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Birds of the Bow Valley – Rufous hummingbird

In this summer series, birds that are found in the region of the Bow Valley will be profiled each week.
Rufous Hummingbird male
This brilliantly coloured male Rufous Hummingbird was in the Bow Valley in Banff National Park. This species makes it to the Canadian Rockies (and north) despite its small size. These tiny birds, which weigh only three or four grams (around 1/10 of an ounce), migrate all the way to central and southern Mexico in the nonbreeding season. MICHAEL W. POTTER PHOTO

In this summer series, I will profile birds that are found in the region of the Bow Valley.

From the Lake Louise area in Banff National Park downstream past Banff townsite to Canmore and as far east as Bow Valley Provincial Park. I’ll also include one or two species from a bit farther afield, such as Lake O’Hara on the west side of Mount Victoria, and the Kananaskis Valley.

Birds are a major part of the natural history of our area, and a source of endless fascination. Many people have taken up birdwatching recently, while other folks have been birding for years or decades.

With this series, I hope to enhance that interest with captivating photos and intriguing details about the lives of these representative birds. Birds are many things, but first and foremost, they have their own lives, their own integrity of being.

There is much to discover about birds, as there is much to appreciate about what we already understand.

Birds are joy. Birds sing beautifully. Birds are bright and colourful. They are active, energetic. Birds embody many uplifting attributes that bring us happiness.

Birds are freedom. Their ability to fly is a perennial symbol of independence, lightheartedness. Flight gives birds the means to break free of earth’s bounds, an ability of which we terrestrial creatures are in awe.

Birds are inspiration. They persevere in the face of daunting odds. Many birds engage in long, perilous migrations.

They manage hazardous conditions: the many obstacles that Nature throws at them. They raise their young in challenging circumstances.

On top of everything else, they encounter difficulties caused by human actions. Through it all, birds endure, examples of strength and adaptation.

Birds are hope. These seemingly fragile creatures persist, symbols to us of a positive future. I hope readers and viewers enjoy the words and images I’ll be presenting, and that they are inspired to learn about and cherish our Birds of the Bow Valley. 

Michael W (Mike) Potter is a professional photographer specializing in birds. He is a former park interpreter in Banff National Park, and the author and photographer of eight books on hiking and natural history in the Canadian Rockies, distributed by Canmore-based Alpine Book Peddlers. Mike’s website is, which includes a link to his bird photographs on Flickr.