Rudolf F. Koes and Christian Artuso, Regional Editors
The Prairie Provinces encompass Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. The region rises from sea level at Hudson Bay in the northeast to the Rocky Mountains in the west. Most of the original prairie, especially tallgrass prairie, has been converted to agricultural land, but some tracts of undisturbed prairie still exist in southern Alberta and southern Saskatchewan. To the north, a broad strip of deciduous woodland, the parkland region, separates the prairies from the boreal forest.
Prairie birds have undergone a dramatic decline in numbers during the past century, with highest numbers remaining in Saskatchewan. On the other hand, waterfowl and raptors have fared well in recent decades. Many montane species, including Calliope Hummingbird, Lewis’s Woodpecker and Clark’s Nutcracker, reach the eastern limits of their breeding ranges in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, while in the southeast, species with more eastern affinities, such as Eastern Screech-Owl, Scarlet Tanager, and Golden-winged Warbler occur. The vast and relatively undisturbed boreal forest hosts a large number of breeding passerines, especially warblers. The Hudson Bay coast area attracts a number of sub-arctic species as breeders.
The region’s continental climate, with its cold winters and hot summers, results in a relatively low number of year-round resident species. As a consequence, migration can be spectacular, with vast numbers of geese, ducks and cranes in fall in southern Saskatchewan and at times thousands of raptors during migration at hawk-watching spots in the Rockies and in southern Manitoba. Although the overall species list is relatively low compared to more southerly or coastal regions, the number of species that can be recorded in one day is staggering, as witnessed by the numerous Big Day records held by birders in the region.