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.

  • Tina MacDonald


Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 425

    As at June 2018

    Provincial Bird - Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus


  • 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

    | By HW Pinel, WW Smith & CR Wershler | Alberta Museum | 1991 | Paperback | ISBN: 9780773205383 Buy this book from
  • Birds of Alberta

    | By Chris Fisher & John Acorn | Lone Pine Publishing | 1998 | Paperback | 384 pages, colour illustrations | ISBN: 9781551051734 Buy this book from
  • Field Guide to Alberta Birds

    | By W Bruce McGillivray & Glen Semenchuk | Federation of Alberta Naturalists | 1998 | Paperback | 350 pages, colour photos, distribution maps | ISBN: 9780969613428 Buy this book from
  • 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
  • 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
Festivals & Bird Fairs
  • Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory’s Songbird Festival

    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!
  • Beaverhill Bird Observatory

    Observatory WebsiteSatellite 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 WebsiteSatellite 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 & Universities
  • Royal Alberta Museum

    Our primary focus is to document and interpret the distribution, diversity, individual and geographic variation, systematics, and secondarily, the ecology and behaviour of the birds of Alberta. We also acquire material from outside the province to be able to tell the Alberta story well.
  • Royal Alberta Museum

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    Encouraging the appreciation, observation, study, conservation and protection of all components of the natural world….
  • Red Deer River Naturalists

    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

    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

    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

    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.

Abbreviations Key

  • Alberta's Provincial Parks & Protected Areas

    WebsiteSatellite View
    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

    WebpageSatellite 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)

    WebpageSatellite 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

    WebsiteSatellite 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

    WebpageSatellite 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

    WebsiteSatellite 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

    InformationSatellite 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

    WebsiteSatellite 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

    WebpageSatellite 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

    WebsiteSatellite 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

    InformationSatellite 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

    InformationSatellite 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

    WebsiteSatellite 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

    InformationSatellite View
  • PP Lakeland

    WebpageSatellite View
    ...beavers, otters, caribou, lynx, moose or waterfowl...
  • PP Lesser Slave Lake

    WebpageSatellite 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

    InformationSatellite 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

    WebpageSatellite 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
  • Birding Ecotours

    Tour Operator
    Birding Ecotours, a leader in small group and custom-made birding adventures worldwide, offers an amazing tour to the Canadian Rockies in May to see the diverse bird species and spectacular North American mammals!
Trip Reports

Click on WAND to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • 2017 [02 February] - Jay VanderGaast & Chris Benesh

    ...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....
  • 2018 [06 June] - Stefan Schlick

    PDF Report
    y. It was a fun trip where we essentially got almost all of our primary targets including Baird’s and Le Conte’s Sparrow, Mourning, Connecticut, Canada, Blackburnian and Bay-breasted Warbler, but also both longspur species...
  • 2019 [02 February] - Jay VanderGaast

    ...Obviously the main goal of this tour is to see some winter owls, and we definitely did that, though results were a little different than on previous tours. Despite lots of effort and a real promising lead this year, we were unable to find a hawk-owl on the tour for the first time. And Great Gray Owl was also more difficult than usual, though we did ultimately find one bird hunting at dusk on a snowy evening west of Calgary. On the plus side, this was a bumper year for Snowy Owls, and we saw far more than usual, without even a fraction of the effort we usually have to put in. Short-eared Owls were also in good supply, though, as usual, they were all concentrated in a single area. That makes it fun though, as who doesn't enjoy seeing close to a dozen owls all in one spot! A handsome subarcticus Great Horned Owl and a Northern Pygmy-Owl glaring at us from the apex of a nearby spruce rounded out our owl sightings on the tour...
  • 2019 [06 June] - Måns Grundsten

    PDF Report
    ...When planning the trip I had tremendously good use of ebird when finding specific locations for some harder species (e.g. McCown's Longspur, Nelson's and Baird's Sparrow). Weather was somewhat unpredictable, with lots of afternoon rain showers. It was never hot and never really cold. A bit (too) windy at Waterton Lakes, especially in the afternoons. Since it was June many birds were vocally active and hence easier to find. The trip provided a superb variety of nature sceneries and fantastic hiking. From badlands and prairies to vast grassy hills, mountainous landscapes around Waterton Lakes to exquisite boreal settings around Kootenay and Banff...
Places to Stay

Click on WAND to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • Alpenglow Inn B&B

    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

    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
  • Red Deer Lodge

    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

    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.
Other Links
  • Operation Grassland Community - Alberta

    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.
  • Birds Calgary

    A birding blog for Calgary, Alberta & Area
  • Charlotte Wasylik - Prairiebirder

    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

    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.
Photographers & Artists
  • Photographer - Ann Sherba

    Photographs from NW Alberta
  • Photographer - Eddy Matuod - Wild Birds of Alberta

    Some of my recent photos (some are videos) of wild birds taken in Alberta Canada
  • Photographer - Peter Stahl

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

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