Where to Bird
One question we get asked a lot is 'where are the best locations to go birding around Calgary Alberta?'. Where you decide to go will determine what birds you'll see and how enjoyable your trip will be. We've scored some of our favorite locations based on three criteria:
The quantity and uniqueness of birds likely to be encountered.
Is the habitat squalid or postcard worthy?
How much time will you need to invest to reach the destination.
Inglewood Bird Sanctuary
This is the essential location for a Calgarian to go birding and we love it. Not only is it a beautiful part of the city but it houses some unique species and is solid year round. Be sure to get there early.
Look for: bald eagles and wood ducks.
Even though Griffith Woods is near our house it took us a while to discover. The park has mixed forests along the Elbow River and a couple storm ponds. It is the most westerly birding site within Calgary city limits.
Look for: hummingbirds, catbirds and mountain bluebirds.
Kinbrook Island Provincial Park
This park is about 15km away from Brooks AB which is an amazing area for birds. Kinbrook has protected wetlands with a trail going all the way around them. The campground is fairly empty during shoulder seasons and is a great place to walk around.
Look for: ring-necked pheasants, ring-necked ducks and common grackles.
The first time we visited Carburn Park we weren't impressed because we went in the wrong direction. After hearing about an oriole in the area we decided to check it out again and changed our mind. It could still be better if there wasn't so much road noise.
Look for: baltimore orioles, house wrens and yellow warblers.
Weaselhead Wildlife Area
This is where the Bird Nerds started out and it's still a favorite place of ours. There are storm ponds at the top of North Glenmore Park, the reservoir, trails that run next to the residential area, and the Weaselhead itself. In winter someone puts down seed making this one of the best places from January to May.
Look for: blue jays, common redpoll and pine grosbeak.
Waterton National Park
Waterton National Park is one of the most incredible places in Alberta. The location and habitat are unique in the province and you'll find a wide assortment of birds, plants, and animals that you won't find in other places. Tip: the rest stops on Red Rock Parkway can reveal some very awesome birds.
Look for: lazuli buntings, Steller's jay, and black-headed grosbeak.
Willow Creek Campground
Willow Creek Provincial Park is in a beautiful part of Alberta. The back roads between Nanton and this destination can yield lots of birds. The grasslands in the area stretch for miles and miles and out of nowhere a large grove of trees appears. Be sure to check out the historical tee-pee rings along the creek.
Look for: red-naped sapsuckers, cliff swallows and eastern kingbirds.
This Ducks Unlimited site in legendary in birding circles. Located just outside of High River this location has birds you won't see anywhere else. The scenery isn't the nicest, the smells aren't the greatest, and you may want a mosquito net -- this place is all about the birds! Be sure to check out Rio Alto for the best Mexican food in Southern Alberta.
Look for: white-faced ibises, black-necked stilts and tundra swans.
Elk Island National Park
This national park has recorded over 250 species of birds within its boundaries! On top of that the scenery is absolutely stunning. When we visit the area we also make sure to stop by Beaverhill Lake which is another incredible area to see birds; especially shorebirds!
Look for: western tanagers, vireos, and bitterns.
Fish Creek Provincial Park
Fish Creek is one of our favorite places to go single-track mountain biking and it's easy to forget that it's located inside a major city. We have seen a wide assortment of birds here and some have been pretty rare. The one drawback is that the birds are often perched high in the trees and the populations are less dense than other places.
Look for: pileated woodpeckers, western tanagers, and pygmy owls.
Being familiar with a set of locations is an essential for any birder. There isn't a 'best' place for us but rather each place offers its own unique set of benefits. In many cases, research leads us to a particular place to find a new bird, but we're always happy to explore a new place.