The Canadian Prairies is a region geographically located in Western Canada. The area includes the Canadian portion of the Great Plains and the Prairie provinces, namely Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. These provinces are partially covered by grasslands, plains, and lowlands, mostly in the southern regions. Known to a lesser extent, is the northern-most section of the Canadian prairies which is marked by forests and more variable topology. To define the region in a physiographic sense, to strictly include areas only covered by prairie land, the corresponding region is known as the Interior Plains. Geographically, the Canadian prairies extend to northeastern British Columbia, however this province is not included in a political manner.
The prairies in Canada are a temperate grassland and shrubland biome within the prairie ecoregion of Canada that consists of northern mixed grasslands in Alberta, Saskatchewan, southern Manitoba, as well as northern short grasslands in southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan. Also, the northern tall grasslands in southern Manitoba, and Aspen parkland which covers central Alberta, central Saskatchewan, and southern Manitoba. The Prairie starts from north of Edmonton and it covers the three provinces in a southward-slanting line east to the Manitoba-Minnesota border. The prairie is the most dominant land cover in Alberta and the least in Manitoba since it has the Boreal Forest covering a large area of land mass. Alberta has the most land classified as Prairie, while Manitoba has the least, as the Boreal Forest begins at a lower latitude in Manitoba than in Alberta.
|Prairies canadiennes (French)|
Farm on the prairies near Hartney, Manitoba
Map of the Prairie Provinces
|Location||Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba in Canada|
|Area||1,780,650.6 km2 (687,513.0 sq mi)|
The core climate of the Canadian prairie region is defined as a semi-arid climate and is often based upon the Köppen climate classification system. This type of classification encompasses five main climate types, with several categoric subtypes based on the precipitation pattern of the region. The majority of the prairie provinces experience snowy, fully humid continental climates with cool summers, also known as class Dfc on the Köppen climate scale. The southern-most regions of the prairies tend to experience fully humid continental climates with warm summers, Dfb. A trifling section surrounding the Alberta-Saskatchewan border has been classified as Bsk, semi-cold and arid climate.
Precipitation events in the Canadian prairies are very important to study as these locations make up 80% of the countries agricultural production. On average, 454 mm of precipitation falls on the prairies each year. Out of the three prairie provinces, Saskatchewan obtains the least amount of precipitation annually (395 mm), with Manitoba receiving the most at 486 mm. Most rainfall typically happens in the summer months such as June and July. With the high humidity of the prairies, tornadoes are likely to occur—marking central Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba as high probability areas. Approximately 72% of tornadoes in Canada are seen across the prairies due to the capability of summer thunderstorm precipitation to mechanically mix with the air adjacent to the relatively flat surface of the region.
|City||Province||July||January||Annual precipitation||Plant hardiness zone||Average growing season|
|Lethbridge||AB||26 °C/10 °C (79 °F/50 °F)||0 °C/-12 °C (32 °F/10 °F)||380 mm (14.9 in)||4B||119|
|Calgary||AB||23 °C/9 °C (73 °F/48 °F)||-1 °C/-13 °C (30 °F/9 °F)||419 mm (16.4 in)||4A||117|
|Medicine Hat||AB||28 °C/12 °C (82 °F/54 °F)||-5 °C/-16 °C (23 °F/3 °F)||323 mm (12.7 in)||4B||134|
|Edmonton||AB||23 °C/12 °C (73 °F/54 °F)||-6 °C/-15 °C (21 °F/5 °F)||456 mm (17.9 in)||4A||135|
|Grande Prairie||AB||23 °C/10 °C (73 °F/50 °F)||-8 °C/-19 °C (18 °F/-2 °F)||445 mm (17.5 in)||3B||117|
|Regina||SK||26 °C/12 °C (79 °F/54 °F)||-9 °C/-20 °C (16 °F/-4 °F)||390 mm (15.3 in)||3B||119|
|Saskatoon||SK||25 °C/12 °C (77 °F/54 °F)||-10 °C/-21 °C (14 °F/-9 °F)||354 mm (13.8 in)||3B||117|
|Prince Albert||SK||24 °C/12 °C (75 °F/54 °F)||-11 °C/-23 °C (12 °F/-9 °F)||428 mm (16.8 in)||3A||108|
|Brandon||MB||25 °C/11 °C (77 °F/54 °F)||-11 °C/-22 °C (12 °F/-11 °F)||474 mm (18.6 in)||3B||119|
|Winnipeg||MB||25 °C/12 °C (77 °F/55 °F)||-11 °C/-21 °C (12 °F/-6 °F)||521 mm (20.5 in)||4A||121|
Although the Prairie Provinces region is named for the prairies located within Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the physical geography of the three provinces is quite diverse, consisting of portions of the Canadian Shield, the Western Cordillera and the Canadian Interior Plains. The plains comprise both prairies and forests while, with the exception of freshwater along the Hudson Bay, the shield is predominantly forested.
Three main grassland types occur in the Canadian prairies: tallgrass prairie, mixed grass prairie, and fescue prairie (or using the WWF terminology, northern tall grasslands, northern mixed grasslands, and northern short grasslands). Each has a unique geographic distribution and characteristic mix of plant species. All but a fraction of one percent of the tallgrass prairie has been converted to cropland. What remains occurs on the 6,000 km2 (2,300 sq mi) plain centred in the Red River Valley in Manitoba. Mixed prairie is more common and is part of the dry interior plains that extend from Canada south to the U.S. state of Texas.
More than half of the remaining native grassland in the Canadian prairies is mixed. Though widespread in southern Saskatchewan and southeastern Alberta, because of extensive cattle grazing, it is estimated that only 24% of the original mixed prairie grassland remains. Fescue prairie occurs in the moister regions, occupying the northern extent of the prairies in central and southwestern Alberta and west-central Saskatchewan.
The southwestern Canadian prairies, supporting brown and black soil types, are semi-arid and highly prone to frequent and severe droughts. The zones around the cities of Regina and immediately east of Calgary are also very dry. Most heavy precipitation quickly dissipates by the time it passes Cheadle on its way heading east. In an average year, southern Saskatchewan receives between 30–51 cm (12–20 in) of precipitation, with the majority falling between April and June. Frost from October to April (and sometimes even early May) limits the growing season for certain crops.
The eastern section of the Canadian prairies in Manitoba is well watered with several large lakes such as Lake Winnipeg and several large rivers. The area also gets reasonable amounts of precipitation. The middle sections of Alberta and Saskatchewan are also wetter than the south and have better farmland, despite having a shorter frost-free season. The areas around Edmonton and Saskatoon are especially notable as good farmland. Both lie in the northern area of the Palliser's Triangle, and are within aspen parkland a transitional prairie ecozone.
Further north, the area becomes too cold for most agriculture besides wild rice operations and sheep raising, and it is dominated by boreal forest. The Peace Region in northwestern Alberta is an exception, however. It lies north of the 55th Parallel and is warm and dry enough to support extensive farming. Aspen parkland covers the area; The long daylight hours in this region during the summer are an asset despite having an even shorter growing season than central Alberta. In fact, agriculture plays a major economic role in the Peace Region.
|Census metropolitan areas in the Canadian Prairies|
|Rank||Census metropolitan area||Population (2011)||Population (2006)||Province|
In the Canada 2011 Census, the Canadian prairie provinces had a population of 5,886,906, consisting of 3,645,257 in Alberta, 1,208,268 in Manitoba, and 1,033,381 in Saskatchewan, up 8.9% from 5,406,908 in 2006. The three provinces have a combined area of 1,780,650.6 km2 (687,513.0 sq mi), consisting of 640,081.87 km2 (247,136.99 sq mi) in Alberta, 552,329.52 km2 (213,255.62 sq mi) in Manitoba, and 588,239.21 km2 (227,120.43 sq mi) in Saskatchewan.
Some of the prairie region of Canada has seen rapid growth from a boom in oil production since the mid-20th century. According to StatsCanada, the prairie provinces had a population of 5,886,906 in 2011. In 2016, the population had grown by 14.6% to 6,748,280.
In the mid 20th century, the economy of the prairies exploded, due to the oil boom, and introduced a growth of jobs. The primary industries are agriculture and services. Agriculture consisting of livestock(cattle and sheep), cultivating crops (oats, canola, wheat, barley), and production of oil. Due to the production of oil, the service industry expanded in order to provide for the employees of the oil companies extracting the oil. In the 1950s-1970s, the explosion of oil production increased the worth of Alberta and allowing it to become the “nations richest province” and Canada one of the top petroleum exporters in the world. Edmonton and Calgary drew in a larger population with the increase in jobs in the energy field, which causes the jobs supporting this field to grow as well. It was through the steady economic growth that followed this explosion that the prairies region began to switch from an agriculture-based job sector to one with services included. In 2014, the global market for oil fell and led to a recession, impacting the economy dramatically. Alberta still has an oil dominant economy even as the traditional oil wells dry up, there are oil sands further north (ie. Fort McMurray) that continue to provide jobs to extract, drill and refine the oil. Saskatchewan, in particular, in the early 20th century grew economically due to the Canadian agricultural boom and produce large crops of wheat. It is said to have a “one-crop economy” due to such dependency on this crop alone, but after 1945 the economy took another turn with technological advancements that allowed for the discovery of uranium, oil, and potash.
The Prairies are distinguished from the rest of Canada by cultural and political traits. The oldest influence on Prairie culture are the First Nations, who have lived in the area for millennia. The first Europeans to see the Prairies were fur traders and explorers from eastern Canada (mainly present-day Quebec) and Great Britain via Hudson Bay. They gave rise to the Métis, working class "children of the fur trade." It was not until the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway did widespread agricultural production occur. During their settlement, the prairies were settled in distinct ethnic block settlements giving certain areas distinctively Ukrainian, German, French, or Scandinavian Canadian cultures.
Some areas also developed cultures around their main economic activity. For example, southern Alberta is renowned for its cowboy culture, which developed when real open range ranching was practised in the 1880s. Canada's first rodeo, the Raymond Stampede, was established in 1902. These influences are also evident in the music of Canada's Prairie Provinces. This can be attributed partially to the massive influx of American settlers who began to migrate to Alberta (and to a lesser extent, Saskatchewan) in the late 1880s because of the lack of available land in the United States.
The Prairie Provinces have given rise to the "prairie protest" movements, such as the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919, the first general strike in Canadian history. These political movements (both of the left and right) tend to feed off of well established feelings of Western alienation, and each one represents a distinct challenge to the perceived Central Canadian elite.
The Prairies continue to have a wide range of political representation. While the Conservative Party of Canada has widespread support throughout the region, the New Democratic Party holds seats at the provincial level in all three provinces, forming the government in one, as well as holding seats at the federal level in all three provinces. The Liberal Party of Canada presently holds federal seats in urban areas of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, while the Alberta Liberal Party holds a provincial seat in Alberta and the Manitoba Liberal Party holds four seats in Manitoba.
The American avocet (Recurvirostra americana) is a large wader in the avocet and stilt family, Recurvirostridae. This avocet spends much of its time foraging in shallow water or on mud flats, often sweeping its bill from side to side in water as it seeks its crustacean and insect prey.Andropogon gerardi
Andropogon gerardi, known commonly as big bluestem, turkeyfoot, tall bluestem, and bluejoint, is a tall grass native to much of the Great Plains and grassland regions of central and eastern North America.Brewer's blackbird
The Brewer's blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) is a medium-sized New World blackbird. It is named after the ornithologist Thomas Mayo Brewer.Buffalo jump
A buffalo jump is a cliff formation which Native Americans historically used to hunt and kill plains bison in mass quantities.California gull
The California gull (Larus californicus), or seagull, is a medium-sized gull, smaller on average than the herring gull but larger on average than the ring-billed gull, though it may overlap in size greatly with both.Canvasback
The canvasback (Aythya valisineria) is a species of diving duck, the largest found in North America.Chernozem
Chernozem (Russian: Чернозём, tr. chernozyom, IPA: [tɕɪrnɐˈzʲom]; "black soil") is a black-colored soil containing a high percentage of humus (4% to 16%) and high percentages of phosphoric acids, phosphorus and ammonia. Chernozem is very fertile and can produce high agricultural yields with its high moisture storage capacity. Chernozems are also a Reference Soil Group of the World Reference Base for Soil Resources (WRB).Chestnut-collared longspur
The chestnut-collared longspur (Calcarius ornatus) is a species of bird in the family Calcariidae. Like the other longspurs, it is a small ground-feeding bird that primarily eats seeds. It breeds in prairie habitats in Canada and the northern United States and winters to the south in the United States and Mexico.Chestnut-sided warbler
The chestnut-sided warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica) is a New World warbler. They breed in eastern North America and in southern Canada westwards to the Canadian Prairies. They also breed in the Great Lakes region and in the eastern United States.Chuckwagon racing
Chuckwagon racing is an equestrian rodeo sport in which drivers in a chuckwagon led by a team of Thoroughbred horses race around a track. The sport is most popular in the Prairie Provinces of Canada, where the World Professional Chuckwagon Association and the Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association, are the two major racing circuits. The most famous chuckwagon race in the world is held annually at the Calgary Stampede, where the total prize money for the ten-day event tops C$2.0 million. The WPCA submits 25 drivers to the Calgary, while the CPCA submits 11 drivers. The sport is controversial as horses and drivers are frequently injured or killed, prompting animal welfare groups to call for the sport to be banned.Cinnamon teal
The cinnamon teal (Spatula cyanoptera) is a species of duck found in western North and South America. It is a small dabbling duck, with bright reddish plumage on the male and duller brown plumage on the female. It lives in marshes and ponds, and feeds mostly on plants.Franklin's gull
The Franklin's gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan) is a small (length 12.6–14.2 in, 32–36 cm) gull. The genus name Leucophaeus is from Ancient Greek leukos, "white", and phaios, "dusky". The specific pipixcan is a Nahuatl name for a type of gull.Lark sparrow
The lark sparrow (Chondestes grammacus) is a fairly large American sparrow. It is the only member of the genus Chondestes.Marbled godwit
The marbled godwit (Limosa fedoa) is a large shorebird. On average, it is the largest of the 4 species of godwit. The total length is 40–50 cm (16–20 in), including a large bill of 8–13 cm (3.1–5.1 in), and wingspan is 70–88 cm (28–35 in). Body mass can vary from 240 to 510 g (8.5 to 18.0 oz).Adults have long blue-grey hairy legs and a very long pink bill with a slight upward curve and dark at the tip. The long neck, breast and belly are pale brown with dark bars on the breast and flanks. The back is mottled and dark. They show cinnamon wing linings in flight.
Their breeding habitat is the northern prairies of western Canada-(Canadian Prairies), and the north central Great Plains, United States near marshes or ponds. They nest on the ground, usually in short grass.
In autumn, they migrate in flocks to the coasts of California, the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico and South America.
These birds forage by probing on mudflats, in marshes, or at the beach (see picture below). When the tide is out, they eat. In short grass, they may pick up insects by sight. They mainly eat insects and crustaceans, but also eat parts of aquatic plants.
When the tide is in, they roost. They often sleep by standing on one leg and tucking their bill into their body (see picture below).Their numbers were reduced by hunting at the end of the 19th century. Although they had recovered somewhat since that time, their population has declined in recent times as suitable habitat is used for farming.Nelson's sparrow
Nelson's sparrow (Ammospiza nelsoni) is a small American sparrow. This bird was named after Edward William Nelson, an American naturalist. Formerly, this bird and the saltmarsh sparrow were considered to be a single species, the sharp-tailed sparrow; because of this it was briefly known as Nelson's sharp-tailed sparrow.
Adults have brownish upperparts with gray on the crown and nape, a cream-colored breast with light or indistinct streaking and a white throat and belly; they have an orange face with gray cheeks and a short pointed tail.
Their breeding habitat is marshes on the Atlantic coast of Canada and Maine, central Canada, (the Canadian Prairies region and a coastal strip on the south of Hudson Bay), and the north central United States. The nest is an open cup attached to vegetation and close to the ground. Males compete for females but do not defend territories; they sometimes help feed the young. Mating is largely promiscuous by both sexes; multiple paternity in a nest is common.
These birds migrate to the southeastern coasts of the United States. They forage on the ground or in marsh vegetation, sometimes probing in mud and eat mainly insects, aquatic invertebrates and seeds. Their call is a raspy trill, almost a mechanical sound. It may be given in flight during the nesting season. The sound has been likened to a drop of water hitting a hot fry pan.Sage thrasher
The sage thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus) is a medium-sized passerine bird from the family Mimidae, which also includes mockingbirds, tremblers, and New World catbirds. It is the only member of the genus Oreoscoptes. This seems less close to the Caribbean thrashers, but rather to the mockingbirds instead (Hunt et al. 2001, Barber et al. 2004).
Oreoscoptes montanus are pale grey-brown on the upperparts and white on the underparts with dark streaks. They have a slim straight relatively short bill, yellow eyes and a long tail, although not as long as that of other thrashers.
As its name suggests, this bird breeds in western North America, from southern Canada to northern Arizona and New Mexico. Its breeding habitat is in areas with dense stands of sagebrush and rarely in other shrubby areas. The female lays 4 or 5 eggs in a twiggy cup nest built in a low bush. Both parents incubate and feed the young birds.
In winter, these birds migrate to the southernmost United States and Mexico, including the Baja Peninsula, north and south.
They mainly eat insects in summer; they also eat berries, especially in winter. They usually search for insects on the ground in brushy locations.
The male bird sings a series of warbled notes to defend his nesting territory.
These birds have declined in some areas where sagebrush has been removed but are still common where suitable habitat remains. The continued decline of sagebrush habitats in western North America is cause for alarm for this and other sagebrush dependent species.Saskatchewan (film)
Saskatchewan (titled O'Rourke of the Royal Mounted in the UK) is a 1954 American Technicolor Northern/Western film directed by Raoul Walsh starring Alan Ladd and Shelley Winters. The title refers to Fort Saskatchewan in modern Alberta. Shooting was in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada, not far from the headwaters of the Saskatchewan River.Say's phoebe
The Say's phoebe (Sayornis saya) is a passerine bird in the tyrant flycatcher family. A common bird in the western United States. It prefers dry, desolate areas. This bird was named for Thomas Say, the American naturalist.Western meadowlark
The western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) is a medium-sized icterid bird, about 8.5 in (22 cm) in length. It nests on the ground in open grasslands across western and central North America. It feeds mostly on bugs, but will also feed on seeds and berries. The western meadowlark has distinctive calls described as watery or flute-like, which distinguish it from the closely related eastern meadowlark.
|Parks and protected areas|