Prairie Provinces: Spring 2022

Spring 2022: 1 Mar–31 May

Rudolf Koes

James Fox

Recommended citation:

Koes, R.F., and J. Fox. 2022. Spring 2022: Prairie Provinces. <> North American Birds.

After an abnormally dry 2021 the spring of 2022 became one of the wettest on record, particularly in southern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan. A series of Colorado Lows brought snow, followed by rain, resulting in the wettest April since 1896 in Winnipeg, while May saw three times the normal amount of rain. Temperatures were also below normal throughout the region. Not withstanding these conditions, or perhaps because of them, the region hosted numerous species both north and west of their usual ranges. Rufous Hummingbird, Glaucous-winged Gull, Western Wood-Pewee, Bullock’s Oriole, MacGillivray’s Warbler and Western Tanager all arrived from the west, while Green-tailed Towhee, Summer Tanager and Painted Bunting reached the region from the south. Alberta added Chimney Swift and Bar-tailed Godwit to its all-time list and Manitoba hosted long-overdue confirmed Bullock’s Orioles.

Geese through Terns

Single Brants, very rare migrants in the south of the region, were found at Grande Prairie, AB 31 Mar (Moira Cooke, ph.), Blackstrap Reservoir, SK 17 Apr (Brennan Bantle, ph. Leah Frei), and Saskatoon, SK 29 Apr and 1 May (Caitlin Acquroff, m. ob., ph.). A gathering of 700 Tundra Swans at St. Jean Baptiste, MB on 6 May was unusually large (Luc Blanchette). A Garganey was present for several days from 30 May on at Tofield, AB (m. ob., ph.). Red-breasted Mergansers massed at Hecla Island, MB, where 1200 were seen on 18 May (B. Shettler). A White-winged Dove at Winnipeg, MB 7–8 May proved elusive (Dusty Molinski, Pat Wally, ph.). A Chimney Swift at Calgary 20 May was the first for Alberta (Calvin Snider, ph.), while a bird at Regina, SK 14 May was also west of its normal range (Brett Quiring, m. ob.). A Vaux’s Swift was found on 24 May at Waterton NP, AB, the only location in the province where the species is seen with any regularity (Bradley Yee, ph.). Black-chinned Hummingbirds continue to be reported in Alberta, with three sightings between 17 and 31 May, at Pincher Creek and Mountain View (Asher Warkentin, Cornel van Ryk, Nancy West, ph.). A male Rufous Hummingbird visited the same rural garden that hosted a Bullock’s Oriole, at Petersfield, MB 20–22 May (Rob Berger, m. ob., ph.).

Shorebird migration on the whole was considered dismal across the south of the region. Although there was adequate habitat, there were no concentrations to speak of. A Black-necked Stilt x American Avocet at Piapot, SK 18 May was an interesting find (Erica Alex, m. ob., ph.). Black-necked Stilts continue to expand northwards, reaching the southern edge of the boreal forest in Alberta. In Saskatchewan there were reports from Swift Current, Brightwater Marsh, Saskatoon, Cochin and Uren Marsh between 23 Apr and 15 May; on the latter date 21 were seen at Uren Marsh (m. ob., ph.). Two Snowy Plovers were found at Calgary 17 May (m. ob., ph.). A Bar-tailed Godwit at Tyrell Lake, AB 11 May was a provincial first (David Scott, ph.). An American Woodcock was seen 6 Apr at an undisclosed location in southern Alberta during a nocturnal owling trip (anon., ph.). There is one previous record for the province. A Red Phalarope at Coleman Lake, AB 16 May was a rare migrant (Gerry & James Fox).

Rare gulls were reported in far greater numbers than usual. A Black-legged Kittiwake was a great find at Frank Lake, Alberta 26 May (Mike Rossum, ph.). A California Gull at Wascana Lake, SK 13 Mar was early, given the cold spring (Brett Quiring). Iceland Gulls (Thayer’s) were noted at Wascana Marsh, SK 31 Mar (Jared Clarke), Saskatoon, SK 15–29 Apr (Ryan Dudragne, ph.), the Brady Road dump, MB 3–4 May (m. ob.), and at the PR 227 dump, MB 14–25 May (m. ob.). An Iceland Gull, likely of the glaucoides race, was at the Brady Road dump 2 May (Rudolf Koes, m. ob., ph.). Iceland Gull is a regular migrant in small numbers in Alberta. Lesser Black-backed Gulls have become annual visitors in the Prairie Provinces. In Alberta, most reports usually come from Calgary, but this spring singles were also seen at the Ryley Landfill 21 Apr (James & Gerry Fox, ph.) and Fort McMurray 29 May (anon., ph.). In Saskatchewan the species was found at Wascana Marsh 31 Mar–3 Apr (Jared Clarke, ph.), Saskatoon 16–29 Apr (John Lundgren, m. ob., ph.), and Regina 23–25 Apr (Dale Hjertaas, Bob Luterbach, ph.). In Manitoba, up to four were at the Brady Road dump 2–4 May (m. ob., ph.) and another four were at the PR. 227 dump 14–30 May (m. ob., ph.). There were three reports of Glaucous-winged Gull at Calgary between 12 and 23 Apr, possibly all involving the same individual (Evan Walters, Nathan Heuver, Ian Maton, ph.). Each province had records of Glaucous Gull. An Arctic Tern was at Cold Lake, AB 25 May (Bruce Di Labio, Tom Hince) and another was at Cattleland Slough, AB from 28 May into June (m. ob., ph.). The species is somewhat regularly recorded at the former location, while it has occurred annually at the latter location in recent years.

Herons through Woodpeckers

Snowy Egrets were spotted at Tyrrell Lake, AB 11 May (David Scott, ph.) and at Shoal Lakes, MB 25 May (Chris Meiklejohn) and 5 Jun (John Weier). A Glossy Ibis was a good find at Pakowki Lake, AB 8 May (David Bell, Liam Singh, ph.). While White-faced Ibis continues to expand its range north in Alberta, numbers have plummeted in Manitoba. Hundreds of birds were present as recently as 2020, particularly at Whitewater Lake and the Oak Lake/Plum Marshes complex, but in the past two years only a handful have been reported.

The diurnal raptor migration in southern Manitoba was a drawn-out affair, with few peaks or notable records, although a Red-shouldered Hawk at Windygates 4 May (Ben Ginter, m. ob., ph.) and a Ferruginous Hawk nearby on 9 Apr (Rudolf Koes, Garry Budyk, Peter Taylor) were rare. A Ferruginous Hawk at Tofield, AB 26 Mar was quite far north so early in the year (Irene Crosland, ph.) and a Rough-legged Hawk at Saskatchewan Landing PP, SK 27 May was a tardy migrant (Lev Frid, David Howe, Rosanne Dawson, ph.). A Barn Owl was found at an undisclosed location in Alberta, during an owl survey on 17 Apr. It was the second report of the species in the province in 2022 (fide James Fox). Also in southern Alberta were four Eastern Screech-Owls at three undisclosed locations throughout the period. A concentration of 30 Snowy Owls along 20 km of road near Meadows, MB 16 Apr was notable (Rudolf & José Koes). Burrowing Owl numbers were low in Alberta.

The Alberta tally of Lewis’s Woodpeckers was lower than in 2021, with birds observed at Longview 11 May (Brielle Reidlinger), Edmonton 14 May, a first for the city (Ryan Pimiskern, ph.), and Brooks 21 May (Judy Boyd). Out-of-range Red-headed Woodpeckers were at Val Marie, SK 25 May (Patrice Franche) and Whitebeech, SK 28 May (Brigette Lewis, ph.). A Red-breasted Sapsucker x Red-naped Sapsucker hybrid was at Calgary 10 Apr (Sylvia Farrant, m. ob., ph.).

Flycatchers through Buntings

A Western Wood-Pewee provided a birding highlight for a group of Nature Manitoba members at St. Ambroise, MB 14 May (m. ob., ph.). Cordilleran Flycatchers have now been found in the extreme southwest of Saskatchewan for a number of years; on 29 May one was reported at the West Benson Trail near Cypress Hills PP (David Bell, Liam Singh, ph., audio). A Loggerhead Shrike at Hecla PP, MB 14 May was well outside its current breeding range on the prairies (Michael Schrimpf, Emily Runnells, ph.). Two Western Bluebirds were at Hillcrest Mines, AB 27 Mar (Pat Lucas) and another two were at Priddis, AB 29 Mar–1 Apr (m. ob., ph.). A few Wood Thrushes were reported in Manitoba; farther out-of-range was one near Saskatoon 17 May (Phil Taylor, ph.). Three tardy Bohemian Waxwings lingered at Saskatoon until 8 May (Sharlene Toole). Similarly late were a Pine Grosbeak at La Salle, MB 15 May (Randy Bossuyt) and Common Redpolls at Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg 21 May (m. ob.). The unseasonably cold spring appeared to have delayed the departures of these birds. The Lesser Goldfinch first reported at Pincher Creek, AB in Feb was last seen 19 Mar (m. ob., ph.). A Song Sparrow at Regina 12 Mar had made it through the winter (Laurel Stang). A Green-tailed Towhee visited Regina 23–24 May, where it was seen by many (Alyson Melenchuk, m. ob., ph.). There were five earlier records of this species in the province, four of them in the first half of the 20th century. Reports of Spotted Towhee have increased in recent years in Manitoba; one was at Broomhill PWMA 11 May (Bob Curry, Glenda Slessor) and another at Gerald W. Malaher PWMA 21 May (Patrice France). Bullock’s Oriole was at long last officially added to the Manitoba list. Four birds were present: an immature male at Hazel Glen 9–11 May (Todd Ridd, Shane Strazza, m. ob., ph.) and adult males at Winnipeg 13 May (Roberta Rackal, ph.), Rosser 18–22 May (Melanie K., ph.), and Petersfield 18–21 May (Janis & Robert Berger, m. ob., ph.).

There were two reports of MacGillivray’s Warbler in Manitoba: 16 May at FortWhyte Alive, Winnipeg (April Stampe, m. ob., ph.), and 21 May at Southport (Gayle Loewen, ph.). Both birds may have been hybrids with Mourning Warbler or aberrant Mourning Warblers. Manitoba’s Ornithological Records Committee has not yet evaluated these sightings. A Hooded Warbler at Cana, SK 28–29 Apr was about the seventh for the province (Paula & Morley Maier, ph.). A Cape May Warbler at Churchill, MB 27 May was far north of its breeding range (Olivia Maillet, Andrew Brown, ph.), while a Northern Parula at Wascana Marsh 11–14 May was west of its breeding range (Gail Fennell, m.ob., ph.). Also rare was a Black-throated Blue Warbler at Calgary 30 May (Kathy Kowarchuk, ph.). Summer Tanagers were prominent, with Manitoba sightings at Brandon 9–14 May, Pembina Valley 18–21 May, Winnipeg 19 May, Gimli 26–27 May, and at Poplarfield late May, with Saskatchewan reports from Estevan 19–21 May and Regina 29 May (m. ob., ph.). In Manitoba Western Tanagers were noted at Winnipeg 10 May, St. Andrews 23 May, Arborg 26–28 May, plus undated May sightings at Paradise Village and Poplarfield (m. ob., ph.), while Saskatchewan reports came from Zealandia 25 Apr, Swift Current 8 May, and Tallman 14 May (m. ob., ph.). Black-headed Grosbeaks and Lazuli Buntings overshot during migration, resulting in many records of both species in central and northern Alberta (fide James Fox). A male Painted Bunting near Gladstone 28 May–1 Jun was the fourth confirmed for Manitoba (Carole Timmons, m. ob., ph.).


In October 2021 a Crested Caracara was described and photographed in the Turtle Mountain area of Manitoba. Unfortunately, the photographic evidence was lost, but the description sounded convincing. The sighting fits in with a series of records from Alberta and Saskatchewan that fall, which show a pattern of movement in a southeasterly direction by what is presumably all the same bird. The record has not yet been evaluated by the Manitoba Ornithological Records Committee, but if accepted it would be an addition to the provincial list.

Report processed by Andrew Keaveney, 28 Mar 2023.

Photos–Prairie Provinces: Spring 2022

One of two Brant recorded in Saskatchewan during spring 2022, this bird was seen at Blackstrap Reservoir on 17 Apr. Photo © Leah Frei.

Grande Prairie, Alberta hosted this Brant on 31 Mar 2022. The species is a very rare migrant through the southern Prairie Provinces. Photo © Moira Cooke.

Garganey has become an almost annual visitor to the southern Prairie Provinces in recent years. This male lingered at Tofield, Alberta from 30 May (here) well into Jun. Photo © James Fox.

This Cinnamon Teal x Green-winged Teal hybrid was a striking find at Regina, Saskatchewan on 4 May 2022. Photo © Laurie Koepke.

There have been about 15 sightings of White-winged Dove in Manitoba since it was first recorded in the province in 1995. This individual was at Winnipeg 7 (here) and 8 May 2022. Photo © Dusty Smolinski.

The Canadian breeding range of Chimney Swift barely reaches as far west as southeastern Saskatchewan, meaning this bird at Calgary 20 May 2022 was far out of range. It represented the first photographically documented record for Alberta. Photo © Calvin Snider.

The Black-chinned Hummingbird seen here at Pincher Creek, Alberta 17 May 2022 is the latest of several sightings in the area in recent years. Photo © Asher Warkentin.

The same rural yard in Petersfield, Manitoba that hosted a Bullock’s Oriole earlier in May 2022 also attracted a Rufous Hummingbird from 20 (here 21) to 22 May. Photo © Cam Nikkel.

While Black-necked Stilt numbers have steadily increased in the Prairie Provinces in recent years, it is still rare enough to have difficulty at times finding a mate. This hybrid Black-necked Stilt x American Avocet young at Piapot, Saskatchewan 18 May 2022 is proof that one parent stilt found the next-best partner in the form of an avocet. Photo © Sean Jenniskens.

Rare anywhere in the Prairie Provinces were these two Snowy Plovers at Weed Lake, Alberta on 11 May 2022. The birds were seen by many. Photo © Annie Finch.

Alberta added Bar-tailed Godwit to its all-time bird list with this individual at Tyrell Lake on 11 May 2022. It represented the second confirmed record for the region, the previous one coming from Saskatchewan in June 2010. Photo © David Scott.

Found during a nocturnal owling trip in southern Alberta on 6 Apr 2022, this American Woodcock was the second-ever to be recorded in the province. The location was kept secret to avoid possible harassment of nearby nesting owls. Photo fide James Fox.

One of the rarest gulls found in the Prairie Provinces during the spring migration of 2022 was this Black-legged Kittiwake at Frank Lake on 26 May. Photo © Mike Russum.

Seen here are three Lesser Black-backed Gulls (with other gulls) at the PR 227 dump near Portage la Prairie, MB on 14 May 2022; at least four birds were present that day. The species has visited this location, one of very few dumps in the province where birders are welcome, for the past several years. Photo © Rudolf Koes.

There were three reports of Glaucous-winged Gull in Alberta in spring 2022, possibly involving the same individual. One is seen here 19 Apr at Calgary. Photo © Ian Maton.

Snowy Egret sightings have been few and far between in the Prairie Provinces in recent years, making this bird at Tyrell Lake, Alberta 11 May 2022 a good find. Photo © David Scott.

While White-faced Ibis has become an established breeder in the southern Prairie Provinces, and is indeed still expanding northward, Glossy Ibis remains rare in the region. This bird was at Pakowki Lake, Alberta on 8 May 2022. Photo © Liam Singh.

This woodpecker at Calgary, AB 10 Apr 2022 was identified as a Red-breasted Sapsucker x Red-naped Sapsucker hybrid. Photo © Alan Duguid.

This Western Wood-Pewee seen by a Nature Manitoba birding group at St. Ambroise, MB 14 May 2022 went initially unidentified until a call was heard and photos could be studied. Photo © Rudolf Koes.

Western Bluebird has been reported annually in the last few years in Alberta. This male was one of two birds present at Priddis 29 Mar–1 Apr (here). Photo © Alan Knowles.

This Lesser Goldfinch, seen here on 11 Mar, lingered at Pincher Creek, Alberta from Feb until at least 19 Mar 2022. Photo © Asher Warkentin.

One of the more notable rarities in Saskatchewan was this Green-tailed Towhee at Regina 23–24 May (here) 2022. There had been six previous records in the province. Photo © Annie McLeod.

This immature male Bullock’s Oriole at Hazel Glen, Manitoba, present from 9–11 May (here 10 May), was one of four birds reported in the province during spring 2022. Photo © Cam Nikkel.

The first-ever adult male Bullock’s Oriole fully documented in Manitoba was this bird at Winnipeg on 13 May 2022. Photo © Roberta Rackal.

Present from 18 to 21 May (here) 2022 was this Bullock’s Oriole at Petersfield, Manitoba. Photo © Cam Nikkel.

The fourth Bullock’s Oriole observed in Manitoba during the spring of 2022 was this male near Rosser, present from 18 (here) to 22 May. Photo © Melanie K.

This strikingly-plumaged Baltimore Oriole visited a feeder at Headingley, MB 19 May 2022. Photo © Bob Shettler.

There were at least two reports of MacGillivray’s Warbler in Manitoba during the spring of 2022. This bird was at FortWhyte Alive on 16 May. Given the bird’s rather weak eye-arches, the possibility that it was a hybrid or aberrant Mourning Warbler can not be discounted. Manitoba’s bird records committee has not yet evaluated the record. Photo © April Stampe.

With six previous records in Saskatchewan, Hooded Warbler remains a vagrant. This male was at Cana on 29 Apr 2022. Photo © Morley Maier.

Far from its breeding haunts to the east was this Black-throated Blue Warbler at Calgary, Alberta on 30 May 2022. Photo © Kathy Kowarchuk.

This Western Tanager at Zealandia, Saskatchewan, on 25 Apr, was one of several reported in the region during the spring of 2022. Photo © Sharlene Toole.

Manitoba’s fourth well-documented Painted Bunting visited a feeder at Gladstone, where it was seen by many, from 28 May until 1 Jun (here) 2022. Photo © Jan Bradley.