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Thunder Cape Bird Observatory

Birdwatching Area

Thunder Cape Bird Observatory provides a unique and remote bird-watching experience at the foot of the famed Sleeping Giant on the southern tip of the Sibley Peninsula east of Thunder Bay.

Visitors and volunteers are welcome to make the 13 km trek to this bird migration monitoring station especially those camping at Sleeping Giant Provincial Provincial Park or staying at cottages at Silver Islet.

The observatory is operated by the Thunder Bay Field Naturalists, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Bird Studies Canada monitoring song birds, waterfowl and raptors with habitats in the Boreal forest and beyond.

More info here.

Primary Species Commonly Experienced Here

Over 300 species of birds have been documented and over 200 species banded at Thunder Cape. When weather conditions are right, the Thunder Cape is a busy migratory route for birds crossing Lake Superior. Loons and waterfowl fly by continuously in the spring and fall. Eagles and raptors soar off the Sleeping Giant heading south in the fall. Passerines flit through the conifers and grassy clearing near the banding station, often with with Sharp-shinned Hawks, Northern Goshawk, Merlin, and Peregrine Falcons in pursuit. In the fall, boreal species such as Boreal Chickadee, Black-backed and Three-toed woodpeckers, and winter finches are commonly seen. In September and October, large numbers of Northern Saw-whet Owls are banded, and there is always a chance of seeing a Long-eared or Barred owl.

In addition to large numbers of regular species, TCBO has had a remarkable number of rarities, including Ontario's first Violet-Green Swallow and Black-throated Sparrow, northern Ontario's first Bewick's Wren, and Thunder Bay District's first Painted Bunting and Sprague's Pipit. There have also been several Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Summer Tanagers, Western Tanagers, Pacific Loons, Harlequin Ducks, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Lark Buntings, and Townsend's Solitaires (four at once!) recorded at the station. Unusual warblers have included Blue-winged, Golden-winged, Prairie, and Hooded.

Best Times and Seasons for Viewing

As part of its mandate, the Thunder Cape Bird Observatory is open to the public and welcomes those that are interested in learning more about avian ecology. The season typically runs from late April to early June and from August 1 to October 30.

Access Considerations and Directions

Thunder Cape Bird Observatory is located at Thunder Cape, the southern tip of the Sibley Peninsula, also known as the foot of the famed Sleeping Giant, which is visible across the open expanse of Lake Superior from the City of Thunder Bay.

Thunder Cape is situated in a fairly inaccessible location next to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. Access to the banding station is by a 13 km long hiking trail from the Kabeyun Trail Head at Sibley Drive (Hwy. 587). You can ride a mountain bike as far as "The Chimney" at the Giant's knees, but from there the trail is too rough for biking. In wet weather it may be too dangerous even for hiking. Trail improvements include the placement of trail markers. Hikers, and indeed all visitors, are always made welcome at the Observatory.

The Observatory owns a boat, which is used to bring supplies and volunteers out to the Cape from the closest road access at Silver Islet.

Nearby Places