Birdwatching

Over 250 species of birds have been identified in Waterton Lakes National Park, including those associated with alpine areas, subalpine and montane forests, prairie, lakes and wetlands.

Tree swallow

For the best birdwatching experience, bring binoculars, an identification guide or download an app on your smartphone, visit a variety of habitats - and look, listen and be patient.

Try visiting the Maskinonge area near the park entrance or the Waterton townsite. Other areas to visit are Bertha trail and lake, Rowe trail, and Carthew-Alderson trail is a great place for spotting alpine bird species.

The most spectacular bird watching time of year is late fall when large numbers of waterfowl make their annual migration through the park.

There are often large flocks of swans, including the rare trumpeter swan, thousands of Canada geese and various ducks to be seen. Fall is also the best time to spot golden and bald eagles, as they migrate along the front ranges of the Rocky Mountains.

More about Waterton's birds 

Annual bird counts

Waterton Lakes National Park hosts annual Spring and Christmas bird counts, the park's longest-running citizen science projects.

Citizen science projects like these collect valuable information that help to better understand the species of the park.

Get involved in Citizen Science through volunteering at Waterton Lakes

Common birds in Waterton Lakes National Park

  • Canada Goose
  • Mallard
  • Barrow's goldeneye
  • Common merganser
  • Osprey
  • Golden eagle
  • Red-tailed hawk
  • Western wood-pewee
  • Tree swallow
  • House wren
Winter birdwatching
Hairy woodpecker

There may be fewer birds around in winter, but with no leaves on the trees, they’re easier to see!

The Waterton townsite and nearby areas of open water are the best winter places to spot birds.

Keep your eye on roadsides for snow buntings and redpolls. Chickadees, nuthatches, grouse and woodpeckers can be seen in wooded areas. Ravens and eagles are frequent fliers in the park's skies. American dippers spend their time in open streams and common goldeneyes prefer quiet, open waters.

Common bird species to spot in winter

  • Mallard
  • Common goldeneye
  • Ruffed grouse
  • Golden eagle
  • Bald eagle
  • Downy woodpecker
  • Hairy woodpecker
  • Canada jay
  • Steller's jay
  • Black-billed magpie

Annual Christmas bird count

Services in Waterton Lakes National Park are limited in winter months. Check the Avalanche Bulletin and weather forecast before visiting.

Bird watching tips

Bird watching is a great way to get out and explore Waterton Lakes National Park, any time of year. The park's ecoregions offer a wide array of landscapes and amazing species inhabiting each one.

Clay Sparrow
  • Bring your binoculars. Get a good look at your feathered friend from a safe distance, always giving wildlife the space they need.
  • Listen. You may hear a bird's call or a woodpecker working on a tree before you can see them.
  • Get to know the locals. Familiarize yourself with common local species. Download a bird identification app on your smartphone or pick up a bird guide book focusing on species commonly seen in Alberta or western Canada.
  • Check out the eBird Canada website and smartphone app. The iNaturalist app is a great way to record all the plants and animals you may find.