Upon the arrival of winter, the Niagara River comes alive with hundreds of thousands of birds. In 1966, the area became the first site in North America to be internationally recognized as a "Globally Significant Important Bird Area".
The gulls are the first to arrive in mid-November. About 100,000 birds come from as far as Greenland and Siberia. Ornithologists count up to 19 species of gulls, but the most numerous are Bonaparte's gulls, ranging from 50,000 to 70,000 in total, which is roughly 10% of the world's population.
Other species include Franklin's and Sabine's gull, a rare California gull, Slaty-backed gull, and Ross's gull. The most significant numbers of gulls are observed through December until they continue their migration southwards, as far as Florida. The lookouts are located along the entire river corridor from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, which stretches for 35 mi (56 km). Sir Adam Beck Power Dam is one of the prime viewing spots.
While gulls come, feed, and leave, lots of waterfowl stay on the Niagara River throughout the winter. Waterbirds start congregating in the area in December and abound in January and February. Birdwatchers with binoculars line the shores to see a variety of ducks, geese, and swans. The most common bird species that can be spotted on the Niagara River in winter are canvasbacks, redheads, tundra swans, American wigeon, common goldeneye, long-tailed duck, greater and lesser scaup, white-winged scored, bufflehead, and common and red-breasted merganser. The birds adore this unfrozen open water for its rich food supplies, including aquatic plants, crustaceans, mollusks, and fish.
The bird colonies on the Niagara River get bigger when the nearby lakes freeze. Then you'll see large rafts of thousands or even tens of thousands of ducks. The favorite lookout on the Canadian shore is the Old Fort Erie. New York's most popular public viewing areas are situated in Buffalo: LaSalle Park, Erie Basin Marina, and Buffalo Harbor State Park. Several excellent viewing locations are also found on the Upper Niagara River. These are Aqua Lane Park, Beaver Island Marina, Buckhorn Island State Park, LaSalle Waterfront Park, and Niagara Falls State Park.
If you're interested in tundra swans, the best spots to look for them are off Beaver Island, Buckhorn and Niagara Falls State Parks, and again Fort Erie.
For the best birdwatching experience, dress warmly, as winters in the area are cold and windy.
When is the best time to visit Niagara Falls for birdwatching?
The Niagara Falls is the perfect destination for bird watching, with the best time to visit being mid-November until February when the Niagara River is home to various migrating waterfowl, ducks, swans, and gulls. The river stays unfrozen, offering constant food supplies and allowing the birds to flourish. Ornithologists say they have discovered up to 19 gull species, with the most massive number being Bonaparte's gulls, accounting for between 50,000 to 70,000 individuals, equaling 10% of the world's population. Show more
What are the unique bird species that can be spotted in Niagara Falls during the winter months?
The Niagara River, which stretches for 35 miles, is a refuge for various bird species like gulls, canvasback, ducks, geese, and swans. There have been up to 19 species of gulls counted, with Bonaparte's gull being the most in number, standing at 50,000 to 70,000, approximately 10% of the worldwide population. Other species include Franklin's and Sabine's gull, Slaty-backed gull, California gull, and Ross's gull. Common bird species to spot in winter are common goldeneye, American wigeon, tundra swans, canvasbacks, and redheads. Show more
Where are the prime viewing spots of gulls along the Niagara River corridor?
There are numerous lookout spots for prime gulls viewing along the Niagara River corridor, which stretches from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario for 35 miles. Some places to look out for include Sir Adam Beck Power Dam. The favorite lookout spot on the Canadian shore is Old Fort Erie, while the most popular public viewing areas in New York are LaSalle Park, Erie Basin Marina, and Buffalo Harbor State Park. Show more
When do the largest bird colonies congregate on the Niagara River?
The largest bird colonies are often visible on the Niagara River during December to February. This time marks when nearby lakes freeze, leading to thousands and tens of thousands of ducks, geese, and swans congregating the birds enjoying constant supply due to the unfrozen open freshwater. The food supplies available include mollusks, crustaceans, aquatic plants, and fish. Show more
What are the best spots for tundra swans in Niagara Falls?
For tundra swans, it's best to head to off Beaver Island, Buckhorn, and Niagara Falls State Parks and Old Fort Erie. The magnificent birds arrive just before Christmas and are often joined by trumpeter swans. The Niagara Falls winters are typically cold and windy, so it's important to dress warmly and in layers for a good birdwatching experience. Show more