World Migratory Bird Day is celebrated on the second Saturday of May across North America. With over 200 bird species living in or visiting Calgary throughout the year, birds have been an integral part of the region’s heritage since human habitation of Moh’kinsstis.
Certainly, the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary comes to mind. Colonel James Walker homesteaded the area in 1883. In 1929, his son, Selby, successfully applied to designate the area a federal migratory bird sanctuary given the variety of species found year-round. It was the first natural area protected in Calgary and has been managed by the City since 1970. Wetland restoration and the building of the Nature Centre took place in 1996. Soon, the area will become part of Bend in the Bow Park, which will connect the Sanctuary to Pearce Estate Park.
Pearce Estate was founded by William Pearce, a federal civil servant who helped survey Red Deer and the international boundary. In 1884, he moved to Calgary to become Superintendent of Mines and built a sandstone house in 1889 (it was torn down in 1957). On the Estate, Pearce experimented with urban forestry and river weirs, and promoted irrigation for agriculture. In 1929, he donated land to the City, where nature interpretation facilities continue to explore and preserve nature in the heart of Calgary.
Calgary’s bird heritage continues to this very day. In 2021, the City was named one of Canada’s first certified Nature Canada “Bird Friendly Cities”. The certification will help to mitigate threats to birds, such as from lights and pets, support habitat maintenance and restoration, and increase outreach and education. And in May last year, Calgarians voted on designating the City’s official bird, the Black-capped Chickadee. At its unveiling, Corinne Eagletail-Frazier, councillor for the Tsuut’ina Nation, said birds are valuable to many First Nations, “We see them as messengers and healers.”
– Anthony Imbrogno is a volunteer with The Calgary Heritage Initiative Society/Heritage Inspires YYC