Bird watching, also called birding, is an activity that can be shared by young and old. You can find plenty of places to spot your feathered friends within the city or not far outside of Edmonton, and all it takes is a good eye and a little bit of patience. Here are just some of the places to visit on your search.
1. Gold Bar ParkOn the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River lies Gold Bar Park. You’ll find a large variety of walking trails through a moderately mature forest, with limited wheelchair access and lots of parking. Keep an eye out for goldeneyes, mallards, bald eagles, northern goshawks, and more. Robins are even known to overwinter in the park.
Address: 10955 50 Street
2. Hermitage Park
Hermitage Park, located in north east Edmonton, is an urban park that lets you get back to nature with hiking trails, ponds, and picnic sites. The best time for bird watching here is thought to be spring and fall – but it’s never a bad time. Move away from the more popular areas for a chance to spot more birds, such as ducks, herons, bald eagles, and more.
Address: 2115 Hermitage Road
3. John Janzen Nature Centre
You’ll find John Janzen Nature Centre down near the North Saskatchewan River. It’s perfect for year round bird watching, with such species as chickadees, nuthatches, three kinds of woodpeckers, waxwings, and so much more in the trees. Note that the centre itself is closed at the moment due to COVID-19, but the forest around the centre is accessible with waking trails, both paved and not.
Address: 7000 143 Street
4. Mill Creek Ravine
Take the trails down into the ravine and leave the city behind. Great for birding year round, Mill Creek Ravine is home to chickadees, redpolls, pine skins, waxwings, and more. Keep an eye out for the elusive merlin or boreal owl! Note that there is parking at 82 Avenue.
Address: 96 Street & 76 Ave
5. Victoria Park
Close to downtown, Victoria Park is great for a quick trip to nature. More grassland and shrubs than forested, the park is easy to explore while looking for birds. There are several trails throughout the park, perfect for walking and biking. Free parking available off River Valley Road.
Address: 12030 River Valley Road
6. Whitemud RavineWhitemud Ravine is an extensive green area with many access points, depending on the activity you have in mind. With some spaces being used extensively by visitors and others designated as conservation sites, the ravine is a haven for wildlife. Over 150 species of birds have been spotted in the area, so make sure to bring you list and binoculars! During migration, it’s best to go first thing in the morning.
7. William Hawrelak Park
William Hawrelak is one of Edmonton’s most popular parks. There are birds to spot year round, especially at the feeding station a third of the way into the park. Watching the man-made ponds and fruit trees are another good way to see the feathered locals. Note that several festivals take place here year round, so parking may be limited at times.
Address: 9330 Groat Road
East of Edmonton
1. Beaverhills Lake
Located east of Edmonton on Hwy 14, Beaverhill Lake is a designated wetland of international significance – and one of Canada’s only federally recognized Bird Sanctuaries. Thousands of shorebirds migrate through the area, making spring and fall especially good times to visit. But in the winter, watch out for snowy owls. It is the site of the annual Snow Goose Festival.
2. Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area
The more than 170 km of multi-use trails, starting from the four staging areas, are considered moderate to intermediate hikes, so you don’t need to be a pro to explore the wonderful Alberta backcountry. Watch for migrating bird species that flock here every year, both as a stop on their way through or as their summer destination.
3. Elk Island National Park
Just 35 minutes east of Edmonton, Elk Island National Park is a local favourite for getting out of the city. It is full of wildlife – and birds are no different. Trails to get you out in the bush range from easy to difficult, so make sure you check the map before grabbing your binoculars and heading out.
Address: 54401 Range Rd 203, Fort Saskatchewan
4. Hicks Conservation Land
Hicks is 149 acres south of Hastings Lake is part of the Beaver Hills UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and Dark Sky Preserve, full of wildlife and wetlands. Largely undisturbed, it’s a haven for a great number of different bird speices. Take part in the Citizen Science program to help keep tabs on populations; more info online.
Address: 51078 RR 204 Sherwood Park
West of Edmonton
1. Big Lake John E Poole Boardwalk
The John E Poole Boardwalk on Big Lake is an interpretive site that includes a trail and boardwalk signs. The area is globally recognized as an Important Bird Area, providing a critical habitat to thousands of wetland and migrating birds. Osprey nest on the nearby industrial park towers and feed in the lake.
2. Bunchberry Meadows Conservation Lands
Featuring aspen parklands woods and pockets of great diversity, Bunchberry Meadows is considered a refuge for owls, hawks, and songbirds. Be a part of Edmonton & Area Land Trust’s Citizen Science by helping to identify the different species you spot on your explorations, tracking growth and populations. Note that dogs are not permitted.
Address: RR 261 Spruce Grove
3. Lu Carbyn Nature SanctuaryLu Carbyn Nature Sanctuary is 155 acres found near several other protected areas, including Lily Lake Natural Area. It’s been described by a leading ornithologist as “the best birding land within a hundred miles of Edmonton,” making this area a must for bird watchers. Over 95 species were recently recorded.
Address: Lac Ste. Anne County
4. Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary
This idyllic spot is a sanctuary for 348 acres of marshland, meadow, aspen parkland, and boreal forest – making the diversity of birds you can spot here incredible. Walk and hike through trails and boardwalks that are considered manageable by all skill levels (though, keep in mind that it is not wheelchair accessible), while keeping an eye out migrating species and those that stay year round.
Address: 51306 Range Road 264, Spruce Grove
North of Edmonton
1. Chickakoo Recreation AreaThere are 11 km of trails throughout the 480 acres of woodlands and lakes at Chickakoo. You will likely have the most luck spotting birds late spring, summer, or fall when you’re out for a leisurely hike. The trails are wide and often run alongside ponds, making ducks one of the most likely species.
2. Murray Marsh
North of Edmonon of RR 265 lies Murray Marsh. The private agricultural land doesn’t have parking, so make sure you pull over far enough on the side of the road. Be sure to check out the causeway and shelter on the north end while you explore, keeping an eye out for such birds as greater white-fronted ducks and snow geese. Definitely go during migration season.
3. Opal & Half Moon Lake Natural Areas
These areas may not be as well-known as some of the parks and provincial areas, but to the locals, they are some of the best. The trails are not marked very well, so make sure you keep track of your location and dress for the weather – but it’s definitely worth it. Make sure to stop by “Many Owl” Corner at Twp 590 and RR 230(N) for a chance to spot Great Grey Owls.
4. Grandin Pond
Grandin Pond is one of the top birding sites in the City of St. Albert. You’ll find it south of City Hall on Grandin Road, making it easy to get to. The designed trail is simple to follow and leads to a small viewing area, where you’ll be able to see such birds as redwings, grebes, sora, and associated marsh birds, especially in the spring and summer.
Address: St. Albert
5. Lacombe Park and Ravine
Located in St. Albert, just McKenny Avenue, Lacombe Park and Ravine’s paved trail that runs the entire length of the park make it easy to access. The pond is regularly visited by osprey and ducks, but if you visit during the spring migration, you may be able to spot some warblers. There are washrooms available by the parking lot.
Address: St. Albert
6. Boisvert’s GreenWoods
Part of Edmonton & Area Land Trust and just a 45 km drive, Boisvert’s stand of protected forest stands out from the surrounding agricultural fields. It’s part of a popular wildlife corridor for a lot of species, but especially for birds, including woodpeckers and migrating songbirds. Check out the website for a guided tour booklet of the area.
Address: RR 250 Legal
South of Edmonton
1. Coyote Lake Natural Area
Coyote Lake Natural Area, south of the city, provides an important breeding habitat for many different species of birds and encouraging great diversity. This makes it a perfect opportunity to see how many you can spot. Plus, it’s a favourite feeding spot for great blue heron! The best time for birding is May-June.
2. Telford Lake
Telford Lake is located within the City of Leduc, making it an easy road trip for birding. The urban park is so popular with the locals, that the waterfowl and songbirds have become used to the presence of people. This means they won’t be as likely to hide or fly when they hear you coming, so you have the chance to get some great photos.
3. Fred Johns Park
Nestled next to the Leduc Reservoir, Fred Johns Park in Leduc is almost 35 acres of land that is easily accessible for everyone. Wide, paved paths even make it easy for those with limited mobility to get out to spot the birds. Consider timing your visit in spring or summer to watch waterfowl and songbirds along the edge of the water.
Address: 4 Bienert Ct, Leduc
4. Miquelon Lake Provincial Park
This park is far enough from Edmonton that you’ll really feel like you’re escaping the city, but close enough that it’s easy to get there. With great hiking and mountain biking trails, getting into the backcountry for some bird-watching is easy to do. But you don’t have to go too far off the beaten track –the short Grebe Pond trail is one of the best.