Often simply described as a prairie province of the Canadian interior, Saskatchewan tends to escape much of the attention that its rich diversity should attract. Birders, however, recognize this province as a key breeding area and migration resting area, offering to its 414 recorded bird species a variety of habitats, including forests, bogs, freshwater and saline lakes, grasslands, and sloughs.
Birders will discover an ever-changing landscape as they travel around the province. Deglaciation, with its erosive and depository processes, sculpted Saskatchewan's landscape and created distinct differences in soil and vegetation. Elevations range from 213 metres at Lake Athabasca to 1,392 metres at Cypress Hills. As a result, within its trapezoidal borders, Saskatchewan houses four major ecosystems that correspond to the northern sub-arctic region, the Canadian Shield, the southern boreal forest, and the prairie.
These broad ecosystems can be further divided into smaller eco-regions and again into even smaller important landscape areas, each with its own particular mix of plant, mammal and bird species. Sub-arctic woodland, Precambrian rocks, peatland and numerous lakes characterize the Taiga Shield. The Boreal Shield is noted for its bedrock outcrops, sand dunes, eskers, wetlands and lakes. The Boreal Plain boasts steep escarpments, glacial till plains and wetlands. Finally, the Prairie, which covers only 38% of the province, contains aspen groves, glacial till and glacial lake plains, sand hills, potholes and badlands.
Even though more than half of the province has a sub-arctic climate, the rest being continental and steppe climates, with temperatures ranging from -40 degrees Celsius in the winter to +40 degrees in the summer, Saskatchewan is the home or resting place for large numbers of many bird species. Its 651,900 square kilometres is the summer home for one quarter of the world's population of American White Pelicans and it is an important breeding area for the Bald Eagle, American Avocet, Forster's Tern, Gadwall, Ruddy Duck, and Northern Pintail, to name a few.
In recent history, humans have been carving the landscape of Saskatchewan, with agricultural development and forestry altering ecosystems and thereby affecting the species that live there. Officially, the populations of 15 species of birds in Saskatchewan are currently at risk. The Passenger Pigeon is extinct and the Greater Prairie Chicken has been extirpated. Endangered species include the Whooping Crane, Sage Thrasher, Piping Plover, Mountain Plover, and Burrowing Owl. The Sage Grouse and Loggerhead Shrike populations are also threatened. Vulnerable species include the Ferruginous Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Long-billed Curlew, Short-eared Owl, Caspian Tern, and Red-headed Woodpecker.
To fully appreciate a birding experience in Saskatchewan, visiting birders need to understand its various ecosystems and the current status of bird species in this vast province. Among the growing number of birding websites offering such information, the Birding in Canada website is a valuable resource on birding in Saskatchewan, including information on birding hotspots and a list of birders with e-mail.
Some information drawn from Atlas of Saskatchewan: University of Saskatchewan, 1999
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 436
of which 86 are considered stragglers and 43 are hypothetical. Ten species have been introduced to Saskatchewan or elsewhere in North America. One species is extinct, two have been extirpated, and another might be extinct.
Provincial Bird - Sharp-tailed Grouse Tympanuchus phasianellus
Atlas of Saskatchewan Birds
By Alan Smith | Nature Saskatchewan | 1996 | Paperback |
ISBN: 9780921104124Buy this book from NHBS.com
Quick Reference to Manitoba & Saskatchewan Birds
| Lone Pine Publishing | 2013 | Paperback | 12 pages, colour illustrations |
ISBN: 9781551058955Buy this book from NHBS.com
by Alan Smith | Lone Pine Publishing | 2001 | Paperback | 176 pages, Colour illustrations, maps |
ISBN: 1551053047Buy this book from NHBS.com
Nature Regina’s Mission is to foster a greater appreciation of all aspects of the natural environment through presentations, field trips, education programs and environmental advocacy.
Nature Saskatchewan is one of the largest conservation organizations in the province. We are striving to help protect Saskatchewan's native species and natural ecosystems - our biological wealth. Nature Saskatchewan believes that a healthy natural environment and sustainable economy is crucial for the survival and well-being of present and future generations…
Saskatoon Nature Society
The Saskatoon Nature Society brings together those interested in the natural world. Our objective is to promote the appreciation of nature and encourage a deeper knowledge of it through observation and sharing of experience. Our society supports nature conservation projects and is an active advocate for the preservation of plant and animal habitats.
Chaplin Lake was designated a Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network site in May of 1997. This is the highest designation possible. There are only 35 sites in the Western Hemisphere with only 5 of them being in Canada and only 2 of these are Hemispheric…
IBA Quill Lakes
This new website highlights the Quill Lakes International Bird Area in Saskatchewan, Canada. This birding hotspot hosts millions of birds annually with one day counts exceeding 250,000. Large concentrations of ducks, geese, cranes, and shorebirds. The site has numerous international designations including an Important Birding Area. The area includes Canada's largest saline lake and Canada's largest breeding population of endangered piping plovers. Facilities include the Quill Lakes Interpretive Centre, the Wadena Wetlands Viewing Area, and the Foam Lake Heritage Marsh Viewing Area.
IPP Cypress Hills
Where in Saskatchewan can you find lush green forests of lodgepole pine and white spruce towering over colourful and unique meadows of wild flowers, high plateaus and surrounded by natural prairie grasslands? The Cypress Hills…
Bradwell National Wildlife Area (NWA) is located in the mixed-grass prairie ecodistrict of central Saskatchewan. Wetlands consist of five inter-connected permanent basins which receive run-off water from the surrounding undulating land. A system of dykes, ditches and water control structures maintain water levels in the basins and help to supply water to several adjacent marshes via the main Saskatoon southeast supply canal. Native grassland surrounds most of the wetlands. Native grasses, tame grasses and legumes seeded on previously cultivated land provide dense nesting cover for waterfowl. Woodland is comprised of small scattered aspen-willow bluffs. A Ducks Unlimited (Canada) cairn on the Wildlife Area acknowledges donors who funded the project…
Saskatchewan Provincial Parks
Each park or site provides an opportunity to experience a different part of Saskatchewan’s heritage, including the solitude of a northern forest, the comforts of a modern resort, or the experience of walking in the steps of those who came before us.
Forums & Mailing Lists
Birdwatching in Saskatchewan is a Restricted Group with 425 members. Birdwatching in Saskatchewan
Mailing List – Discussion Group - a Restricted Group with 425 members.
Mailing List – Discussion Group - For Saskatchewan and Canadian birders who want to share sightings, trip information or equipment choices. While this group focuses on Saskatchewan, due to the migratory tendencies of many birds I welcome all who wish to contribute. Feel free to post anything and everything that has to do with birdwatching.
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.
Places to Stay
Lakeside Longhorns Guest Ranch
Old Wives Lake is home for thousands of shore birds, as well as major bird sanctuary Isle of Bays.
Last Mountain Bird Observatory
The Last Mountain Bird Observatory (LMBO) is a member of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network, a Canada-wide network of observatories that has been established to monitor populations of migratory songbirds. The Observatory is located in Last Mountain Regional Park.
Brigham Lab - University of Regina
I am interested in the behaviour and ecology of free-living animals under natural conditions. My own work focuses on the roosting and feeding ecology of temperate insect eating bats and nocturnal insectivorous birds called goatsuckers.
Royal Saskatchewan Museum - Ornithology
The RSM Life Sciences collection includes a specimen of the passenger pigeon, a bird that is now extinct. The passenger pigeon's extinction is particularly amazing, because only a century ago it was the most numerous species of bird on the Earth, numbering in the billions! During migration, it was common to see flocks a mile wide flying overhead for 4 and 5 hours at a time. The flocks were so thick that a single shot could bring down 30 or 40 birds at a time! So what happened to them?
Chaplin Lake & the Shorebirds
Chaplin Lake encompasses nearly 20 square miles (45,000 acres ) and is the second largest saline water body in Canada. Shorebird surveys conducted by the Saskatchewan Wetlands Conservation Corporation and Environment Canada`s Canadian Wildlife Service revealed that over 30 species, with a peak count of 67,000 birds in a day using the lake. There was over 50,000 Sanderlings or about 25-50% of their hemispheric population were counted in a single day in and around Chaplin Lake. This area is also one of the top four breeding areas in Saskatchewan for the Piping Plover, an endangered species whose principal breeding area is in Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan, the staging area for the 4,000-kms (2,500-mile) migration, one of the best places in the world to observe the elegant cranes. The environment is stable, the birds are widely dispersed throughout it, and it`s accessible while thinly populated. Whooping cranes can linger more than a month here while foraging for the grain that fuels their long trip…
Operation Burrowing Owl
The Operation Burrowing Owl (OBO) annual census has documented an alarming decline in the owl population, which if continued, could result in the burrowing owl becoming extinct in Canada. The proposed project strives to reverse the continuing decline in Saskatchewan, where over half the remaining Canadian population spend their breeding season…
Photographers & Artists
Photographer - Dan McIntosh
Large gallery of Saskatchewan birds and more…