Birdwatching Canada

A voice for the northern birds

Golf Birds

Wood storks, cormorants, herons, and egrets at a golf course pond in Florida. Photo University of Florida.

Wood storks, cormorants, herons, and egrets at a golf course pond in Florida. Photo University of Florida.

The proliferation of golf courses around the world is a trend that shows no sign of stopping. While yes, the native habitat is replaced,is not necessarily bad for the bird life. And no, I’m not a golfer.

Most courses have water of some sort, even those in the dry prairies and desert areas. Birds of all kinds are quick to take advantage of this new water source. The wide open spaces are perfect for Canada geese, who love to munch the short grass. The increase in the number of golf courses is actually instrumental in the increasing numbers of Canada geese – and their droppings – everywhere around the world. They seem to be immune to the chemicals used to keep the grass green and healthy. One golf course in Calgary is on the Bow River, and each year there are portions of the course off-limits due to masses of little yellow goslings. Golfers come second in the spring.

No matter what the area’s natural habitat, golf course designers usually add trees to the edges, which become songbird habitat. I actually gave up golf because I was spending far more time bird watching than ball watching.  My husband gleefully reported seeing a Vermilion flycatcher on a course in Arizona, a species I’ve been trying to see for years. Maybe I gave up the golf too soon. We need more golf course owners putting up bird houses for cavity nesting birds though.

If you’re golfing in the Rocky Mountains or northern Canada, keep an eye out for ravens. My brother-in law was golfing the best round of his life last weekend. Midway through the round, a raven swooped down and stole his golf ball. These incredibly clever birds never miss a trick, and round and white looks edible from their viewpoint! While we got a great deal of amusement over the incident, you have to feel sorry for the raven when he discovered he couldn’t eat his prize.

A few years ago I was doing a shift at the local bird sanctuary, while my husband was on the golf course. He came home and proudly announced he had gotten an eagle. With my mind still on birdwatching, my first response was “how in the hell did you hit an eagle with a golf ball?”  The look on his face was priceless, but I soon realized he was talking about his golf score, not a live eagle.

As a bird watcher, I am continually muttering about the construction of more and more golf courses. Apparently the birds are adapting to them faster than I am.


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