Spring is approaching and birds are preparing to fly north to their nesting grounds, so it’s time to start thinking about when spring migrants will arrive.
I recently asked a question on the Alberta Birds Facebook group about possible blog ideas — Delores and Karen each suggested a post of what species to expect in the spring, and the general arrival dates of migrating birds in Alberta. With that suggestion, I’ve created a list of spring arrival dates (March through May according to eBird) for species that migrate though and breed in the province of Alberta. I used the eBird frequency graphs for my arrival dates data.
In this list, I didn’t include species that are rare in Alberta during spring migration, resident or irruptive species, and species that are more frequently encountered during the winter months.
I also didn’t include species such as Killdeer, American Robins, Red-winged Blackbirds, American Goldfinches, and some species of waterfowl, since these species overwinter in parts of Alberta — mainly Calgary and Edmonton — and it’s too hard to average out their arrival date. If you’re interested in finding out when these species will arrive in your area — click here.
Please keep in mind that Alberta is a vast province with a variety of habitats and species arrival dates will vary based on your location in the province. The arrival date will be earlier in Calgary but later in my home area (seven hours north of Calgary). For example, the first arrival date for Barn Swallows in Calgary is April 15th, while it’s April 22nd in my area.
A male Ruby-throated Hummingbird,
A Barn Swallow in our yard from June 2011,
Here are the average arrival dates for some of the more common Alberta species. If you think of a species that’s missing from the list, please let me know and I’ll add it to this list.
First arrival date: March 1st
Ruddy Duck, Ring-billed Gull, Canvasback, American Coot, and Snow Goose.
First arrival date: March 8th
Mountain Bluebird, White-crowned Sparrow, Great Blue Heron, Purple Finch, Rusty Blackbird, Franklin’s Gull, Hooded Merganser, Brewer’s Blackbird, Ferruginous Hawk, Wood Duck, and Ring-necked Duck.
First arrival date: March 15th
Red-tailed Hawk, Chipping Sparrow, Double-crested Cormorant, Tree Swallow, Northern Shoveler, Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Say’s Phoebe, and Greater White-fronted Goose.
First arrival date: March 22nd
Swainson’s Hawk, Common Loon, Ruddy Duck, American White Pelican, American Avocet, Sandhill Crane, Red-necked Grebe, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Western Grebe, Thayer’s Gull, Fox Sparrow, Black-necked Stilt, and Greater Yellowlegs.
First arrival date: April 1st
Osprey, Turkey Vulture, Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, Savannah Sparrow, Eastern Phoebe, Clay-coloured Sparrow, McCrown’s Longspur, Bonaparte’s Gull, Spotted Sandpiper, Cassin’s Finch, Violet-green Swallow, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Marsh Wren, Chestnut-collared Longspur, and Solitary Sandpiper.
First arrival date: April 8th
Wilson’s Snipe, Black-crowned Night Heron, Red-naped Sapsucker, American Bittern, Yellow-headed Blackbird, American Pipit, White-winged Scoter, Spotted Towhee, and Lesser Yellowlegs.
First arrival date: April 15th
Loggerhead Shrike, Vesper Sparrow, Barn Swallow, Common Yellowthroat, Willet, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Rough-winged Swallow, Marbled Godwit, Hermit Thrush, White-faced Ibis, Sprague’s Pipit, and Semipalmated Plover.
First arrival date: April 22nd
House Wren, Purple Martin, Wilson’s Phalarope, Grasshopper Sparrow, Common Tern, Cliff Swallow, Pectoral Sandpiper, Swainson’s Thrush, Eastern Kingbird, Nelson’s Sparrow, Sora, Le Conte’s Sparrow, Brown-headed Cowbird, Nashville Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Bank Swallow, and Upland Sandpiper.
First arrival date: May 1st
Tennesse Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Least Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Yellow Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, Baird’s Sparrow, Palm Warbler, Lark Sparrow, Western Tanager, Brown Thrasher, Black-and-white Warbler, Rufous Hummingbird, Rock Wren, Black-throated Green Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Piping Plover, Brewer’s Sparrow, Philadelphia Vireo, Northern Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Winter Wren, and American Golden Plover.
First arrival date: May 8th
Red-eyed Vireo, Black Tern, Calliope Hummingbird, Veery, American Redstart, Blue-headed Vireo, Western Kingbird, Cassin’s Vireo, Black-bellied Plover, Lazuli Bunting, Canada Warbler, Golden-crowned Sparrow, and Whooping Crane.
First arrival date: May 15th
Grey Catbird, Magnolia Warbler, MacGillvray’s Warbler, Black-headed Grosbeak, Bay-breasted Warbler, Lark Bunting, Bullock’s Oriole, Mourning Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, and Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
First arrival date: May 22nd
Common Nighthawk, Sedge Wren, and Great Crested Flycatcher.
You can look up your own arrival dates on eBird, here.
A male and female Northern Shoveler in early April 2014,
Excellent post Charlotte; I will enjoy watching species arrival dates. I sure hope some don’t return too early and get themselves into trouble.
Yes, if the birds arrive too early, they sometimes don’t make it.
Great Idea Charlotte, I will add that I saw 2 starlings on feb14th this year.
Excellent, Bob, I haven’t seen any starlings in Alberta yet this year.
Thank you, Charlotte for this EXCELLENT Birding Information!!
Lorraine Oakes Blackfalds, Alberta
Sent from my iPad
Thanks, Lorraine. I had fun putting the list together!
It was March 16 about 1998. I was walking on the dry slope east of Lake Sikome. About 40 to 50 mountain bluebirds suddenly landed in a small aspen sapling. The sunlight lit up the scene as if someone had switched on strings of brilliant blue Christmas lights.
That must have been such a wonderful experience! I would love to see so many Mountain Bluebirds in one place.
Great post.. I am anxious for the Spring birds to arrive.. Happy birding!
In the Larkspur area, saw my first starlings today and heard Canada Geese.
Wonderful news, Patricia!
I love that someone else put something like this together, very cool and great work! I had set something up using the same process with eBird for my county in Virginia that has map links to where each species is currently so one can do quick checks for a number of species as they’re closing in (http://www.rbnature.com/distribution/spring-arrivals/). One thing I remember noting is that the line graphs in eBird show the % frequencies for a week based on the start date (1 Mar, 8 Mar, 15 Mar, 22 Mar, etc.), but I chose to use the median point of the week as the arrival date since all you can tell from the line graph is that sometime during that week, the birds are first being reported and it might not necessarily be on the first day; it seemed like a good average which is why on my table it’ll list 4 Mar, 11 Mar, 18 Mar, etc. I manage the eBird filters for Virginia, US and use that methodology when providing the acceptable windows for birds that aren’t permanent residents, so far it has worked quite well for my area!
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I have not seen or heard a Robin in Haysboro in Calgary this year, why would this be? My daughter has lots in her neighbourhood about 10km away northwest.