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By Andrés Jiménez, Ontario Urban Program Coordinator, Bird Studies Canada

Photo: Andrés Jiménez

The Toronto Bird Celebration’s goal is to increase people’s connection to nature – the first step towards making the city a welcoming oasis for birds. The third annual Celebration was the best-attended yet, making it clear that birds are finding their place in Toronto’s urban scene.
From May 11-25, 2019, thousands of Torontonians were introduced to birds at 40 events across the GTA. At least a million people discovered bird-related information on the subway, newspapers, and radio. Twenty dedicated partner organizations shared a wealth of experience and knowledge with the assembled community of nature lovers through festivals, workshops, birding events, arts and crafts, and more. And those who visited the Celebration website discovered resources for learning how to birdwatch and create a bird-friendly environment on their own backyards. With impeccable timing, Whimbrels, Blackburnian Warblers, Orchard Orioles, Scarlet Tanagers, and Indigo Buntings adorned the city, and opportunities to forge connections between people and wildlife flourished!
For many participants, like Nicole L., the Celebration was a chance to try something new:
“I was not into birdwatching. I saw an ad on the Toronto Subway and, given I love nature, I thought about giving it a try. I went online and checked out more information. The type of events being offered were interesting enough to make me try it. The first thing I did was lunch with birds at Queen’s Park, and I loved it because I saw my first Indigo Bunting! Then I found out about Canoeing Birding Edition, and I had to try it, I love canoeing. I think birdwatching is something that makes you think, it just… makes you happy. I am glad I saw that ad on the Subway.”

Even more-experienced birders, like Joanne Brathwaite, saw their city in a new light:
“My first Pelee trip was not possible, I ended up home in Toronto. And I am so pleased that I got to participate in varied and thoughtful events as part of the Toronto Bird Celebration! I walked with the Feminist Bird Club at [the Tommy Thompson Park] Spring Festival; found my first Sora with the Toronto Ornithological Club at Ashbridges Bay, and took some non-birder friends to the Earl Bales Park walk. It gave them a new appreciation of the bird(ing) community in a place they thought they knew so well.”

Photo: Andrés Jiménez

Finally, the Celebration gave rise to some unforgettable memories:
“The Friday evening Swift Night Out was perhaps the most unique experience for me,” said Joanne. “The viewing crowd in Moss Park was electric as we watched them swirl in the sky and funnel into the chimney! I loved how it brought so many non-birders because you didn’t need binoculars to see all the action! … I was amazed at so many attendees with small children all excited about birds in the Colonel Sam Smith Spring Festival. This year’s celebration was epic, and I look forward to many more years of this event.”

Photo: Andrés Jiménez

These valuable impacts would not have been possible without the guiding efforts of the Steering Committee partners: Toronto Region and Conservation Authority; the City of Toronto’s Parks, Forestry & Recreation Division; Natural Environment & Community Programs; Toronto Ornithological Club; Toronto Zoo, High Park Nature Center; Royal Ontario Museum; Fatal Light Awareness Program; and the Humber Arboretum.
We would also like to recognize the event organizers, whose contributions touched many people: Downsview Park, Friends of Allan Gardens, West Willowdale Neighbourhood Association, Humber Arboretum, Rexdale STEM Club, Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee, Feminist Bird Club, Wild Birds Unlimited, Toronto Island SUP, Canoe Toronto, and Shadowland Theatre.
We gratefully acknowledge the generous support of TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, Acart, and Pattison Outdoor Advertising. Their support was fundamental in bringing Torontonians the opportunity to connect with the natural world through the 2019 Toronto Bird Celebration.
We look forward to seeing you at the 2020 Toronto Bird Celebration! To get involved as a supporter, partner, or event organizer, please contact Andrés Jiménez.

Watching Chimney Swifts at the Swift Night Out Photo: Andrés Jiménez

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