Created in partnership with Birds Canada, the Tranquility Bird Garden is one of the demonstration and learning gardens at the Humber Arboretum. It was designed to meet the needs of a variety of local and migratory bird species using simple techniques that you can duplicate at your home, school, or workplace. Found just east of the Arboretum's main entrance - past the Garden of the Rising Moon and across from Humber College's T Residence building - the Tranquility Bird Garden offers interpretive signage to guide casual visitors and is a frequent location of tours and workshops.
Birds are a key part of our ecosystem, helping to pollinate plants, disperse seeds, naturally control pests, and recycle nutrients back into the earth. Their lively vocals and captivating personalities also animate outdoor spaces and spark the imagination. Sadly, the loss of wild habitat is one of the many factors greatly reducing bird populations.
You may not think a city would be a bird hotspot, but there are 250 different species of birds which are seen every year in the GTA (and another 150+ that have been spotted here at least once!). This number not only includes birds who live in the city year-round, but Toronto is also along the migration route for many species that need places to stop, rest, and refuel on their long journeys. Birds tend to migrate along corridors which are referred to as "flyways." There are four flyways in North America and two of those four - the Atlantic Flyway and the Mississippi Flyway - encompass the Toronto area.
Whether you have a sprawling backyard or space for a planter on your balcony, by choosing to make urban areas more bird-friendly we all have the opportunity to help keep the skies full of song.
The Tranquility Bird Garden was created with the help of many community members of all ages who have taken part in plantings, built bird boxes, helped keep the feeders full through the winter, and participated in workshops and citizen science activities in the space. Thank you to everyone who has contributed their time to support the birds.
You don't have to visit the Tranquility Bird Garden to get started on your own wildlife-friendly garden. Download the guide and use the tips below to get started transforming your own outdoor space, whatever the size.
Download Bird Gardening with the Humber Arboretum - a foldable minibook for kids
Offering a variety of plants will help your garden keep up with a birds’ seasonal diet, from bugs to seeds to berries and nuts.
Patches of wildflowers, flower beds, and flowering trees and shrubs all attract the insects that many birds rely on as a high-quality food source in the summer months. Allowing plants such as coneflowers, sunflowers, and Black-eyed Susans to go to seed will continue to feed finches and sparrows in the fall. Larger birds such robins and waxwings will appreciate juniper and sumac seeds, while also making use of the long-lasting berries in the winter months. Other berry-producing species such as dogwood, elderberry, hackberry, holly, and blueberry add to the fall and winter food supplies.
Set up a bird feeding station from fall to spring to help birds through the lean winter months and to draw birds to your garden where you can appreciate and observe them. Sunflower or nyjer seed feeders and suet are all popular choices. Refill regularly and follow the instructions on how to keep your feeder clean.
Feeders and seeds for the Tranquility Bird Garden are generously donated by Jim & Lynda Mackiewicz of Wild Birds Unlimited – Toronto.
Whether they’re using your garden as a migration rest-stop or looking for a territory to call their own, birds of all kinds need places where they’re protected from the elements and from predators.
By choosing plants such as dogwood, honeysuckle, and greenbrier, you can provide dense thickets where songbirds can safely perch and nest. Taller trees provide places to sing, while stands of tall grass and carpets of fern create cover for birds that spend most of their time on the ground. Have a dead or dying tree? Consult with an arborist about leaving it up as a snag, which is highly prized habitat for perching birds and cavity-nesters. Use evergreens like juniper and cedar to offer winter shelter, or create instant habitat by leaving out cut branches or an old Christmas tree.
You can supplement natural nesting habitat with boxes. Research the right kind of box and placement for the types of birds you see in your yard. Birds are very particular about the size and shape of boxes and entrance holes for good reason – they need to be sure that predators won’t be able to get in and fledglings will be able to get out!
Just like all animals, birds should always have fresh water available. The Tranquility Bird Garden benefits from having both a naturalized pond and the Garden of the Rising Moon next door, and the Humber River in easy flying distance. If you don't happen to have a pond or river in your garden, consider adding a bird bath or water bowl and change the water regularly. Some plants, such as cup plants, will also catch and hold water.
Whatever water source you choose, remember to continue to offer it throughout the winter. There may be snow on the ground, but needing to eat that for hydration will lower a bird's body temperature. In winter especially, the sound of a running water feature will attract many birds who are eager to find flowing water.
You don't want to attract feathered visitors to your yard just to see them come to harm! Help birds stay safe in your new bird haven by doing your best to minimize hazards. Avoid pesticides, keep cats indoors and put bird-safe film on your windows to help prevent window-strikes. Learn more at www.catsandbirds.ca and www.flap.org.
The Tranquility Bird Garden is a joint project of Humber Arboretum and Birds Canada. It was created with funding from the Weston Family Parks Challenge. The Weston Family Parks Challenge is an initiative of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation.