Prince Edward Point is located along the north shore of Lake Ontario within southern Ontario. It is a narrow point of land that extends approximately 10 km into the lake. Shoals and areas of deeper water are located off the tip. The Point is comprised of shallow soil over limestone bedrock. Much of the habitat consists of old field (savannah) and shrub thickets, with small deciduous and coniferous forests being present. In addition to being important for migrating birds, the site also supports several rare vascular plants including Ontario aster, downy wood mint, clammyweed, among others. Largely undisturbed sites are important to ensure survival of these plants.
In total, some 298 species of birds have been recorded at Prince Edward Point with about 220 species being recorded during the average year. Most of these species are recorded during migration, although at least 74 species nest within the area. The number and diversity of landbirds that concentrate in this small area during spring and fall migration is outstanding. A total of 162 landbird species (excluding raptors) have been recorded at this site including 36 species of wood warbler, 20 species of sparrow, and 12 species of flycatcher. Daily censuses during migration indicated that peak numbers of common migrants such as Tree Swallow, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco and White-throated Sparrow were regularly in the range of 200 to 500 individuals. When weather conditions caused particularly large concentrations, numbers of these species were occasionally in excess of 2,000 birds and in some cases as high as 10,000 (Tree Swallow, Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-throated Sparrow) or even 70,000 (Dark-eyed Junco).
The shoals and deep waters off the tip of the peninsula are an important waterfowl staging and wintering area, for Greater Scaup, Oldsquaw and White-winged Scoter. Numbers of scaup (mostly Greater Scaup) approach 10,000 regularly (greater than 1% of their estimated N.A. population) with a recent one-day peak of 39,000 in January 1995. Over the past three years Oldsquaw have also regularly occurred in numbers greater than 1% of their estimated N.A. population with one-day peaks of 37,700 and 37,785 in January of 1996 and 1997. White-winged Scoters also occur in numbers that regularly exceed 5,000 with one day peaks in 1995 and 1996 that exceeded 1% of their estimated N.A. population (12,500 and 15,000 respectively). Other waterbirds regularly recorded in large numbers include Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser and Red-breasted Merganser.
During fall migration, large numbers of raptors, both diurnal and nocturnal, move over the Point. Up to 2,000 hawks a day can regularly be observed including large numbers of Sharp-shinned, Red-shouldered, and Red-tailed Hawks. Large numbers of Northern Saw-whet Owls also move through the area in the fall. This site formerly supported nesting Henslows Sparrows (globally near-threatened, nationally endangered) but nesting by this species has not been reported in recent years.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Bird migration has been monitored at Prince Edward Point from 1975 to 1981 and more recently from 1995 to the present. As a result of these monitoring initiatives, especially those during the late 1970s, Prince Edward Point was designated as a National Wildlife Area in 1980, specifically to protect the large numbers and diversity of landbirds which use the area during spring and fall migration. The point was also designated as an International Monarch Butterfly Reserve in 1995.
Much of this area consists of long-abandoned fields that are succeeding into shrub thicket habitats. As a result, various species that formerly bred or foraged in the grasslands are no longer present. This includes the globally near-threatened, nationally endangered Henslow's Sparrow. A proposal to manage portions of the habitat for Henslow's Sparrow and other grassland species is under consideration.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Prince Edward County South Shore. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 10/08/2022.