The Urban-Rural Biomonitoring & Assessment Network. A citizen-science project in Hamilton, Ontario.

Wetland Birds

Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis)

Coastal marshes of the Great Lakes have been primarily recognized for their importance as waterfowl nesting and breeding grounds and migratory habitat (National Wetlands Working Group 1988). These habitats are also important nesting and breeding grounds for several wetland-dependent rails, bitterns, and songbirds. Wetland-dependent species require marsh for nesting and feeding, often building floating nests and foraging primarily in the moist soil or aquatic areas for invertebrates and small fish. Birds are important components of the ecosystem because they disperse seeds, pollinate plants, and control invertebrate and vertebrate pest populations (Sekercioglu 2006). Regardless of these important ecosystem functions, wetland-breeding birds have shown continental declines, with 40% of species showing negative trend estimates between 1966 and 2007 (Sauer et al. 2008). Habitat loss and degradation have been cited as the leading causes for declines, but several other factors may be contributing including the continued use of pesticides and herbicides, loss of food resources, and migratory hazards such as the loss of stopover sites and building collisions.

What can you do to help?

Become an URBAN volunteer and help us monitor marsh birds in wetlands of the Hamilton Region. URBAN is working with the Marsh Monitoring Program to share data and place volunteers in marshes that need attention. Tracking long-term changes in bird populations will provide us with information on the comparative quality of Hamilton’s marshes and how the wetlands change over time, as the city continues to grow. You can also help to reduce the number of bird-window- and building-collisions by using bird decals on windows and turning lights off at night (especially in tall buildings in cities) to help minimize migration-related fatalities.


Marsh bird surveys will be conducted by working with the Marsh Monitoring Program and using their already developed protocols. Marsh bird surveys require arranging your own travel to a wetland assigned by the Coordinator, but we will try to make them convenient for the participant. Monitoring marsh birds requires attending the annual spring workshop for training. Each survey is 15 min in length and there may be up to 8 surveys per wetland (but most likely 1-2). Each survey location should be visited 2 times per year between May 20 and July 5 at least 10 days apart. Surveys can be either early morning or evening, but they must remain the same each year. You should have existing knowledge of birds of the region and be able to identify some species by sight and sound.

Identifying Wetland Birds

Wetland-dependent birds require marsh habitat for nesting and therefore it is important to make them a priority.  Many other bird species use marshes for nesting and feeding but are able to nest in other habitats as well.  These species are often referred to as marsh-nesting generalists.  Wetland-dependent birds of southern Ontario are listed under “Wetland-dependent Birds” (below) and “Other Birds” represents species you’re likely to see in a marsh but this should not be treated as an exclusive list.

Please select the category to view birds of that type.

URBAN is a citizen science monitoring program for the City of Hamilton, enabling you to experience and contribute to the preservation of wildlife and natural areas within and around the city.