Did you know that some of Canada’s best bird watching can be found in northern Alberta? Three major North American flyways converge in northern Alberta’s boreal forest, creating a veritable aviary autobahn that’s a top spot for budding ornithologists. Over 260 bird species in total pass through the region’s pristine lakes, diverse forest & fertile wetlands.
So break out the binoculars and hush your tones as we explore some of Canada’s best birding destinations, where your chances of viewing abundant flocks and rare species soar.
Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation
Situated within the northern half of the province, Alberta’s boreal forest covers nearly 35 million hectares (approximately 52% of the province’s total land area). The boreal forest is characterized by mixed wood forests comprised of both coniferous (spruce and pine) and deciduous (poplar and birch) tree species.
Located along a significant pathway for migratory birds is Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park. This unique education and research centre promotes the importance of our boreal forest for the millions of birds that arrive each spring. Explore the interactive exhibits, birding trails, education programs, plus share the excitement of important research being conducted at the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory. Each spring the Boreal Centre hosts the Annual Songbird Festival celebrating the wonders of migration.
1.866.718.BIRD (2473) Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation
Lesser Slave Lake
Lesser Slave Lake is a bird watchers heaven with over 260 species flocking to the regions forests and wetlands in early spring. Designated an Important Bird Area, Lesser Slave Lake provides habitat for many migratory and breeding birds along its shores. Ospreys, Bald Eagles, White Pelicans, Western Grebes, Wood Warblers, waterfowl and shorebirds can be spotted throughout summer.
1.800.267.4654 Lesser Slave Lake
Is fishing more your speed? Check out the guide to angling in northern Alberta
Wood Buffalo National Park
Each spring and fall four flyways pass through the remote Peace-Athabasca Delta in Canada’s largest National Park. 227 species have been spotted here including American Bitterns and Sandpipers. Near Fort Smith, listen to marsh birds sing and look for nesting colonies of swallows and Sandhill Cranes. With luck, perhaps the elusive Whooping Crane will make an appearance. Wood Buffalo National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage and Ramsar site.
1.867.872.7960 Wood Buffalo National Park
McLennan, Alberta: Kimiwan Lake Naturalist Society
Dubbed “Canada’s Birding Capital” here one can view over 200 species of birds along the wetlands of Kimiwan Lake. You will find thousands of waterfowl, shore and water birds throughout the summer and fall migration. Along with the Kimiwan Birdwalk, there’s an exciting interpretive center, offering displays and educational resources for visitors of all ages. Tours of the facility and the bird walk can be self-guided or guided by an experienced birder.
1.780.324.2004 Kimiwan Lake Naturalist Society
The diverse natural landscapes in the Grande Prairie area are home to an amazing variety of birds. Look for warblers and tanagers in the mixed-wood forests on Saskatoon Mountain. Prairie species like Meadowlarks and Vesper Sparrows frequent Kleskun Hill or explore the lakeshore and Saskatoon shrubs at Saskatoon Island Provincial Park. Saskatoon Island is a Federal Migratory Bird Sanctuary and part of the Grande Prairie Trumpeter Swan Important Bird Area. Swans nest in the park and can also be observed on other lakes in the region.
1.866.202.2202 Grande Prairie
The most northerly county of Alberta offers a surprising variety of boreal - as well as increasing evidences of parkland species - resulting from the opening of farmland. Owl enthusiasts will enjoy the numbers and variety of species found here including Great Gray, Great Horned, Boreal and Short-eared Owls. Ruffed, Spruce and Sharp-tailed Grouse are present as well as Striking Rock and Willow Ptarmigan in the winter.
Peregrine Falcon sightings occur year round, while Great Blue Herons nest in the west region, and pelicans at Wadlin Lake. Huge flocks of Snow, Canada and Greater White-fronted Geese and other migratory species will be seen in spring and fall. Whooping Cranes are occasionally spotted on their spring migration to Wood Buffalo National Park!
1.780.927.4603 Mackenzie Region
Geotourism Canada – Grimshaw, Alberta.
GeoTourism Canada has created a free and easy to use GoVADO guide for bird watching in Northern Alberta – it’s free and easy to use and they continue to expand their listings this summer! Collect a limited edition sticker from each site and enter to win a great prize!
Athabasca sits in the heart of the mixed wood boreal forest, beside the upland and lowland forests; significant physical features include shrub land, the mighty Athabasca River, creeks, lakes and clearing caused by agricultural, forestry activities and fire. There are seven bird watching stations situated around Athabasca Country where you can view over 220 different species.
1.877.211.8669 Athabasca Region
The most notable bird that calls Crane Lake home is the Sandhill Crane. Learn about the reclamation efforts of the oil sands, part of Suncor Energy’s past mining activities. Walk the interpretive trails where over 130 species of birds migrate through the spring and fall. Fort McMurray is the gateway to incredible experiences in the boreal forest and Wood Buffalo National Park.
1.800.565.3947 Fort McMurray
Mighty Peace Country
The Mighty Peace Country is home to three central flyways and hundreds of species of birds, including Bald and Golden Eagles and the endangered Whooping crane. When birding in Peace Country be sure to take a break at one of our many festivals, rodeos and events. Your choice of 53 campgrounds, 16 museums and 15 golf courses awaits!
1.800.215.4535 Mighty Peace Tourism
Northern Sunrise County
While travelling through Northern Sunrise County, available sites for bird watching vary from roadside lookouts to treks on secluded paths. From the 12 Foot Davis Gravesite to more remote locations such as Haig Lake, bird enthusiasts will be immersed in a true boreal wilderness outing.
1.780.624.0013 Northern Sunrise County
So get out there, get active and reconvene with nature this spring.
Bird watching combines the challenges of a scavenger hunt with the chance to explore some magnificent areas of nature beauty. Birding also provides people of all ages with the opportunity to increase awareness of our precious natural assets and fragile ecosystems.
Northern Alberta has endless opportunities to hit the links. Check out the complete guide to golfing in the region.
Click here for more information on visiting northern Alberta
This story was commissioned by Travel Alberta
Share and discuss this story with your friends
Located: Toronto Canada