Toronto (Ontario, Canada)
Longing for Vinsanity since 2005.
Toronto Birding & Geography:
Toronto, Canada’s largest city, is located on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario and is home to about 2.8 million people. It is part of a much larger urbanised area called the Golden Horseshoe, which runs around the west end of the lake from Niagara Falls to Oshawa, and contains over a quarter of the Canadian population. For the Urban Birding Challenge, the county of Metro Toronto, which comprises our city core, will be our challenge unit!
The most important geographical features of Toronto are the lake shore and our three main river valleys (the Humber, the Don, and the Rouge). The city itself covers 640 square kilometres, with 43 km of shoreline along Lake Ontario and 307 km of rivers and creeks. The entire area is a gently sloping plateau with only 132 metres in elevation difference between the lake and the highest point in the city.
One might think that Toronto’s large population would make it a sub-par birding destination, but the city is also well forested, with 10 million trees. 3.5 million of these occur in green space throughout the city. The Don and Rouge River valleys are the most significantly forested areas in the city. The Rouge valley even has some protection from development, and is slated to become Canada’s first Urban National Park. The Don valley has suffered a much poorer fate, with a highway running along much of its length, waterways diverted and altered to suit the needs of industry, and significant marsh areas filled in as the city has grown.
The lake shore along Toronto is wonderfully varied. The tall cliffs of the Scarborough bluffs in the east give way to the Leslie Street Spit and Toronto Islands in the centre, and smaller river valleys in the west. The Toronto Islands were originally a peninsula, but storms cut a channel which was subsequently widened and dredged to create a shipping channel. The Leslie Street Spit was created with fill from harbour dredging and construction projects in the city. It now extends 5 km out into the lake, and protects the Islands from erosion. While still actively growing in area, it is currently over 500 hectares in size, and is managed as Tommy Thompson Park. Toronto and Region Conservation actively maintains and improves habitat on the peninsula, and runs a bird banding station to monitor habitat use at the migration stopover site there. The Leslie Street Spit is also Canada’s only urban “Important Bird Area”, a designation given due to the large breeding colonies of gulls and water birds found there.
Toronto is blessed with excellent birding opportunities throughout the year. Major parks such as High Park, Rouge Park, and Downsview Park complement protected areas along the lake shore. The checklist of the Toronto area currently sits at 399 species, with 195 of these species being confirmed breeders.
Population (estimated as of 2011): 2,615,060
Area: 243.33 square miles (630.21 km2)
Population Density: 10,747/square mile (4,149.5/km2)
Bird Stats (updated January 28, 2015):
Species all-time (in eBird): 345
Species avg./yr. 2010-2014: 249.4
All-time eBird checklists: 24,454
2015 species list: 103
2015 checklists: 532
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