They’re tapping at our windows, singing us morning songs and tantalizing Alberta’s felines, but who exactly are these little feathered friends? Aside from the obvious red-breasted robins or black-capped chickadees, how much do you know about Alberta’s most common birds?
Below is a brief introduction to Alberta birds! Be prepared to wow your friends with your bird knowledge!
House sparrow: House sparrows are chunky with full chests, rounded heads and stout bills. Males have gray heads, white cheeks, black bibs and reddish-brown necks, while females are a more dull brown. These sparrows are noisy and come out of their nest holes to pick at crumbs or seeds. They’ve been tolerating humans for centuries and are now quite comfortable hanging out on city streets, zoos, parking lots or more.
American tree sparrow: These plump little sparrows keep busy in the winter months, hunting for seeds, weeds and grass heads. In the springtime, these little sparrows head even further north to their breeding grounds in the tundra. You will recognize an American tree sparrow by his rusty cap and eyeliner on a gray, chubby-looking body.
White-throated sparrow: These are flashy little sparrows with spunk to match. They have black and white striped heads, bright white throats and yellow between the eye and bill. To identify a white-throated sparrow, look for a prominent bill, long legs and a narrow tail. You’re most likely to find these little sparrows in wooded area and forest edges. In the winter, they often nest in parks and woodsy suburbs.
Black-capped chickadee: No one can resist these undeniably adorable little birds. Black-capped chickadees have tiny bodies, oversized heads and big eyes. With a black cap and bib, this chickadee is easy to find and is usually happy to investigate people while searching out seeds, berries and birdfeeders. Often nesting in birch or alder trees, black-capped chickadees stay in Alberta year round.
Boreal chickadee: You aren’t likely to find one of these brown-capped chickadees in Southern Alberta. They are one of the only birds that live completely within the biome of the northern boreal forest. They have brownish caps and bibs and white cheeks.
House finch: The house finch has a bright red head and breast with brownish wings and body. Even if you’ve never seen one of these little finches, you’ve probably heard them! Their long, twittering song is heard in neighbourhoods around North America. These little birds are cheerful and like to frequent birdfeeders, just like the little chickadees! They are hardy birds too, happy to make homes in urban and rural areas or in their native habitats of deserts, grasslands and open forest.
Purple finch: You’re most likely to see one of these strawberry-coloured finches in the winter, when they come by to feed from birdfeeders. It’s easy to mix them up with the house finch, but look closely at their colouring and you’ll notice that the red-pink of their faces mixes into the brown and white of their bodies in an almost ombré-toned manner.
Red-breasted nuthatch: These are active, hoppy little birds that make a “yank-yank” sound as they search tree bark for hiding insects. These tiny nuthatches have short tails, a plump body and almost no neck! They are blue-gray in colour with black caps, white stripes above their eyes and a rusty-red underbelly. Look for these bubbly little birds among spruce, fir, pine, hemlock, and poplar trees.
White-breasted nuthatch: Like their red-breasted friends, these nuthatches are full of energy, springing through backyards as they search for bountiful birdfeeders. Do you wonder how the nuthatches got their name? They like to take large nuts and acorns and ram them against trees until the seeds “hatch.” That’s exactly what you can find these black, blue-gray and white nuthatches doing along woodland edges.
Now that you have a very brief introduction to the types of feathered backyard visitors in Alberta, you can share your knowledge! The more you learn about the beautifully diverse, intricate species that inhabit our province, the more you will appreciate the natural world.
Do you want to help AIWC in its mission to conserve, rehabilitate and spread awareness of Alberta wildlife? You can volunteer, donate and much more. For more information on how you can support AIWC, visit https://www.aiwc.ca/support-us/
“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”
By Nina Grossman, AIWC Volunteer