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Birds on the Niagara

Birds flock to open waters and where there are birds, there are bird watchers. The Niagara River corridor, a recognized sanctuary for a variety of bird species, is the site of an International Celebration of Winter Birds called Birds on the Niagara. 

Launched last year by the Niagara Greenway Commission in partnership with several state environmental conservation groups, the event has crossed the border to include Canadian organizations this year. According to Jay Burney, one of the event founders, “We will be able to experience and enjoy this celebration at many sites on both sides of the international Niagara River Strait.”

Birders at the Seaway Pier at Buffalo’s Outer Harbor | Photo Jay Burney

The Birds on the Niagara celebration opens on Friday, February 14th with a bird tour of the Outer Harbor, followed by Birds and Brew at the Flying Bison Brewery, 840 Seneca Street, from 6:00 until 8:00 p.m.. Both Valentine’s day events are hosted by the Buffalo Audubon Society, one of the founding partners. In reference to the kick-off date, Tom Kerr of the Buffalo Audubon Society says “it is especially relevant because many of the waterfowl that we will be looking at along the waterways are just entering the courting season and they are in full breeding plumage.”

Events on Saturday, February 15th include birding tours between 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on both sides of the border. At 4:00 p.m., there will be an indoor program and displays at the Niagara Power Vista in Niagara Falls which overlooks the Niagara Gorge. Keynote speaker, Jajean Rose-Burney will present a program about the birds of the Niagara River Globally Significant Important Bird Area and the recent designation of the Niagara as a Ramsar Wetlands of International Significance. Marcie Jacklin of the Bert Miller Nature Club commented that “Festivals like these are great for kids and adults alike to start learning about the fastest growing hobby in North America – bird watching.”

Birders at the Seaway Pier at Buffalo’s Outer Harbor | Photo Jay Burney

Let me tell you about the Birds on the Niagara River strait that flows throughout the winter and connects Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. It is a migratory, both over winter and summer paradise for birds from the Arctic to the Amazon. Migrating from the far north regions of the Western Hemisphere – the Arctic, Alaska and Canada’s Pacific Northwest – birds find on the Niagara River the food, shelter and socialization they need throughout the winter. These birds include common waterfowl like ducks, geese, swans and a variety of gulls as well as more rare birds like the Snowy Owl, Bonaparte’s Gull, Common Merganser, and more.

The bald eagle is one of the migratory raptors which breeds here. Other birds that stop here along their way in the spring and summer, include neotropical warblers and other songbirds. Hundreds of bird species make their summer homes here and winter in Central America and the Amazon basin, including ruby-throated hummingbirds, tree swallows, barn swallows and purple martins.

With its favorable conditions for birds, the Niagara River strait has earned the name “Miami of the North”.  During a time of precipitous decline in species of birds, local conservation efforts are helping save birds and their habitats locally, in the Amazon, and the Arctic. The Birds on the Niagara event is designed to uplift awareness and enjoyment of this avian ecological winter paradise.

Birders at Times Beach Nature Preserve in downtown Buffalo | Photo Jay Burney

Now recognized for its critical role in hosting birds of the Western Hemisphere, the Niagara River region according to Greg Stevens, Executive Director of the Niagara River Greenway Commission, is comparable to other Important Bird Areas including the Galapagos, San Francisco Bay, and the Florida Everglades. That is something to celebrate! For more information, go to:

Lead image: Birders at Times Beach Nature Preserve in downtown Buffalo – Photo Jay Burney | Photos below by Jay Burney

An International Celebration of Winter Birds Canada/US

Hundreds of thousand of birds representing over 40 species of waterfowl, including colorful ducks and sociable swans, snowy owls, gulls, and other birds from visiting here from the north can be found on the Niagara River during the winter. The Birds on the Niagara Celebration is designed to raise awareness of this spectacular natural occurrence, to promote an outdoor celebration of our winter, and to encourage tourism and economic development using a conservation perspective.

“The Valentines Day theme is important because many of our birds, in particular ducks. are in breeding plumage as they prepare to move to their northern breeding grounds soon,” says Jay Burney, coordinator of the event.

“It is exciting to have an international celebration,” said Greg Stevens, Executive Director of the Niagara Greenway Commission, one of the events co-sponsors. “Our natural stewardship and conservation concerns and initiatives do not stop at the borders. We want people to get outside, experience the beauty of winter in this area, and to promote awareness and winter tourism.”

Tom Kerr of Buffalo Audubon said, “This year we are pleased to partner with the Great Backyard Birdcount, a project of Audubon, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Bird Studies Canada, to encourage and report local bird sitings during this years count which goes from February 14-17.”

Indoor and outdoor events will take place on Friday February 14, and Saturday February 15 on both sides of the Niagara River strait from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. Starting at 2pm on Saturday, events shift to the New York Power Vista Overlook in Lewiston.

Keynote Speaker: Jajean Rose Burney a lifelong conservationist and bird enthusiast who will discuss Niagara River Birds, Ramsar, and the Niagara River Corridor Globally Significant Important Bird Area.

More here.


Abbreviated Schedule:

Birds on the Niagara, An International Celebration of Winter Birds

All events are family friendly and free and open to the public. Some events request registration

Friday February 14

5 pm Buffalo Outer Harbor Bird Tour, with Buffalo Audubon (registration requested)

6 -8 pm We will kick off the event on Valentines Day evening with a Birds and Brews event, at Flying Bison Brewery hosted by Buffalo Audubon, Come and learn about our birds and meet our local birding heros.

Saturday February 15

8am-3pm Various Outdoor hosted birding stations on both sides of the International Niagara River. The Western New York Welcome Center on Grand Island will act as the morning headquarters of the event.

Canada Hosted birding stations and guided walks will occur from Fort Erie, Niagara Falls Ontario, and Niagara Glen Nature Center to Niagara on the Lake.

American Hosted birding stations and guided walks will occur from Tifft Nature Preserve in Buffalo, Black Rock Canal Park, Beaver Island State Park, Niagara Falls State Park (including Three Sisters Islands tours and free Cave of the Winds tours, to Stella Niagara in Lewiston.

2pm – 5 pm Indoor Tables, displays, exhibits, and talks, Indoor programing, exhibits, meet and greet, at the afternoon Festival Headquarters at the NYPA Power Vista Overlook, Lewiston, NY. 

4 pm – 5pm Keynote/NYPA Power Vista: “Niagara River Birds, Ramsar, and the Niagara River Globally Significant Bird Area.” Come and Meet Jajean Rose Burney whose life long love of birds has brought our region conservation opportunities and strategies that have a global impact.

Written by Judith Frizlen

Judith Frizlen

Judith Frizlen is the founder of the Rose Garden Early Childhood Center and author of Words for Parents, Words for Teachers and Caregivers and Unpacking Guilt, a Mother's Journey to Freedom. Books and blogposts are on her website at She is a fan of early childhood, urban architecture and the revitalization of Buffalo.

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