The Adventure

The wonder of alpine birds

Posted by Jane Carswell on Mon, Jun 03, 2013

This is a guest post by Ornithologist Cam Gillies who will be our guest speaker in the Bugaboos July 12-15, 2013.

Bugaboo Spires, BC CanadaWe are on the top of a small peak with a grand view of the Bugaboos and I want you to look away from the granite spires at a small bird running along the snow. Pulling your attention away to look at what appears to be a “LBJ” (little brown job) is tough, but it’s worth a look.  

Upon closer inspection, it isn’t just brown.  Rosy pink, gray and a beautiful brown are all part of the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch and it is flitting about on the remains of last winter’s cornice.  


It is another part of the magic of the alpine.  These birds, along with a handful of others are only found in the alpine and this one is WAY up in the alpine.  It is eating spiders and insects off the snow at 2400 m.  Up here, there is almost no vegetation apart from the sparse green and purple of moss campion.  But, as probably the highest-altitude breeding bird in North America, this is the place to find these birds.Grey crowned Rosy finches from EOL dot org

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches only nest in the alpine of western North America and they are a real specialty of the alpine in this part of British Columbia.  Much sought after but seldom seen by birders, a hike in the Bugaboos or Bobbie Burns is a great opportunity to search for this and other alpine birds.  Their habit of breeding on high craggy cliffs makes them hard to find unless you venture into their realm in these high mountains.

Finding birds in high places might take some careful looking, but the effort is soon rewarded.  Golden Eagles, White-tailed Ptarmigan, Horned Lark, Golden-crowned Sparrow, American Pipit, and the “Timberline” form of Brewer’s Sparrow also call the rolling tundra home.  Stopping for a moment to enjoy birds adds depth to the experience of being in these mountains.  I can’t help thinking about how these birds thrive in this environment whether I’m hiking in the mountains or see the mountains from afar.  Truly, a source of wonder.

This year, I am very much looking forward to returning to the Bugaboos for more birding and hiking in the alpine.  It is an area I have been visiting since I was a kid and it is an extraordinary experience every time.  I will also be out before breakfast with anyone interested to see what we can find in the forests around the lodge.  Early July is a remarkable time in the mountains and the morning chorus will be full of local songsters.

To book your space to explore these mountains with Cam and add the grey-crowned rosy finch to your lifelist, call CMH Reservations at 1.800.661.0252.

Photo of the Grey-Crowned Rosy Finch courtesy of

Tags: Speaker Series, Bugaboo Lodge