Christmas Bird Count For Kids, 2017

The second annual CBC For Kids event in Calgary will be held on Saturday December 9th at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. This is a great educational opportunity for kids, so if you have a child, grandchild, niece or nephew that you’d like to introduce to birding, register for this free event.

There will be experts on hand to teach the kids how to find and identify birds, but they could always use some more experienced birders to lead the participants on guided walks. If you’d like to help out, contact Zoe MacDougall, Nature Kids Program Coordinator, at naturekids[at]

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

In early October a Golden-crowned Sparrow showed up in the yard of local birder Brian Elder. This species is almost never seen in the city. The bird stayed in the area for a few days, and many local birders were able to see it. Gavin McKinnon photographed it on October 8.

Golden-crowned Sparrow, NW Calgary, October 8, 2017. Photo by Gavin McKinnnon.

Golden-crowned Sparrows are normally found in the western mountains of North America. They breed as far north as Alaska, and migrate to the west coast of the continental US to spend the winter (they are also present in winter on the BC coast and southern mainland, and some overwinter on the western Alaskan coast). The occasional one that turns up here is probably on its way to the west coast of the US.

Golden-crowned Sparrow, NW Calgary, October 8, 2017. Photo by Gavin McKinnnon.

This species is in the genus Zonotrichia, which also includes Harris’s Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, and White-throated Sparrow (all of which can be seen in Calgary), and the Rufous-collared Sparrow which is native to Mexico, Central and South America. White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows breed here, and many more are seen in Calgary on migration as well. Harris’s Sparrow (the only songbird that breeds exclusively in Canada) migrates mostly through Manitoba and Saskatchewan, but a few are seen here every spring and fall.

When the Golden-crowned Sparrow was in Brian’s yard, a Harris’s Sparrow was also present. Gavin photographed this bird too.

Harris’s Sparrow, NW Calgary, October 8, 2017. Photo by Gavin McKinnnon.

At one point, both a White-crowned and a White-throated Sparrow were also there, so Brian had all four of the local Zonotrichia species in his yard at the same time – certainly a very rare and possibly unique circumstance for Calgary.

These four species are all large and similar in structure. Here are the other two local Zonotrichia species, photographed in Calgary in earlier years by Dan Arndt.

White-throated Sparrow, February 2, 2014. Photo by Dan Arndt.

White-crowned Sparrow, September 11, 2015. Photo by Dan Arndt.

All of these birds are first-year or immature birds. Adults are more distinctive but are more often seen in the spring.

Here is a photo of the other Zonotrichia species, the Rufous-collared Sparrow. If you see one of these, you are no longer in Calgary.

Rufous-collard Sparrow from Wikimedia Commons. By BERNARDO VALENTIN – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


South Glenmore Park with the Friends of Fish Creek

Posted By Bob Lefebvre

During the week of October 16 the Friends of Fish Creek birding course groups went to South Glenmore Park, to explore the south side of the Glenmore Reservoir and adjacent wooded areas. Some of the hoped-for target species on the water at this time of year were Trumpeter and Tundra Swans, Surf and White-winged Scoters, and Long-tailed Ducks. Trumpeter Swans and White-winged Scoters were seen, and other birders reported Long-tailed Ducks.

Below are some of the photos that Max Ortiz Aguilar took on the outing on Sunday morning that week. All Photos by Max Ortiz Aguilar, Glenmore Reservoir, October 21, 2017.

Horned Grebe

Red-necked Grebe with fish.

Female Barrow’s Goldeneye.

Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Red-breasted Nuthatch.

To see more of Max’s photos, go to his Flickr page.

If you are interested in joining the Friends of Fish Creek birding courses, see this page. The Winter session begins on January 8, 2018, and they are now taking registrations.

Exploring the Irrigation Canal with the Friends of Fish Creek

Posted By Bob Lefebvre

The fall session of the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park birding course began in early September. In the first week of October, the groups birded along the irrigation canal in SE Calgary, from Gosling Way to 50 Avenue. The canal is drained each year at the end of September, and the first couple of weeks of October are excellent for waterfowl and other birds feeding there.

On October 8, 2017, Max Ortiz Aguilar went with his Sunday morning group and took some excellent photographs. (All photos taken by Max Ortiz Aguilar, Irrigation Canal, Calgary, October 8, 2017.)

One of the star birds here in the fall is the Hooded Merganser. There are usually quite a few in the canal, and you can get good close looks.

Hooded Merganser (male).

Two male and four female-type (female or immature) Hooded Mergansers. The right-hand bird looks like a young male.

The most common shorebird in the fall is the Greater Yellowlegs. Lessers are also seen, but in low numbers. Killdeer and Spotted Sandpipers are usually around, and sometimes you find Dowitchers and even American Golden-Plovers.

Greater Yellowlegs.

Greater Yellowlegs group.

The most common waterfowl here, as on the Bow River, are Canada Geese and Mallards. You can usually see a few hundred on this stretch of the canal. You can also find Northern Shovelers, Redheads, Common Goldeneyes, Common Mergansers, and Double-crested Cormorants feeding in the canal. There are also huge numbers of Ring-billed Gulls, plus Franklin’s Gulls and sometimes uncommon migrant gull species.

Canada Geese and Mallards.

Canada Goose in flight.

American Wigeons are often seen. By this time the adult males are transitioning to breeding plumage, or have already done so.

American Wigeons (females).

You can find quite a few songbird species in the treed areas (especially along the golf course). The chickadees are rather tame.

Black-capped Chickadee.

Owls aren’t usually seen right along the canal but the group got lucky this day.

Great Horned Owl.

Mule Deer can be seen occasionally anywhere along this stretch of the river. You may also see Eastern Gray Squirrels, Coyotes, Red Foxes, Beavers, Muskrats, and American Mink.

Mule Deer.

Finally, the canal is a good place to find the scarce Rusty Blackbird in the fall. You can see them turning over leaves at the water’s edge.

Rusty Blackbird.

To see more of Max’s photos, go to his Flickr page.

If you are interested in joining the Friends of Fish Creek birding courses, see this page. The Winter session begins on January 8, 2018, and they are now taking registrations.


Wild Bird Store Event – 20th Anniversary and Grand Re-opening

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

The Wild Bird Store is one of the few places in Calgary where you can buy good quality bird seed, feeders, and houses, and the only store that specializes in products for birders. Recently they have moved to a new location, and this Saturday, October 21, they will have an all-day 20th anniversary and grand re-opening event at their new location, 5901-3 Street SE (on 58 Avenue, three blocks west of Blackfoot Trail).

Besides the savings for backyard birders, there will be several interesting presentations throughout the day that should interest all local birders: Chris Fisher’s All-Star Critters, Myrna Pearman on Bird Feeding Behavior, and Gus Yaki on Attracting Birds to Your Backyard. At the end, Gus will also do a presentation on the ten-day walk he led this spring from the Saskatchewan border to Writing-On-Stone Provincial park.

The Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society will also be there (with live birds of prey), as will the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation. So there will be plenty going on to interest birders of all ages!

The new Wild Bird Store is located at 5901-3 Street SE.

Introducing Ethan Denton

Posted by Ethan Denton

Hi, I’m Ethan Denton, also known under the pseudonyms BirdBoy and previously BirdBoyCanada. Some of you may know me from other places – notably my website – but here’s some information for those who don’t.

I’m a long-time birder and amateur photographer hailing from Canmore, Alberta. I don’t go in for super-expensive equipment (as a 13-year old buying all his own stuff, I simply can’t afford it), but I have a decent scope and camera, and I’m in the market for new binoculars.

I have been coordinating the Canmore half of the Banff-Canmore Christmas Bird Count for the last three years, and in 2016 I organized the Bow Valley’s first ever CBC4Kids, or Kids Christmas Bird Count. I have attended the BowKan Bird Counts since age 6, and I have missed only one of these bi-annual events.

I post regularly about my experiences, birding events in Southern Alberta, and anything else that I find interesting in the birding world on, and I am currently working on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Home Study Course in Bird Biology. If you have any questions or comments, about me or my work, feel free to email me at!

Why does this matter? Well, from now on, I will be an occasional poster here, on Birds Calgary! Exhibiting photos and events, profiling interesting species, and other things along those lines – not a lot, but just enough to be a consistent contributor. Here are a few of my more recent photos – I know looking at lots of words can be a bit dull!

Western Tanager

Western Tanager, Canmore, August 21, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton

Common Merganser

Common Merganser, Canmore, September 30, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton

Autumn Birds by Tony LePrieur

Some birds photographed in Calgary and area this fall by Tony LePrieur.

Warbling Vireo

Solitary Sandpiper

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

American Redstart

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

Greater Yellowlegs

Wilson’s Warbler

Cedar Waxwing

Common Grackle

Song Sparrow

Great Horned Owl


Swainson’s Hawk

White-throated Sparrow

Greater Yellowlegs

To see more of Tony’s nature photographs, see his Flickr page.

Summer Birds by Tony LePrieur

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

We’re back! After a really long summer hiatus, it’s time to get posting again. I have a lot of great photos that readers have sent in, and we’ll start with some of Tony LePrieur’s excellent photos of summer birds. Be sure to check back on Friday for his photos of a wide variety of mammals.

First I wanted to mention that although it may seem like a quiet time of year, especially with the steady hot weather we have had, the past couple of weeks have been pretty good for fall warblers and other migrants. Confederation Park in the NW and several locations in the river valleys (notably Mallard Point in Fish Creek Park and Carburn Park in the SE) have had some good birds. Black-and-white, Townsend’s, Magnolia, Canada, Blackburnian, Mourning and Cape May Warblers have all been reported, among others. A Lark Sparrow has been seen at Mallard Point.

I also wanted to mention that a Peregrine Falcon has been seen perched on the Peter Lougheed Hospital in NE Calgary on two occasions by reader R. Michael Fisher, on August 12 and 20. It may be worth checking for it if you’re in the area.

And now for Tony’s photos.

Cedar Waxwing, Fish Creek Park, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Eastern Kingbird, Fish Creek Park, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Spotted Sandpiper, Fish Creek Park, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Great Gray Owl, Priddis area, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Great Gray Owl, Priddis area, June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Calliope Hummingbird, Weaselhead. June 18, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Sora, Bridlewood Wetlands, June 25, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Black-crowned Night-Heron, Fish Creek Park, June 25, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Wood Duck female with chicks, Carburn Park, June 25, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Yellow Warbler, Carburn Park, June 25, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Yellow-headed Blackbird, Frank Lake, June 25, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Wilson’s Phalarope, Frank Lake, June 25, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Yellow Warbler, Fish Creek Park, July 3, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

Black-crowned Night-Heron, Fish Creek Park, July 3, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

To see more of Tony’s photos, go to his Flickr page.


Autumn Birding Course 2017

Registration is open for the popular Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society Autumn Birding Course.

Autumn Birding Course – Registration Now Open

Autumn Birding Course Starts Monday, September 4, 2017

Autumn is one of the best times of year for birding. Between September and December, you can see, hear and learn about more than 150 bird species. As the leaves drop off the trees in the cooler months, many of the smaller migratory birds will be much easier to see. Outings are conducted by Gus Yaki, a lifelong  naturalist who has birded around the world – and other experienced instructors. All birding course sessions are held in the great outdoors – in Fish Creek Provincial Park and other natural areas. Each outing is approx. 2.5 hours. Choose to come 1 or 2 days / week.

Each outing is approx. 2.5 hours. Start times Monday – Thursday: 9:15am
Saturdays: 9:00am, Sundays: 9:00am or 1:15pm Choose to come 1 or 2 days / week

2017-18 Friends of Fish Creek Membership fees: Individual: $35.00, Family: $45.00
Senior (60 or over): $25.00, Senior Family: $30.00. Renew Your Membership or Become a Member

Registration Required. Click here to Register

Photo of Long-eared Owl courtesy of Phil Smith

Copyright © 2017 Friends of Fish Creek, All rights reserved.

Birds & Beers, August 2017

The first Birds & Beers social event of the fall season will be held on Thursday, August 17. We have normally met on Fridays in the past but we are trying a Thursday evening in the hope that the venue will be a little quieter and less busy.

Royal Canadian Legion, Centennial Calgary Branch #285

9202 Horton Road SW

Thursday August 17, 2017, 6:00-9:00 pm

American Robin fledglings, July 23, 2017. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

As a special treat, Gus Yaki will present a slide show and talk about his Prairie Walk. This spring, to celebrate Canada 150, Gus led a group of about 40 people on a walk along the southern Alberta border from Saskatchewan to British Columbia. Come out to hear about the birds and other wildlife they saw, and see photos of the trip.

The event will start at 6 pm and there will be lots of time for a meal or drink and a visit with your fellow birders before Gus speaks after 7 pm.

Everyone is welcome, including children if accompanied by an adult. See you there!