Wings on Wheels: The Ultimate Guide to Birding While RVing in Alberta

By Sam Lemna | January 25, 2024

Whether you’re an enthusiastic birder or simply enjoy connecting with nature, birdwatching can be an enjoyable activity for RVers. Here are some key things that RVers should know about birding in Alberta: 

1. Have the right equipment: binoculars and a field guide.  

Space can be at a premium when you’re RVing, but luckily, you don’t need much equipment for birding. You need a pair of binoculars and a field guide to help you observe and identify birds.  

Your binoculars don’t need to be expensive or top of the line to be effective. Lots of affordable binoculars work perfectly for birding. Generally, choose a pair of 8×42 or 10×42 binoculars that do a good job of making the birds appear closer while maintaining clarity. 

You don’t even need a physical field guide anymore – although they’re fun to have. In addition to the standard Sibley Guide to Birds or Kaufmann Field Guide to Birds of North America, we suggest Birds of Alberta by Chris Fisher.  

The Merlin mobile phone app allows you to easily identify birds and the E-Bird app allows you to track your birding. Both apps work even if you don’t have cell reception or an internet connection. 

If you plan on hiking as part of your birding experience, make sure you have the right gear for that as well: shoes, clothing, water, food, sunscreen, and emergency and first aid supplies.  

2. Learn birding basics.  

If you’re not familiar with birding already, it’s helpful to learn the basics. This includes: 

  • Basic terminology like parts of the bird and different types of birds. 
  • How to use your binoculars. 
  • How to use your field guide, whether it’s a book or an app.  
  • When and where to see birds – different birds have different daily and seasonal schedules and will live in different habitats.  

There are lots of books for beginners, but you may also want to access in-person and online resources like those offered by Nature Calgary and Nature Alberta. These are great communities to join if you discover a passion for birding! 

3. Research birding hotspots and plan your RV trip accordingly.  

Birding is a great addition to any RV camping experience. It can make being at your campsite more exciting and make a good hike even more enjoyable. Many avid birders plan whole trips around their passion: different places will have different bird species, including migratory birds who may only be there for a limited time.  

When you’re planning an RV trip that includes birding, make sure you research the local birds. Field guides and online resources will have range guides and migratory patterns; you can easily find out which birds are commonly spotted along your route or at your destination. 

Parks and wildlife preserves are common hotspots for birding and there’s often a campground in the park or nearby – these make for great RV birding destinations! 

4. Practice ethical birding.  

It’s extremely important to practice ethical birding – we don’t want to harm or disrupt birds. We also want to protect the environment and be kind to other birders. You can read the birder’s code of ethics here. 

Respect any local rules regarding wildlife. Provincial and national parks may have stricter rules or additional regulations. For example, while feeding the local bird population in your yard is fine (and even encouraged), feeding birds in a provincial or national park is prohibited.  

While camping, it’s also important to practice leaving no trace. Pack out all your garbage and do your best to minimize your impact on the environment. 

Always avoid disturbing birds. You’re there to observe them, not attract their attention or disrupt them. 

4. Be patient! 

Birding requires patience! Especially if you’re starting out, it can sometimes be difficult to spot birds. With practice and patience, you’ll get better. Try listening – you’ll often hear birds before you see them. 

5. Make your RV bird friendly. 

If you live full-time in your RV or have a seasonal lot, you might want to invest in making your RV a friendly place for birds by: 

  • Planting native plants.  
  • Having a bird bath or water feature. 
  • Providing bird feed – don’t forget to regularly clean the feeders! 
  • Avoiding pesticide use.  
  • Keeping your cats indoors. 
  • Preventing bird-window collisions with mesh netting or stickers to break up the reflection. 

If you’re camping in a provincial or national park, you won’t be able to set up any bird feeders.  

By incorporating birding into your RV travels, you can add a new dimension to your outdoor experiences and deepen your connection with Alberta’s incredible nature.