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Best Fall Bird-Watching Near Banff, Alberta

by K Gordon Schultz

Best Fall Bird-Watching Near Banff, Alberta

Even though early spring and summer are the best times to spot most birds in Banff National Park, there are some gems to be found in the fall months, when the air is cooler and the majority of the tourism has begun to wound down. Pick up a bird-watching checklist from Parks Canada visitor & information centres, and journey to one of these areas to find Banff National Park’s fall bird residents.

Johnston Canyon

At the tail-end (pun not intended!) of the bird-watching season in Johnston Canyon, you might be lucky to spot the black swift. Johnston Canyon is only one of three known breeding spots in Alberta for this elusive bird. Their nests are hard to spot, as they rest high on the walls of the canyon. Spot the adults as they leave the canyon in the early morning and return at dusk. Early morning is the best time to visit Johnston Canyon anyway–less people. Other feathered residents include dippers, the winter wrens, flycatchers, townsends, and warblers.

Vermilion Lakes

From mid-August to November, juvenile mallards and a variety of mergansers (teal, hooded, and common) can be found. Vermilion Lakes is an important habitat for waterfowl, and their numbers swell near the end of September.

Cave & Basin Marsh

Drive up to the Cave & Basin Historical Site, park, and hike on the foot trails until you arrive at the marsh. Migratory waterfowl dominate these wetlands from August to November. You’ll probably see mallards, the blue-winged teal, the green-winged teal, the lesser scaup, and barrow’s goldeneye. You may also spot other birds such as the common snipe and the killdeer.

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