Brier Island may not be very large, but the opportunities for birdwatching are huge. With over 300 species of birds observed on Brier Island, Bird Studies Canada has recognized it as one of Nova Scotia’s premier birding locations.
Seabirds make Brier Island their home year round, while seasonal land birds stop over until it’s time for migration. One of the most impressive birding events on Brier Island is the annual hawk migration in late September / early October. The sheer number of hawks filling the sky can impress even seasoned birders.
Why Do Birds Like Brier Island?
Migrating birds find Brier Island inviting because of its position on the Atlantic Flyway migratory route – it’s what’s called a “migrant trap”, a small piece of land that acts as a haven for exhausted birds flying over the open sea. Many species of birds take a rest on the island, making Brier Island birdwatching rather popular.
Watching the Seabirds
Although seabirds can be found near Brier Island any time of the year, it can be difficult to spot every seabird species. Especially if you’re a land creature, like a human. Luckily, you can take to the water on a whale watching tour, or on a specialized birding boat tour. Don’t forget binoculars!
The most common types of seabirds you’ll see while birdwatching on Brier Island are: the stiff-flying Great Shearwater, the chocolate brown Sooty Shearwater, long-necked Gannets, and tiny Atlantic Puffins. Other species you might see include the Pomarine Jaeger and the Red Phalarope.
Watching the Land Birds
The hiking trails throughout Brier Island provide great opportunities for birdwatching, especially on the Coastal Trail which features both a rocky beach environment (ideal for seabird watching) and a calm, grassy pond area (for spotting land birds). Watch for signs that indicate an IBA: Important Bird Area.
During the fall migration, Brier Island is a busy place for both the birds and birdwatchers. Scientists studying bird migration on Brier Island have determined that the most common land birds are the Yellow-rumped Warbler (named for his yellow you-know-what), the sparrow-like Dark-eyed Junco, the Golden-crowned Kinglet (named for the yellow “crown” on his head), the White-throated Sparrow, and the Yellow-bellied Magnolia Warbler.