Crowsnest Pass

Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, bursts with wildlife

Pack your binoculars and head to the Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, for awe-inspiring birdwatching

A pair of merganser ducks rest on the bank of a river in the Crowsnest Pass, Alberta.
Common mergansers breed in the Crowsnest Pass but migrate south in the fall. — Merilyn Liddell photo

Tourists can expect various wildlife-focused events throughout the summer months in the Crowsnest Pass. Five communities make up the municipality of Crowsnest, a long and narrow valley stretching along the Crowsnest River. “The majority of people here have lived here for a long time and appreciate it for the surrounding landscape,” said Elizabeth Anderson, a member of the Crowsnest Conservation Society. The recreational lifestyle is contagious for locals and tourists alike, with seasonal sports like mountain biking, hiking, fishing, quading and snowmobiling at their back door.

Aside from extreme mountain sports, Crowsnest Pass offers fantastic birding experiences for tourists looking to enjoy the outdoors and learn along the way. Informative signage dots the beaten birding paths guiding visitors through each lookout point.

A major drawing point is the seasonal migration of golden eagles along the Livingstone Ridge.

Pictured is the Crowsnest Pass from Peter Sherrington's eagle observation post at the south end of Livingstone Ridge.
Pictured is the Crowsnest Pass from Peter Sherrington's eagle observation post at the south end of Livingstone Ridge. Each year thousands of golden eagles migrate past this point. — Merilyn Liddell photo

“There has been up to 5,000 counted in one fall,” said Anderson. “The Livingstone Ridge is a part of the first mountain range that visitors encounter coming from the east.” It is common for locals and tourists to flock to the migration path to count the golden eagles as they pass.

“Crowsnest Pass has a great diversity of birds,” said Merilyn Liddell, a member of the Crowsnest Conservation Society’s birding committee. “We have everything from raptors like turkey vultures and golden eagles down to the Calliope hummingbird,” she said. The variety of habitats present in Crowsnest Pass makes such a range of birds possible. Each spring, local birdwatchers comb the area with binoculars to count the range of species making an appearance.

A hairy woodpecker searches for insects on a tree branch.
The hairy woodpecker is a year-round resident of the Crowsnest Pass. While birding is mostly seasonal—during the spring and summer as well as into the fall, some birds reside here year-round. — Merilyn Liddell photo

“I live here—I watch for every bird,” said Liddell, when asked which birds are most popular in the area. Aside from the first big count of the season, the Conservation Society tracks all reported bird sightings throughout the birding season.

“There are some wonderful spots in Crowsnest Pass to watch for the birds in migration,” said Liddell. In Coleman, visitors should check out Miner’s Pass. This lookout point is best watched on a day with howling winds. The area is protected from the wind, providing shelter for birds. “It’s one of my favourite places,” she said. “But it’s really hard because there are so many places that we go to check out for birds.”

A ruddy duck swims in calm waters.
The ruddy duck frequently stops over during spring and fall migration times. — Merilyn Liddell photo

“We have a community walking trail that stretches across Crowsnest Pass,” Liddell said.

The walking trail is a great place for visitors to start if they are looking for birds. Riverwalk, between Blairmore and Coleman, is home to a variety of birds that make an appearance early in the morning or late into the evening, including waterfowl, shorebirds, bluebirds and raptors. “Even though you can hear the nearby traffic and trains, there is an amazing amount of birds,” she said.

Along the walking trail between Blairmore and Frank, visitors can expect to see plenty of birds in the spring and summer. “Things are hopping there right now,” said Liddell, an avid birdwatcher herself who loves this area for the variety of warblers, sparrows and raptors.

With so many events planned for the summer months, it’s impossible to list them all in one place. The Crowsnest Conservation Society has ample information for interested visitors. Guided birding tours are held throughout the summer during the scheduled events. For full event guides, see the Crowsnest Conservation Society website.


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