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Ottawa is for the birds: Tips for birdwatching in the nation's capital

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As springtime gets into bloom, birds that call Ottawa home are either migrating back to the area or becoming more active.

Janette Niwa, a bird expert with the Ottawa Field Naturalist Club (OFNC), joined CTV Morning Live this week to share some tips for new and interested birdwatchers who want to see what Ottawa's skies have to offer.

The first rule is there's an unofficial "code of conduct" to birding.

"You want to be very respectful of the birds," Niwa says. "Some of them are nesting and human beings are always looking like a predator to them, so they're scared."

Also, be respectful of the environment.

"Don't break things, don't take their nests down, and stay on the paths... and leave early, don't overstay your welcome," she says.

"If you've got an owl and you're watching and you set up shop and you're there in the daytime, they're nocturnal birds, so you're ruining their sleep, they may be worried about their babies... so you don't want to overly disrupt them. Take your look, take a few photos and then move on. Be respectful."

Birding is open to everyone and it's easy to get started.

"You pretty much need nothing. Your eyes, your ears, that's pretty much all you need," said Niwa.

"If you want to get a little bit more, you can get binoculars. If you have a bird guidebook, you can look up the different types of birds, find out if this is one in your area, and do a bit of extra reading."

The Ottawa Field Naturalist Club has several resources on its website for birding and other activities in the city. It also offers programs for kids, said Niwa.

Where to look

Birds are everywhere, but Niwa shared some prime spots to see a variety of different birds.

"In the west, you've got Shirley's Bay and it leads to Andrew Haydon Park, Mud Lake, that area – lot of water birds," she said. "In Orléans, you have Petrie Island. That's where I saw my first bald eagle. We have eagles here!"

The OFNC also has its own preserve.

"Centrally, you've got the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, which is run by the Ottawa Field Naturalist Club. It's an excellent little gem and it just won Ecology Ottawa's award for most cherished greenspace. You can find water birds, grassland birds, and they've got a butterfly meadow. The volunteers do an amazing job and it's all native plants, so you've got all the native birds and they've got an amazing habitat."

Some prime birdwatching locations in Ottawa.

But you can watch birds just about anywhere, from your backyard to parks and greenspaces all across the city.

"Ottawa has this Greenbelt that is filled with all kinds of wildlife including birds," said Niwa. "More than 350 kinds of birds either live or migrate through Ottawa."

Some kinds of birds you might see

Niwa shared a few examples of birds you might be able to see in the Ottawa region this spring and summer. This is not a full list of every kind of bird that lives in the region. You can find more birding information on the OFNC website.

Great egret

A great egret. (Ottawa Field Naturalist Club/supplied)

"It's in the heron family. You'll find it at bodies of water. Sharp beak, amazing fisher. These guys aren't here yet, but in the next month, you'll probably be seeing these guys," Niwa says.

Northern Cardinal

A northern cardinal. (Ottawa Field Naturalist Club/supplied)

"A perennial bird in Ottawa. You see them a lot in winter. They sound like a car alarm. They're absolutely amazing. They eat a lot of seeds, so if you want bring them to your yard, have some seeds, keep it clean, cats in. If you're good, mark your windows so they don't hit it. You can see these all throughout the year."

Red-winged blackbird

A red-winged blackbird. (Ottawa Field Naturalist Club/supplied)

"They're very noisy. The males are already here marking their territory. When the females get here with their eggs, these guys are very protective of their territory, but they're an amazing call. They're really the harbinger of spring when you hear them calling," said Niwa.

These birds are known for swooping down on unsuspecting people who come to close to their nests, which are sometimes near walking paths.

Green Heron

A green heron. (Ottawa Field Naturalist Club/supplied)

"They're going to be coming a little bit later in the year. A shorter heron, lovely to watch and again a fisher you're going to find at water's edge – rivers, streams and ponds," Niwa said. 

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