Because Jasper National park and the surrounding areas are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, they are particularly pristine habitat for wildlife. And because of the range of habitats -- forests, lakes and streams, and mountain highlands -- there are a variety of rare of bird species that call the area home.
1. Golden Eagle
Gold eagles migrate during spring and fall and visitors to Jasper National Park can September and October. They prefer low rolling hills and flat plains and nest in cottonwood strands. Look for golden eagles soaring over alpine meadows.
Field Marks: Dark, with a wash of gold behind its head, if viewed from below, golden eagles have a slight lightening at the base of the tail
2. Bald Eagle
This widely recognized eagle nests in any kind of wetland, including marshes or along the shorelines of lakes and rivers. Around Jasper National Park, bald eagles can be seen along the Athabasca River, hunting for their favorite food, fish.
Field Marks Adults: Easily recognized by their yellow bill, and pure white head and tail feathers. Juveniles: Often mistaken for golden eagles, juveniles are mottled light and dark brown with a dark bill.
3. Great Horned Owl
Difficult to see because they are nocturnal, great horned owls can nonetheless be identified by their distinct "whoo-hoo" hooting. These shy birds live in forests, thickets, or along stream sides where they can hunt for small mammals and insects.
Field Marks These huge owls have wings that are four to five feet tip to tip. They have large yellow eyes in a wide facial disk. Their bodies are brown and gray with black bar markings and a distinct white throat-collar. Most distinct, great horns owls have feather tufts on their heads resembling horns or ears.
4. White-Tailed Ptarmigan
Members of the grouse family, white-tailed ptarmigans eat a diet of buds, leaves, flowers, and seeds. They live on alpine summits during the winter and spend warmer months lower in forests where it's easier for them to build their nests on the ground.
Field Marks As their name suggests, white-tailed ptarmigans have white wings and bellies. In the summer, their heads, tails, and backs are brown, but they are entirely white in the winter.
5. Bohemian Waxwing Sleek
Crested, and very pretty, Bohemian Waxwings are a medium sized bird: 19 cm (7.5 in). They live in forests with ample conifers where they can nest and berries and fruit for them to eat. Around Jasper National Park, Bohemian Waxwings don't stay in a specific area, but travel around on the hunt for food.
Field Marks Although all Waxwings are beautiful, Bohemians are particularly eye-catching. In contrast with their soft gray bodies, they have brilliant yellow, white, and red patterns on their wings and tails. Bohemian waxwings also have rusty tail coverts and rust on the tops of their heads.
6. Evening Grosbeaks
A type of finch, about the size of a starling, these birds live in conifer forests during the summer and winter in box elders and fruiting shrubs.
Field Marks Both males and females have whitish conical bills and large white wing patches. Otherwise, the two genders have different plumage: Male: Grayish yellow body, dark headed, bright yellow eye stripe Female: Grey, with patches of yellow, black, and white
7. Red-necked Grebes
Commonly seen in Moose Lake Marsh close to Mt. Robson and not far from Jasper, red-neck grebes are very graceful on the water. They eat small crustaceans, tadpoles, and aquatic insects. In fact, most of their lives are spent on the water: their nests are rafts of floating reeds.
Field Marks Red-necked grebes have thin necks, and pointed, dull yellow bills. Males and females have the same plumage, although they change throughout the year: Breeding plumage: gray body, rusty-red neck, white cheeks, black, slightly tufted crown Winter: gray body, dark crown, vertical white crescent on the side of head.
8. Spruce Grouse
A lot like the ptarmigan, spruce grouse are ground dwelling, chicken-like, and eat insects, seeds, buds, and berries. They live in deep forests, preferring to nest under conifers like spruces, jack pines, and lodgepole pines.
Field Marks Male: Striking black breast with some white spotting, comb of bare red skin above the eyes, chestnut band on the tip of its tail. Female: Rusty brown body, thickly barred, with a blackish tail, and the same basic pattern as the male.
If you want to make birding part of your trip to the Overlander or the surrounding parks, check out wildlife tours in Jasper. Our staff can help you find a tour in Jasper or point your towards hikes that take you through areas where you're likely to do some great birdwatching.