Presqu'ile Provincial Park (ON004)
Altitude 247 - 250m
Presqu'ile Provincial Park is located on the north shore of Lake Ontario, approximately 135 km east of Toronto. It is a boot-shaped peninsula that juts 10 km out into Lake Ontario. The outer section of the peninsula is formed from a limestone island, with the isthmus to the mainland being formed from sand. Two offshore islands, Gull and High Bluff are located immediately to the southwest of the peninsula, and an extensive cattail and open water marsh is located in the lee of the peninsula. The park is about 937 ha in area, with 427 ha being water and 510 ha being land. Within this area, diverse habitats are present including large marshes, sand dunes, wide sandy beaches, old fields, a variety of forest types and productive lake areas.
Presqu'ile Provincial Park is well known for its bird life. During the spring and fall, large numbers of migrants move through the area, and during the late spring and summer a diverse community of breeding birds is present. In all, a total of 318 bird species have been confirmed within the park, with over 130 species being recorded as breeders (among the highest totals for any area in Ontario).
From an Important Bird Area perspective, at least two species are regularly present during spring migration in globally significant numbers (i.e., greater than 1% of their biogeographical population): Greater Scaup and Whimbrel. In addition, the park supports globally significant breeding populations of two additional species: Ring-billed Gull (possibly 7% of the North American population) and Caspian Tern (about 3% of the North American population). Continentally significant numbers of Atlantic Brant and Dunlin are regularly seen. Nesting Double-crested Cormorants are also present in globally significant numbers. Great Egrets began nesting in the park in 1999, and at least three pairs were present in 2000. Nesting King Rails (nationally endangered) and Least Bitterns (nationally vulnerable) have also been recorded in the park, but detailed surveys to establish their regularity (in the case of King Rail) and estimate their numbers (in the case of Least Bittern) have not been completed. Numbers of Least Bitterns, however, are likely close to being nationally significant. Historically, large numbers of Black Terns have also nested in the marsh, but in recent years their numbers have declined.
Presqu'ile is also an important stopover site for migrating landbirds. The species richness is comparable to other landbird concentration sites on the lower Great Lakes. In the past, up to 60,000 swallows regularly roosted in the park in late summer, although more recently numbers have been in the order of 7,000. Large flocks of blackbirds, and occasionally winter finches, have also been reported.
Although designated as a provincial park since 1922, the management of Presqu'ile is controversial due to the high demands placed on this small, ecologically sensitive area. Beach management needs for shorebirds differ from those of recreational beach users; a controlled waterfowl hunt has occurred in the park; intensive browsing by a large population of white-tailed deer and the spread of non-native species are affecting the native flora and fauna; and human disturbance of resting shorebirds and breeding gulls and terns is sometimes a problem. To address these concerns, park staff, along with local naturalist clubs, are working to ensure that the parks ecological values are protected and enhanced, while accommodating the broad range of annual park users.
Potential or Ongoing Threats