Canadian Rockies and Glacier National Park (Montana, USA)

Calgary, Canada 7/22-24/13

All photos are Marshall Faintich

After spending a few days in Seattle, Washington, Alice and I flew to Calgary, Canada for our Tauck tour of the Canadian Rockies and Glacier National Park in Montana. We went on our 2011 Australia/New Zealand tour with Tauck and were very happy with their service. The tour map to the right shows our route and stops.

Although this was a general scenic, cultural, and wildlife tour, and not specifically designed for birding and wildlife, our tour director, Rob White, did a great job of pointing out wildlife when he could, and had the tour bus stopped when there was wildlife that he thought the entire group would enjoy. Some of the bird species I saw were from the bus travelling around 60 mph, making identification and photography difficult. In addition, many of the bird species and sub-species seen west of the Rockies are not usually found in the eastern United States, so I had to rely on my bird guides rather than experience for some of the identifications. To make identification matters even more difficult, many of the birds this time of year are juveniles and/or in heavy molt.

This was a great tour, and I saw some new life birds (new species for me, shown in bold text), and some new sub-species.

Canadian Rockies and Glacier National Park route

We had a free day in Calgary before the official start of the tour, and walks within downtown Calgary and along the Bow River produced some interesting wildlife. The people of Calgary are to be congratulated for the excellent clean-up they did after the massive flooding of the Bow and Elbow Rivers that covered large areas in Alberta just one month earlier. The first birds that I noticed were Black-billed Magpies and Rock Pigeons. The Magpies appeared to be very similar to the Eurasian Magpies that I had seen many times in England.

Black-billed Magpie

When we walked in Fort Calgary Park, we saw a Prarie Dog that tried to hide when it saw us. In this park, there were Canada Geese, House Sparrows, a Northern Flicker, and an Eastern Kingbird. Mallards and Ring-billed Gulls were in small ponds left by the flooding.

Prarie Dog

Prarie Dog

Northern Flicker (note the red malar, or mustache, of this western sub-species)

Northern Flicker

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird


Adult Ring-billed Gull

Immature Ring-billed Gull

The current in the Bow River was very swift, and a pair of female Common Mergansers tried to swim upstream, but finally gave up and floated down the river.

Female Common Mergansers

Female Common Merganser

We left Calgary on the July 24th, and at various places along the route I saw Swainson's Hawks at least five times not far outside of Calgary, but was only able to photograph them through the bus window as we sped by.

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Probable Swainson's Hawk

On the last day of the tour (July 31st), we took the bus back to Calgary airport. Along the way, I saw another Swainson's Hawk, a couple of large flocks of Canada Geese in flight, and several small flocks of Franklin's Gulls.

Swainson's Hawk

Franklin's Gulls

Click here twice to continue on the tour to the Buffalo Jump blog page

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