‘Great annual snapshot:’ Bird numbers down in Waterton bird count after wildfire

WATERTON, Alta. — A Parks Canada official says a powerful wildfire that shut down Waterton Lakes National Park late last summer will inevitably change the species of birds in the area.

The blaze began from a lightning strike in British Columbia but eventually shut down the park in the deep corner of southwest Alberta for weeks. The fire covered more than 360 square kilometres — roughly about one-third of the park.

Dianne Pachal, who co-ordinates the annual bird count at Waterton, said birders recorded a total of 167 individual birds from 21 species on Dec. 15. That’s well below the 40-year average of 27 species and 493 birds.

A number of possible reasons for the drop include an extremely high wind on the day of the count — which would make it more difficult to find the birds — and some areas of the park hit by the fire being closed to the public, she said.

But it’s undeniable that the balance of species at Waterton will be affected by last year’s fire, Pachal said

“The forest was burned there, and who knows which species are remaining and what new ones are there?” Pachal asked.

“With a forest fire, often we see the cavity-nesting birds increase and insect-eating birds, particularly woodpeckers, follow a lot of species of insects that come in immediately following a fire.”

Pachal said ecosystems evolve and some species initially found immediately after a fire will move on once the forest begins to mature.

“So you won’t see as many woodpeckers — we would expect to see more of those now we have had a major fire here.”

There are 255 different species recorded in Waterton, said Pachal, who added most are likely to be still around but have relocated to different parts of the park.

The bird count is a 40-year tradition in which members of the public conduct a tally of birds and their species. Annual counts are done across North America between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5. They’re co-ordinated by Bird Studies Canada in conjunction with the National Audubon Society, which began the practice in 1900.

“It provides us with a great annual snapshot of what’s happening with the birds in the park.”.

Just Posted

Women’s marches underway in Canadian cities, a year after Trump inauguration

Women are gathering in dozens of communities across the country today to… Continue reading

Red Deer councillor balks at city getting stuck with more funding responsibilities

Volunteer Central seeks municipal funding after being cut off by government

Olds chicken barn burns to the ground, no livestock harmed

More than 100,000 chickens were saved as fire crews prevent the blaze from spreading

Bear video meant to promote conservation: zoo owner

Discovery Wildlife Park says it will look at other ways to promote its conservation message

WATCH: Setters Place grand opening in Red Deer

Red Deer’s Setters Place officially opened to the public Saturday afternoon.… Continue reading

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month