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Bird watching at Williamsburg Cemetery

With its peaceful natural setting, tranquil pond and natural wetlands, Williamsburg Cemetery can’t help but be a haven for wildlife.

The sanctuary is home to many species of birds throughout the year. From Blue Jays and Red Winged Black birds, to the unmistakable Great Blue Heron and distinctive, brightly-coloured American Goldfinch, many different species of birds native to Ontario spend their spring and summer months in the wooded and wetland areas at Williamsburg and along the shores of Promontory Pond.

Download our bird watching brochure and come spot a few of these species! Inside the brochure, find a visitor’s guide listing the birds which can be seen at Williamsburg, accompanied by brief descriptions of them and information about their migration and nesting habits.

The birds at Williamsburg:

American Goldfinch/Spinus tristis (SUMMER)

Appearance: Breeding male yellow above and below with black forehead, crown and lores. Wings black with two white wing bars. Black tail, with white spots on tips of inner webs.

Voice: Male gives sweet, clear sometimes jumbled canary-like song. In flight, per-chik-oree often sung between wing beats. Call notes include whining chi-ee.

Gray (or Grey) Catbird/Dumetella carolinensis (SUMMER/EARLY FALL)

Appearance: Plain lead gray almost all over with the top of the head darker than the body. The undertail coverts are rust-coloured, and the remiges and rectrices are black, some with white borders. The slim bill, the eyes, and the legs and feet are also blackish.

Voice: The catbirds vocalizations are quiet and distinctive. They are capable of producing a sound that mimics the down-slurred mewing of a cat. Catbirds can be heard producing a grating tcheck- tcheck- tcheck sound.

Eastern Kingbird/Tyrannus tyrannus (SUMMER)

Appearance: Adults are grey-black with a light under body. They have a long black tail with a white end and long pointed wings. They have a red patch on their crown.

Voice: The call is a high-pitched, buzzing and unmusical chirp, frequently compared to an electric fence.

Black-capped Chickadee/Poecile atricapillusv (YEAR ROUND)

Appearance:  Black cap and bib with white sides to the face. Its under body is white with rusty brown on the flanks. Its back is gray and the tail is normally slate-gray. Sexes look alike, but males are slightly larger and longer than females.

Voice: The song of the chickadee is a simple, pure two or three-note whistled fee-bee or ‘hey, sweetie.’

Great Blue Heron/Ardea herodias (SUMMER)

Appearance: Very large. A white head with wide, black stripe above the eye extending to the nape. Grey neck, streaked with white and black; long, dagger-like, yellow bill. Bluish-grey body with black sides and rusty thighs that are often obscured by folded wings. Flight feathers are darker grey.

Voice: Usually silent. Occasionally utters deep, harsh croaking frawnk. Also gives go-go-go clucks that are answered by other nearby herons. Male makes beak snap as part of courtship display.

Great Crested Flycatcher/Miarchus  crinitus (SUMMER)

Appearance: Upper parts are olive-brown; somewhat darker on the crown. Chin, cheeks, throat and breast are medium grey. Bill is dark brown above,  paler below. Wings are greyish brown, some edged in pale yellow. Centre tail feathers olive-brown. Belly and underfeather coverts yellow.

Voice: Sings two alternating phrases: wheerrup and wheeuh. Other calls including throaty, rolling purr-it, sharp whit-whit, and noisy rree-rree-rree.

Red-Tailed Hawk/Buteo  jamaicensis (EARLY?SUMMER)

Appearance: Head and under parts brown with variable white and rufous mottling on mantle. Head and nape lighter brown. Tail is brick-red with narrow, black subterminal band and narrow white tip. Underparts are cream-coloured. Flight feathers are narrowly barred with dark brown.

Voice: Loud, descending scream: keeer-r-r

Barn Swallow/ Hirundo rustica (SUMMER)

Appearance:  Glistening cobalt blue above with the rest of the underparts a tawny or pale rusty colour.

You can find several nests at Williamsburg Cemetery.  Each of the two front peaks of the Dedication Center have clearly visible 'mud' nests of this threatened (at risk) species.

Voice:  Barn Swallows give a cheep call when threatened, and when predators approach too close to a nest site, a churee.

Yellow Warbler/Setophaga Petechia  (SPRING)

Appearance: Yellow Warblers are uniformly yellow birds. Males are a bright, egg-yolk yellow with reddish streaks on the underparts. Both sexes flash yellow patches in the tail. The face is unmarked, accentuating the large black eye.

Voice: Males sing their sweet, whistled songs from high perches. The tone is so sweet that people often remember it sounding like: sweet, sweet, sweet, I'm so sweet!

Birdwatching is one of life’s great joys, even if you don’t know a Sparrow from a Spotted Owl. Here are some of the more common, recognizable birds which are often seen at Williamsburg but are not listed.

  • Northern Cardinals (Summer)
  • Blue Jays (Early Summer)
  • Mallard Ducks (Spring)
  • Savana, Song & Chirping Sparrows (Summer)
  • Baltimore Orioles (Summer)
  • Brown-headed Cowbird (Summer)
  • Red-Winged Black Birds (Spring)
  • Mourning Doves (Summer) 
  • Downey Woodpecker (Summer)
  • Northern Flicker (Summer)