaparte's, Ring-billed, and Herring Gulls) and small gatherings of Greater and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Iceland Gulls, Little Gull, Glaucus, and many more.
Many of the waterfowl spend the winter here preparing to head back to northern breeding areas in the spring. During our winter festivals many are in full breeding plumage and exhibiting breeding behavior. Bird-watching can be a good Valentines Day in the Niagara. The winter Niagara also hosts large populations of Tundra Swans and birders often find Snowy Owls as they seek food and habitat south of their breeding areas. Other winter birds include winter finches, including crossbills and Red and Blackpols, resident woodpeckers, Blue Jays, crows, Bald Eagles,chickadees and nuthatches. Any many more species!
In the winter, gulls waterfowl and other arctic travelers populate the open waters and shorelines of the Niagara.
In spring and autumn, the parks along the river offer excellent opportunities for viewing of the migration seasons including neotropical songbirds.
In summer the Niagara River hosts breeding populations of several colonial water birds such as Common Tern, Great Egret, and Black-crowned Night-Heron.