Search
Close this search box.

Our Blog

Top 6 Mountain Marvels of Alberta

Share

By Holly Hastings

A symphony of species defying the odds exists in the airy domain of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. Let’s countdown four extraordinary species that survive despite the odds in this ruthless habitat.
Can you guess which animal is #1?

#6 Gray-crowned Rosy Finch

Grey-crowned rosy finch, Photo by basarov, CC BY-NC 4.0

This pink and brown songbird is the highest altitude breeding bird in North America!1 These little birds breed around 1,000 to 2,500 meters2 above sea level in the Rockies as well as other mountains like the Brooks Range, the Cascades, the Sierra Nevada, and Alaska’s Aleutian and Pribilof Islands.3 One fearless female, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch was recorded to be a whopping 6 years and 7 months old.4

#5 Hoary Marmot

Hoary marmot. Public Domain.

This little fella is one of 15 species of marmot, all of which have habitats at high mountainous elevations worldwide.5 Hoary marmot habitats range from sea level to 2,500 meters above sea level.6 Interestingly, this large ground squirrel spends 80% of its life underground.7

#4 American Pika

American pika. Public Domain.

This small little type of lagomorph might look adorable, but they are one of North America’s toughest animals.8 American pika’s thrive in inhospitable environments that other mammals don’t enjoy like treeless mountain slopes.9 around 3,000 meters above sea level.10 They are often heard well before they are seen with a squeaky squeal that asks you to stay out of their territory!11

#3 Clark's Nutcracker

Clark's nutracker in Banff National Park. Photo by David Wilson CC BY 2.0

Also known as Clark’s crow or woodpecker crow, the Clark’s nutcracker lives in open coniferous forests along western North America.12 Their habitats vary from 915 to 3,650 meters above sea level.13 This bird has a special pouch under its tongue in which it stores pine seeds to carry great distances; research has shown that an individual hides thousands of seeds throughout the year, and their magnificent memory allows them to find most of them again! 14

#2 Mountain Goat

Mountain goat female and kid. Public Domain.

Did you know they aren’t actually true goats? Mountain goats are in the same family as true goats (like the domestic goat) but are not the same genus.15 They thrive in alpine and subalpine environments, sometimes above 4,000 meters above sea level.16 Mountain “goats” can be found throughout Alberta’s Rocky Mountains.17

Honourable Mention: Golden Eagle

Golden eagle. Photo by Don Delaney.

Twice a year the glorious golden eagle migrates across the Rocky Mountains through what is called “The Eagle Highway” to Alaska/the Yukon and back down to Mexico.18 They have become so prominently spotted resting at altitudes up to 2,010 meters in the Rockies19 that they have their own dedicated observation sites.20

#1 White-tailed Ptarmigan

White-tailed ptarmigans. Photo by Daniel Arndt CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

These small grouse have exquisite camouflage for the tundra habitats spanning Alaska to New Mexico.21 They live above the tree line for most of the year, exceeding 4,600 meters above sea level, but they descend into the tree line during bitter winter weather.22

References

  1. “Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch,” Cornell Lab All About Birds, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Gray-crowned_Rosy-Finch/overview#
  2. “Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch (Leucosticte tephrocotis),” Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, https://www.birdatlas.bc.ca/accounts/speciesaccount.jsp?sp=GCRF&lang=en#:~:text=Most%20breeding%20is%20at%201%2C000,areas%20during%20the%20nesting%20season.
  3. “Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch,” Cornell Lab All About Birds, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Gray-crowned_Rosy-Finch/overview#
  4. “Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch,” Cornell Lab All About Birds, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Gray-crowned_Rosy-Finch/overview#
  5. Dana Mayor, “Marmot,” A-Z Animals, https://a-z-animals.com/animals/marmot/
  6. Braun et al., “Marmota caligata (Rodentia: Sciuridae)”, https://academic.oup.com/mspecies/article/43/884/155/2642989?login=false
  7. Dana Mayor, “Marmot,” A-Z Animals, https://a-z-animals.com/animals/marmot/
  8. “American Pika,” National Wildlife Federation, https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Mammals/American-Pika
  9. “American Pika,” National Wildlife Federation, https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Mammals/American-Pika
  10. “American Pika,” OneKind Planet, https://www.onekindplanet.org/animal/american-pika/
  11. “American Pika,” National Wildlife Federation, https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Mammals/American-Pika
  12. “Clark’s Nutcracker,” Cornell Lab All About Birds, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Clarks_Nutcracker/overview
  13. “Clark’s Nutcracker,” Cornell Lab All About Birds, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Clarks_Nutcracker/overview
  14. “Clark’s Nutcracker,” Cornell Lab All About Birds, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Clarks_Nutcracker/overview
  15. Hannah Featherman, “Eight Facts About Mountain Goats You Should Know,” National Forest Foundation, https://www.nationalforests.org/blog/eight-facts-about-mountain-goats
  16. Hannah Featherman, “Eight Facts About Mountain Goats You Should Know,” National Forest Foundation, https://www.nationalforests.org/blog/eight-facts-about-mountain-goats
  17. Hannah Featherman, “Eight Facts About Mountain Goats You Should Know,” National Forest Foundation, https://www.nationalforests.org/blog/eight-facts-about-mountain-goats
  18. Dixon, Tyler., October 17, 2014, “The Eagle Highway,” Calgary Guardian, https://calgaryguardian.com/the-eagle-highway/
  19.  “Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos),” Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia,https://www.birdatlas.bc.ca/accounts/speciesaccount.jsp?lang=en&sp=GOEA
  20. Dixon, Tyler., October 17, 2014, “The Eagle Highway,” Calgary Guardian, https://calgaryguardian.com/the-eagle-highway/
  21. “White-tailed Ptarmigan,” Cornell Lab All About Birds, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/White-tailed_Ptarmigan/overview
  22. “White-tailed Ptarmigan,” Cornell Lab All About Birds, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/White-tailed_Ptarmigan/overview

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Intelligence of Magpies

By Courtney Collins Black-billed magpies (Pica hudsonia) are found throughout Alberta and much of western Canada.1 While many regard these birds as pests, often due

Read More