Tag Archive | Must-see birds

Must-see Birds: August

August means migration for many birds here in Calgary while others are having a second brood of young ones or are concentrating on raising their first brood. This month’s birds are:

1. Common Loon

Best known for its lonely echoing calls that are considered by most people to be heard in unspoiled wilderness. The Common Loon has a seemingly star-studded back, a white necklace and a bright red eye that stands out in the right light. The Common Loon can stay underwater for long periods, up to a minute while feeding and longer if the bird is escaping from danger. Common Loons inhabit clear, open lakes where there are few people and plenty of fish. They can be seen in the mountains, foothills, parkland and boreal forest but are few in the grasslands.

2. Western Meadowlark

A stocky bird with a grayish brown back and a yellow breast with a black V on the bib, the male Western Meadowlark delivers a rich melodious song from posts in the grasslands. The Meadowlark breeds where there is a thick growth of weeds and grasses, laying 3-7 white eggs. The male bird is beautiful and defends his territory with various displays. Look for the Meadowlark in grasslands around Calgary.

File:Western Meadowlark.jpg

Image courtesy Wikipedia

 3. Yellow-headed Blackbird

Our third bird is the loud and noisy Yellow-headed Blackbird. The male is easily recognized by his bright yellow head and neck, black eye patch and white wing patch. the female is brown and mottled with a faint yellow head. The Yellow-headed Blackbird nests in the same marshes as Red-winged Blackbird and will displace the smaller Red-winged Blackbird from the prime nesting spots. The yellow-headed Blackbird is easy to see at Frank lake.


4. Black-crowned Night-Heron

A small stocky heron that at times appears to have no neck, the Black-crowned Night-Heron has a greenish black crown and long slender white head plumes. Most active at night, the Black-crowned Night-Heron was not observed in Alberta until 1958; it is now a local breeder. these herons colonize large bodies of water with dense emergent vegetation; I have seen them at Frank lake every time I have gone there during the spring and summer.

5.  Peregrine Falcon

Our final bird this month is the speedy Peregrine falcon.One of the swiftest birds in the world when diving at prey, it can attain speeds of over 300km/h when diving. The adults are blue-grey above with barred underparts and a dark head with thick sideburns. One of the most widespread birds in the world, the name peregrine means ‘wanderer’ and the Peregrine falcon has one of the longest migrations of any North American bird. Look for this fast falcon nesting on the U of C campus and at shorebird concentration spots like Weed lake, where a Peregrine will hunt the migrating shorebirds.

File:Falco peregrinus nest USFWS.jpg

Image courtesy Wikipedia

These are our 5 birds for August, see which ones you can find! We will have our final must-see birds post on September 1.

Posted by Matthew Sim

5 Must-see birds: July

July is another great month to go birdwatching in the Calgary region. By now, most birds are in the process of raising hungry families while others, such as hummingbirds and certain shorebirds, start their southward migration in late July. Our must-see birds for July are as follows:

1. Western Grebe

Featured before in one of our previous posts (Grebes, Grebes, Grebes), the Western Grebe is a gregarious grebe that is easily recognized thanks to its contrasting black and white plumage, thin green-yellow bill and slender neck. Colonial nesters, the Western Grebe is usually found on medium to large lakes such as Frank Lake ( Glenmore reservoir during migration) where they mainly consume small fish.

A pair of Western Grebes, front, on a crowded Frank lake.

2. Rose-breasted Grosbeak

The male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a beautiful black-and-white songbird with a rosy red breast, lives up to its name. The female is a brownish-streaked bird with yellow wing linings. Emitting a robin-like song, only richer, more energetic and more rapidly delivered, both male and female Rose-breasted Grosbeak sing.  This bird may be seen in the Glenmore and the Weaselhead area or at Griffith Woods along the banks of the Elbow River in southwest Calgary.

Adult male Rose-breasted Grosbeak feeding a juvenile.

3. Canvasback

The largest diving duck found in the province, I find Canvasbacks to be very beautiful.  The male is resplendent with a canvas coloured back and a chestnut head and neck.  This species prefers lakes and ponds with emergent vegetation and vegetated margins. Weed lake is a good place to observe these ducks. The Canvasback uses its long sloping bill to strain seeds from the mud on the bottom of ponds.

4. Wilson’s Phalarope

The only shorebirds that normally swim,  the sex roles are reversed in phalaropes, the female being larger and more colorful than the male; a black stripe going down from the eye, down the side of the neck and then merging into chestnut. Favouring sloughs and shallow lakes where wet meadows and grassy marshes are present, the Wilson’s Phalarope may be seen on most southeast sloughs and lakes.

5. Cinnamon Teal

Our final bird for the month of July is the Cinnamon Teal, a conspicuous cinnamon red duck that is striking in the right light. This teal prefers shallow lake margins, marshes and ponds; on larger bodies of water, it is never found very far from shore. Look for Cinnamon Teal in early July, before they molt, in the southeast sloughs, Frank Lake, or in Fish Creek at Burnsmead, among other spots.

Let us know which of these birds you saw this month! Happy Canada Day!

Posted by Matthew Sim