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Alberta

Owl
Great-horned Owl Bubo virginianus ©Creative Commons

Birding Alberta

From alpine meadows to prairie potholes, from the northern forests to the southern badlands, Alberta's range of habitats, with a bird list of 385 species, offers a wide variety of places to explore for both serious and amateur birder alike. For our most rare species, Alberta contains the breeding grounds of the endangered Whooping Crane, in Wood Buffalo National Park, on the northern border of the province. This is the only migratory flock of these beautiful cranes, and they annually migrate to Aransas National Wildlife Reserve on the Texas Coast each year. From a low of only 20+ birds in the mid 1900s, the population has rebounded to just under 200 migratory birds that arrive in Aransas each fall.

Beaverhills Lake, just east of Edmonton, is possibly the best birding location in Alberta. Located at the intersection of the North American Central and Mississippi flyways, the lake comes alive in the spring with several hundred thousand Snow Geese, Tundra Swans, Sandhill Cranes, American White Pelicans and innumerable waders heading for their northern breeding grounds. Extensive Mountain Bluebird trails around the lake are responsible for re-introducing this species into northern Alberta. Vagrants that have shown up at Beaverhills in the last year include Snowy Egret and White-faced Ibis.

During the last ice age, the prairie landscape was scoured by glaciers, leaving thousands of shallow potholes which fill with water as the winter snows melt. This area, stretching from Alberta through Southern Saskatchewan and into North Dakota, is often referred to as the Duck Factory of North America. Through this range, the farming landscape is bisected by Township roads every two miles north and south, and Range roads every mile east and west. A few hours touring around these back roads in the spring will find that every pothole contains waterfowl busily getting about the business of courting, breeding and raising young. Ducks, grebes, geese, loons (divers); gulls, terns, coots and teal are every where you look, all dressed in their courtin` clothes!

Alberta's mountain National Parks of Banff and Jasper, and the eastern slope foothills offer an entirely different set of birds, in the midst of some of the most incredible scenery on earth. Birds such as breeding Harlequin and Wood Ducks, Common and Barrow's Goldeneye, American Dippers and other waterfowl haunt the mountain streams and lakes, while White-tailed Ptarmigan, Townsend's Solitaires, Grey-cheeked Rosy-finches, and a wide variety of sparrows make their home in the alpine meadows above the tree line. Swainson's, Red-tailed and Ferruginous Hawks, Golden and Bald eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, Great Grey and Great Horned Owls and other raptors share these protected areas with bear, moose, deer, wapiti, coyotes, wolves, beaver and other mountain wildlife.

Southern Alberta offers some desert species like Burrowing Owls in the Badlands area of Drumheller through to Medicine Hat, and extensive populations of partridge, grouse and pheasant species in the Lake Newell area in the southeast corner of the province.

Alberta's capital city, Edmonton, is the Peregrine Falcon capital of Canada, with birds returning year after year to nest on the downtown high-rises. Edmonton also has the highest concentration of Merlin in North America, according to the Christmas Bird Count - possibly because it also has an extremely high population of Bohemian Waxwings that over winter in the area. Common and Hoary Redpolls, Snow Buntings and an annual infusion of Snowy Owls join these winter specialties. Woodpecker aficionados can find Downy, Hairy, Pileated, Three-toed, Black-backed, and Lewis's Woodpeckers, along with Yellow-bellied and Red-breasted and Red-naped Sapsuckers throughout the province.

Contributor

Tina MacDonald

tina@camacdonald.com

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 425

As at June 2018

Provincial Bird - Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus

Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

Useful Reading

Alberta Birds 1971-1980, Volume 1: Non-Passerines

HW Pinel, WW Smith & CR Wershler | Alberta Museum | 1991 | Paperback |

ISBN: 0773205381

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of Alberta

Chris Fisher & John Acorn | Lone Pine Publishing | 1998 | Paperback | 384 pages, colour illustrations |

ISBN: 1551051737

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Field Guide to Alberta Birds

W Bruce McGillivray & Glen Semenchuk | Federation of Alberta Naturalists | 1998 | Paperback | 350 pages, colour photos, distribution maps |

ISBN: 0969613423

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Quick Reference to Alberta Birds

By John Acorn, Chris Fisher & Andy Bezener | Lone Pine Publishing | 2013 | Unbound | 12 pages, colour illustrations |

ISBN: 9781551058948

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The Atlas of Breeding Birds of Alberta

(A Second Look) | Edited by The Federation of Alberta Naturalists | Federation of Alberta Naturalists | 2007 | Hardback | 626 pages, 300 Colour photos |

ISBN: 9780969613497

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Organisations

Alberta Bird Record Committee

Information

This is a provisional list of species of birds known to occur, or to have occurred recently, in Alberta as compiled by the Alberta Bird Record Committee, the body presently responsible for the evaluation of reports of rare birds for the province…

Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation

Website

Active since 1982 and more recently a registered charity, the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation is Alberta's first privately licensed raptor rescue and conservation organization. We are located two hours south of Calgary in the heart of Canada's wild prairies...

Big Lake Environment Support Society

Website

The Big Lake Environment Support Society (BLESS) is in its ninth year as a registered non-profit organization. Its objectives are related to the conservation of the Big Lake wetlands, through advocacy, public education and data collection programs. It is a regional organization, with Board members from each of the four municipalities bordering the wetlands.

Calgary Bird Banding Society

Website

Bird banding is an integral aid to the study and protection of wild birds. It is typically facilitated by using a fine net (known as a mist net). Birds that fly into the mist net are gently removed and a permanent aluminum or alternate light-weight band is placed around the lower leg. Often the birds are measured, weighed, sexed and aged before release back into the wild…

Edmonton Natural History Club (Edmonton Bird Club)

Facebook Page

October 2004 after the Edmonton Natural History Club and the Edmonton Bird Club Merged. The Club offers a program of speakers, third Friday of each month, from October to April. In addition to these monthly meetings we also have active study groups that study Plants, and Birds. Nature Walks and Field Trips occur year-round.

Lac La Biche Birding Society

Facebook Page

The Lac La Biche Birding Society was incorporated in the spring of 1998. Prior to that an unofficial club had been active since its first Christmas Bird Count in 1992. The club is also a corporate member of the Federation of Alberta Naturalists. The club participates in the Christmas Bird Count, the May Species Count and public education on the value of wild birds in the Lac La Biche region and their conservation/environmental importance…

Lethbridge Naturalists Society

Facebook Page

LNS is dedicated to the development and appreciation of natural history and the understanding of the environment in Lethbridge and surrounding areas.

Nature Alberta

Website

Nature Alberta is a federation of natural history organizations operating in Alberta. Alberta is fortunate to have a wide diversity of wildlife and wild spaces! All native plants and animals have a right to co-exist with Albertans, who in turn benefit by having access to a healthy, natural environment. Increasing our understanding of nature will lead to increased enjoyment of it. Today, more than 40 natural history clubs are engaging Albertans across the province in the conservation and appreciation of our natural heritage….

Nature Calgary

Website

Encouraging the appreciation, observation, study, conservation and protection of all components of the natural world….

Red Deer River Naturalists

Website

The Red Deer River Naturalists Society, established in 1906, is the oldest continuously operating natural history organization in Alberta. Each year, The Red Deer River Naturalists Society presents the Owl Award to a deserving member of the organization. RDRN has been recognized by many other organizations for the work we do.

The Edmonton Nature Club

Website

The ENC has an active group of birders who are keen to share knowledge and experiences during our scheduled events. We welcome the participation of bird enthusiasts of all skill levels

Vermilion River Naturalist Society

Website

Welcome to the Vermilion River Naturalist Society blog! This is the place for meeting updates, field trip information, and also for Albertan and Canadian conservation news. We’d also like to cover some of the natural history of the area. This is meant to be a group blog, so if you’re interested in posting, please let me know and we’ll add you to the list.

Weaslehead Society

Website

The Weaselhead/Glenmore Park Preservation Society works to protect the flora and fauna of the Weaselhead and Glenmore Parks and to preserve the integrity of the Elbow River.

Reserves

Abbreviations Key: See the appropriate Continent Page (or Country Page of those used on country sub-divisions)

Alberta's Provincial Parks & Protected Areas

Website

Nearly 500 sites in Alberta’s provincial parks protect sensitive habitats and wildlife. It’s all about keeping the wilderness wild, while letting humans experience it. Seeing it means appreciating it and ensuring it survives way beyond our own timelines.

BS Inglewood

Webpage

Satellite View

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary is a 34-hectare (80 acre) site located in a federal migratory bird sanctuary along the Bow River in Calgary…

IBA Big Lake (Lois Hole Centennial PP)

Webpage

Satellite View

Big Lake is located on the western edge of the city of St. Albert in central Alberta. The city of Edmonton is situated directly to the east. This freshwater lake is a large body of water that supports extensive stands of emergent vegetation. During low water years mudflats are also present along the north shore. The south shore supports large stands of mature aspen, birch and White Spruce.

IPP Cypress Hills

Website

Satellite View

The Park spans the South East corner of Alberta and the South West corner of Saskatchewan. You will also find the National Heritage Site of Fort Walsh on the South side of the park. It is a great place to relax, discover the outdoors or have an adventure.

MBS Gaetz Lakes

Webpage

Satellite View

Since 1924, the Gaetz Lakes have been protected as a federal migratory bird sanctuary. Now part of Waskasoo Park, the Sanctuary's 118 hectares (almost 300 acres) are set aside as a home for plants, mammals and birds…

NA Wagner

Website

Satellite View

Natural Areas are Government protected lands with a dual purpose: To allow some recreation but also to preserve aspects of the province's biological and physical diversity. Though not strictly protected as parks and ecological reserves, they are not highly developed for recreational use either…

NC Beaverhill Lake

Webpage

Satellite View

Beaverhill Lake, an internationally renowned and recognized staging area for 270 species of birds, is perhaps the town's largest attraction, and the Beaverhill Lake Nature Centre provides a doorway to this fascinating natural world…

NP Banff

Website

Satellite View

Banff National Park is Canada's oldest national park and was established in 1885. Located in the Rocky Mountains, 110–180 kilometres (68–112 mi) west of Calgary in the province of Alberta, Banff encompasses 6,641 square kilometres (2,564 sq mi) of mountainous terrain, with numerous glaciers and ice fields, dense coniferous forest, and alpine landscapes.

NP Elk Island

Webpage

Satellite View

Located less than an hour away from Edmonton, Elk Island National Park of Canada protects the wilderness of the aspen parkland, one of the most endangered habitats in Canada. This beautiful oasis is home to herds of free roaming plains bison, wood bison, moose, deer, and elk. Also boasting over 250 species of birds, the park is a bird watcher's paradise…

NP Jasper

Website

Satellite View

Jasper is the largest and most northerly Canadian rocky mountain national park, part of a spectacular World Heritage Site. Comprised of delicate and carefully protected ecosystems, Jasper's scenery is non-the-less rugged and mountainous. In this special corner of Canada you can thrill to the thunder of Sunwapta Falls, enjoy the serene beauty of Mount Edith Cavell, connect with nature along 1,000-plus kilometres of trails, experience Athabasca Glacier up close or just resign yourself to a relaxing soak in Miette Hotsprings.

NP Waterton Lakes

Information

Satellite View

Rugged, windswept mountains rise abruptly out of gentle prairie grassland in spectacular Waterton Lakes National Park. Here, several different ecological regions meet and interact in a landscape shaped by wind, fire, flooding, and abundant plants and wildlife…

NP Wood Buffalo

Information

Satellite View

Wood Buffalo National Park is the largest National Park of Canada at 44,807 km2 (17,300 sq mi). It is located in northeastern Alberta and the southern Northwest Territories. Larger in area than Switzerland. A total of 227 bird species have been recorded (including species characteristic of all boreal forest habitats) which include great grey owl Strix nebulosa and snowy owl Nyctea scandiaca, willow ptarmigan Lagopus lagopus, redpoll Acanthis spp., crossbill Lorix spp. and boreal chickadee Parus hudsonicus

NS Clifford E Lee

Website

Satellite View

Located 33 km southwest of Edmonton’s city centre, the Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary protects 348 acres of marshland, open meadow, aspen parkland and pine forest. The varied habitats of the Sanctuary attract a diversity of animals, including more than one hundred bird species, and provide excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing. The boardwalk and connected upland trails are easily navigated in summer by all skill levels, but they are not considered wheelchair accessible.

PP Hilliard's Bay

Webpage

Satellite View

PP Lakeland

Webpage

Satellite View

...beavers, otters, caribou, lynx, moose or waterfowl...

PP Lesser Slave Lake

Webpage

Satellite View

You’ve already been dreaming about the white sand beaches of Central Alberta, haven't you? Lesser Slave Lake is that and then some. The lake is a 2.5-hour drive north from Edmonton and the largest in Alberta you can get to by car travel alone. Swing by the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory for a lesson on the winged locals.

PP Lesser Slave Lake Wildland

Information

Satellite View

Lesser Slave Lake Wildland Park is located on the north shore of Lesser Slave Lake, one of Alberta's largest water bodies. The park contains important fish spawning and rearing habitat, key waterfowl staging and production areas, moose habitat and critical moose winter range, as well as bald eagle and osprey nesting areas.

PP William A Switzer

Webpage

Satellite View

The lake-filled park tends to be less busy than mountain parks, yet with its foothills location, you still get the mountain views and occasional elk or bear sighting.

Forums & Mailing Lists

Alberta Birds

Forum etc

The purpose of this group is to provide a forum in which Alberta birders/birdwatchers can post information, photos latest sightings, ask for advice on bird identification, equipment, let others know about bird-related events in our province, and share a general love of birds. Members of all levels of avian knowledge are welcome — no question is too basic.

Rare Bird Alert Calgary

Birding news

Rare Bird Alert

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Birding Ecotours

Tour Operator

Discover the spectacular Waterton Lakes National Park with us! Regarded as one of North America’s most captivating mountain parks, in 1995 Waterton Lakes National Park was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Perfectly nestled between the picturesque Alberta Prairies and the grand Rocky Mountains, the park is home to a large number of dazzling colorful streams, incredible mountain views, immense waterfalls, and crystal-clear lakes.

Eagle-Eye Tours

Tour Operator

This birding tour will visit southeast Alberta, a superb area for short-grass prairie and grassland birds, and we visit when breeding is in full swing. We have a chance of seeing one of the rarest breeding birds in Canada, the Mountain Plover, although this “prairie ghost” isn’t always found every year.

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2010 [07 July] - Petri Hottola - Bow Summit

Report PDF

On the first week of July 2010, I was visiting Alberta, Canada, in order to see some of the few North American bird species still missing my world list. The situation was far from ideal, because I had fallen on a trail in Hawaii, injured myself and got a bacterial infection in the right leg. On arrival in Calgary, there was good reason to suspect deep vein thrombosis in the inflamed leg…

2013 [07 July] - Keith Taylor - Peace River Park

Report PDF

Yours truly woke at five twenty-five and proceeded to shut the balcony door on the morning of the eighth. The iPad and computer were switched on in bed at that time to bring the memoirs up to date and to correct the total of Murphy's Petrel before creating new PDF files with the headings adjusted properly. That was underway at five thirty-three with a new PDF and a reduce-sized PDF file made at seven minutes past six. Yours truly then climbed out of bed to wash the now greasy hair and to sponge bath. The final packing took place subsequently with the toys and such placed in the gym bag as well as using the backpack as a second suitcase for clothes and to protect the computer, A squat on the toilet took place before shutting off the water supply….

2017 [02 February] - Jay VanderGaast & Chris Benesh

Report

...we had tallied 15 owls of 6 different species, a respectable total, especially when you factor in the "Big Three" of Great Gray, Snowy, and Northern Hawk owls. These are generally the three most sought-after northern owls on a trip like this, and we did very well with all of them. The Northern Hawk Owl was the icebreaker that first afternoon, and our views of it perched nearby in plain sight, then flying, hawk-like, across the road, raised our spirits after our trying morning....

2017 [06 June] - Stefan Schlick

PDF Report

... The white-spruce patches held Blackburnian, Cape May and Bay-breasted Warbler. Boreal Chickadee, Blue-headed Vireo, and Gray Catbird and Bank Swallow along the causeway added to the cast....

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Alpenglow Inn B&B

Accommodation

Located amidst the scenic splendor of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Canmore`s Alpenglow Inn Bed and Breakfast is an ideal staging point for your Rocky Mountain vacation. Situated in the Bow Valley beneath the Three Sisters mountains, the Alpenglow Inn is only an hour`s drive west of Calgary (1.5 hours from the Calgary International Airport) and a mere five minutes from the east gates ofBanff National Park.

Jasper National Park - Lodging

Accommodation

Our Jasper directory offers a complete list of hotels and lodging options in Jasper National Park of Canada. All the hotels we offer have been rated and approved by AAA and the Mobil Travel Guide…

Pathway Cottage B&B - Calgary

Accommodation

Pathway Cottage Bed & Breakfast backs onto the south ridge of Fish Creek Park, the largest Provincial Park (3000 acres) located within any Canadian city. Yet, Pathway Cottage is only a four minute drive from restaurants, banks and extensive big store shopping…

Red Deer Lodge

Accommodation

Enjoy the comforts of home while on the road when you stay at our Baymont Inn & Suites Red Deer hotel. Just five miles from Red Deer Regional Airport (YQF), our hotel offers easy access to the city’s financial and industrial districts, and businesses like Shaw Communications and Tervita. The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame is nearby.

Wild Rose Guesthouse

Website

With a gorgeous backdrop of the Peace River and Valley surrounding this home, guests will find all the amenities and luxuries found in a modern, high quality hotel in a metropolitan city.

Festivals

Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory’s Songbird Festival

Webpage

The Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory’s Songbird Festival is an annual celebration of spring migration happening in May. The Festival is a fun and educational weekend for both families and birders alike. Every year the festival kicks off bright and early on Saturday with our early bird pancake breakfast. After breakfast there are a variety of guided birding hikes, nature workshops and tours of our migration monitoring station to take part in. There’s also lots of hands on activities for the entire family including facing painting, birdhouse building and crafts.

Camrose Purple Martin Festival

Facebook Page

This wildlife festival is held on a Saturday in June at the Stoney Creek Centre (5320 - 39 Ave., Camrose). A day for everyone to come out and have some fun with speakers, kids activities, tours, and more!

Festival Of Eagles

Webpage

Every October, the Town of Canmore celebrates the migration of the Golden Eagle through the Canadian Rockies with the Festival of Eagles. Join serious birdwatchers and amateur bird lovers in the autumn celebration of the ancient migration of the Golden Eagle. Share in the spirit of the eagle, take part in guided eagle-viewing hikes, or listen as interpreters explain the ancient phenomenon of these birds of prey. Take time to see the daytime interpretive show and featured evening speaker - always a sell-out event!

Snow Goose Chase

Website

The Annual Snow Goose Chase is organized by the Edmonton Nature Club and the Town of Tofield. It is held annually in April in the Tofield/Beaverhill Lake area east of Edmonton, Alberta.

Swan Festival

Webpage

April. The main festival events, include swan bus tours, activities, crafts, face painting, displays and more, will take place at Saskatoon Island Day Use Area

Observatories

Beaverhill Bird Observatory

Observatory Website

Satellite View

In 1997 Beaverhill Lake was identified as an Important Bird Area of Global Significance because of the large numbers of shorebirds and waterfowl that use the area as a stop-over site during migrations…

Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory

Observatory Website

Satellite View

The story of the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory (LSLBO) is about partnerships. It is a partnership between Alberta Environment, the Forest Industry, Conservationists, the Tourism Industry, the Not for Profit sector, and the Ornithological community. The Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory is a non-profit society, established in 1994, and operated by a dedicated group of volunteers. Its mission is to monitor migratory landbirds and contribute to bird conservation in the Americas. Our research site is located in Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park.

Museums

Provincial Museum of Alberta

Website

Ornithology is the study of birds. Alberta has a rich, diverse bird life with over 400 recorded species, including about 250 breeding species. The high species diversity results in part from the meeting of three distinctive natural regions (Boreal Forest, Grasslands and Rocky Mountains) in Alberta, each with characteristic bird species. The eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains is an area of marked variability, as distinct eastern and western forms of numerous species come into contact and hybridize there. The evolutionary and taxonomic consequences of contact remain an exciting area of ornithological research.

Blogs

Birds Calgary

BLOG

A birding blog for Calgary, Alberta & Area

Charlotte Wasylik - Prairiebirder

BLOG

My name is Charlotte and I’m a young birder and enjoy birding, so I decided in late 2010 I should start a blog to record and write about my sightings...

Chris Earley - Canadian Birder

BLOG

I am an avid birder and amateur bird photographer based in Calgary, Alberta. I have been birding since I was seven years old. I have travled to southeatern Arizona, Point Pelee NP (multiple times), and Newfoundland. If I had to choose a favorite bird it would be the Red Knot.

Other Links

Operation Grassland Community - Alberta

Website

The Western Loggerhead Shrike Recovery Team meets once a year and is made up of scientists, researchers and invited guests from across western Canada. The Recovery Team is the working arm of Recovery of Nationally Endangered Wildlife (RENEW) which responds to status reports commissioned by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Operation Grassland Community is an invited guest at the meetings and provides input as to our activities during the previous year.

Photographers & Artists

Photographer - Ann Sherba

Gallery

Photographs from NW Alberta…

Photographer - Brian Wolitski

Gallery

…a nature and wildlife photographer for over two decades, I have established a diverse stock file collection exceeding 100,000 images ranging from wild animals and birds to landscapes. I also have an macro-image library of reptiles, amphibians and insects. My work frequently appears in nature magazine and books as well as on posters, murals, calendars and greeting cards…

Photographer - Eddy Matuod - Wild Birds of Alberta

Gallery

Some of my recent photos (some are videos) of wild birds taken in Alberta Canada…

Photographer - Peter Stahl

Gallery

Peter Stahl's Photoblog of birds seen locally (Alberta) or in travel…