Eastern Bluebird Update

Here are two photos I took of the male and female Eastern Bluebirds last Friday afternoon.



The pair have been seen, by the yard owners and by their neighbours, going into a bird box on the property. You can find my original post about the Eastern Bluebirds here.


Whooping Crane Tours

For the first time ever, Parks Canada is offering guided tours to the Whooping Crane nesting grounds in Wood Buffalo National Park in May, June, and August. Wood Buffalo National Park located in northeastern Alberta and the southern Northwest Territories and is the largest national park in Canada.

Birders have been divided about the opportunity — while some have been so quick to take advantage of seeing the cranes that $3,820 Heli-Hike tour is sold out, others are concerned that the added traffic could disturb this endangered species.

Whooping Cranes were close to extinction in the 1940s, and since then the population of cranes in Wood Buffalo National Park has grown to 310 birds and growing about four percent each a year.

What are your thoughts on these tours by Parks Canada? Do you think that these tours will help the cranes by raising awareness of this endangered species, or do you think the added disturbance will upend all the time, money, and effort that has been put into saving this species. You can find more detailed information at the Parks Canada website here.

A Whooping Crane feeding a chick, at Wood Buffalo National Park. Photo by Klaus Nigge/ Parks Canada

A Whooping Crane feeding a chick at Wood Buffalo National Park. Photo by Klaus Nigge/Parks Canada

Spring Arrival Dates for Alberta Birds

Spring Arrival Dates for Alberta Birds

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,


Call for Photos — “Backyard Bird Feeding: An Alberta Guide”

Myrna Pearman, manager and biologist at the Ellis Bird Farm (EBF) in southern Alberta, is updating EBF’s now out-of-print Winter Bird Feeding: An Alberta Guide. The revised book, to be called Backyard Bird Feeding: An Alberta Guide, will cover the feeding of wild birds through all seasons for the province of Alberta.

Myrna is looking for photographs of the following species to include in the book:


Clark’s Nutcracker
Baltimore Oriole (male and female)
Varied Thrush
Wild Turkey
Gray Catbird
Chipping Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Harris’s Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Calliope Hummingbird
Gray –crowned Rosy-finch
Golden-crowned Kinglet

Preferably on/at feeding stations or birdbaths:

Black Bear
Weasel, any species
Saw-whet owl
American Crow
Ruffed Grouse
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow-bellied/Red-naped Sapsucker
Flying Squirrel
Northern or Loggerhead Shrike
Red-winged Blackbird (male and female)


Bald Eagle on roadkill
Townsend’s Solitaire at a birdbath
Mobbing behaviour by feeder birds
Crows washing/dipping food in a birdbath
Any bird bathing in winter
Any bird drinking at a birdbath
Any bird eating grit/oyster shell/eggshells
Feeder bird (preferably Blue Jay) in moult
Displacement behaviour at a feeding station
Cat at or around feeder, or with bird or small mammal in mouth
Woodpeckers pecking at siding/window sills (causing damage)
Any interesting/unusual feeder bird/birdbath behaviour

If you have photos of some of the species listed, please send them to mpearman@ellisbirdfarm.ca no later than January 31, 2015. The final photo selection for the book is February 28, 2015.

Selected photos will be published in the book, and the photographer will be credited and will also receive a complimentary copy of the guide.

The guide is expected to be published in May 2015.

Here’s a photo I submitted — a Harris’s Sparrow from 2013,


Mountain Bluebirds — Nesting Time!

This past Saturday was our Naturalist Society’s annual spring bird count (my post about the count should be published in the next week or so). On the count, I came across a pair of Mountain Bluebirds on the bluebird trail. The other 40 or so boxes on trail are taken over by Tree Swallows who don’t seem to get along too well with the bluebirds.

The Mountain Bluebirds were very co-operative, posing for me nicely and apparently not bothered by me being near them (I was about 30 feet away from the nest box).

Here are a few of my favorite photos of the Mountain Bluebirds from that day,


IMG_4222 IMG_4298 IMG_4401 IMG_4405 IMG_4418 IMG_4420 IMG_4422

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