Seabirds, rare birds, and birds of prey: we’ve got them. With over 350 species of birds, Newfoundland and Labrador is a major destination for birdwatching. Plus, with 35 million seabirds, we’re the seabird capital of the world, no matter what New Zealand says.
“I watch birds everywhere,” says Mark Lomond, founder of the Newfoundland Birdwatching Group and birdwatching enthusiast. “No matter where you go on the island you can see birds. You can see them on the mountains, oceans, bogs, shorelines, ponds, rivers, in the forest, and towns. You just have to be looking. Once you do start looking, you will wish you had sooner.”
The Newfoundland Birdwatching Group is the online home of the NL birding community, hosting a large collection of information and pictures of bird species found in and around our province.
“Not only will many of the group’s members provide you with knowledgeable answers to any questions you have about birds, but hundreds of them are professional photographers who share incredibly helpful tips on capturing your sightings,” says Lomond.
The essential equipment for a birdwatcher is a pair of binoculars and a way to identify birds. Lomond recommends the Peterson Field Guide. “The Peterson guides are great for both beginners and experienced birders,” says Lomond. “Very good illustrations with accurate information.”
There is also a locally published field guide, exclusive to the birds of NL, Birds of Newfoundland: A Field Guide.
Classic paper field guides will look nice on your bookshelf (so natural!), but apps have it when it comes to convenience. There are digital versions of the Peterson guides, as well as Audubon, National Geographic, and others. A book is not going to give you samples of birdsong.
Installing seed bells and feeders, birdhouses, and bird baths on your property can significantly improve your number of bird sightings, but be warned: the deadly and contagious bird parasite Frounce has been plaguing our province, and feeders can be a part of the problem. Feeders can act as transmission sites for the parasite. Delay your next major birdseed purchase until late fall or winter.
If you’re tired of spotting the same old neighbourhood birds (i.e. the gulls tearing open your neighbour’s trash again), there are plenty of travel spots, near and far, that will help you scratch that ornithological itch.
Witless Bay Ecological Reserve is 45 mintues from town, and it’s the largest breeding colony of Atlantic puffin in North America. For bonus birds, you can book a boat tour or explore with a sea kayaking guide.
Elsewhere, the Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve is one of the most accessible seabird nesting sites in the world. Bonus: June/July is the crossover for seabird, iceberg, and whales, so you can go full Hinterland’s Who’s Who this summer.