Opuntia Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Opuntia Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located near Kindersley, in Saskatchewan. It protects quality habitat for thousands of geese, ducks, swans and crane.

Importance of the sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife

When the Quill Lakes Migratory Bird Sanctuary was delisted on January 23, 1952, two new sanctuaries were created in the same year to replace it. One of these new protected areas was the Opuntia Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Located 60 kilometres southwest of Biggar, Saskatchewan, this sanctuary is strategically positioned along a major flyway for geese and other waterfowl in an area that is highly susceptible to drought. This makes Opuntia Lake very important and it is highly used in the fall as a resting and feeding area for many species of birds.

It has been estimated that each fall the migratory birds seen in this sanctuary include:

  • 15 000 to 20 000 geese – comprised of Canada geese, white-fronted geese, snow geese and Ross’s geese
  • 30 000 ducks – mostly mallard, northern pintail, and various diving ducks
  • 500 tundra swans
  • 2000 sandhill cranes
Sandhill crane
Sandhill crane. Photo: Lisa Pirie

Did you know?

During mating season, sandhill cranes perform a dance that involves bowing, jumping, wing flapping and sometimes even playfully tossing sticks and plants into the air.

The lake also supports small numbers of breeding and moulting ducks, shorebirds and other waterbirds.


Opuntia Lake itself, situated in the Moist Mixed Grass ecoregion of Saskatchewan, is shallow, saline and located in a deep and broad glacial meltwater channel. Eagle Creek both feeds the lake and acts as its water outlet. Even though a berm and check dam was installed downstream as a water control measure, the water levels of the lake still fluctuate considerably due to the fact that they depend largely on seasonal rains and spring runoff.

Opuntia Lake. Photo: Nicolas Demers

During the summer, as water levels progressively decline, mudflats form near the lake, and blue-green algae blooms are known to occur occasionally in the turbid water. The shoreline, particularly near the lake’s inlet and outlet, are vegetated with scatterings of bulrushes and sedges. The aquatic vegetation found in the lake is mostly pondweeds in the deep water and water milfoil in the shallow areas. The higher land around the lake is vegetated with native grasslands along the meltwater channel slopes. These grassy slopes are all used as grazing land for livestock.

Map of the area

Map of Opuntia Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Long description
Map showing the location of the Opuntia Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) in relation to Saskatchewan, Plenty, Eagle Creek, and Opuntia Lake. The map shows the boundaries of the refuge, which includes the lake up to its shore. The MBS is located north of Highway 31. The scale of the map is in kilometers. Permanent and intermittent waters are shown on the map, as are roads and highways. An inset on the map shows the location of the shelter in Canada.

Access to the sanctuary

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, such as Opuntia Lake, are established across the country to protect migratory birds during critical periods of their life cycle. Whether these areas are used for feeding, resting or nesting, they play an important role in the survival of many species. As Opuntia Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary is accessed through private lands, please ensure that you have the landowner’s permission before visiting. Please ensure that you are aware of how you can help protect this sanctuary and please read the restrictions, including those on firearms and hunting, which are in place to conserve the wildlife that call it home. Dogs and cats must not be allowed to run at large inside Migratory Bird Sanctuaries.

If you would like further information on what is permitted in Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, please visit the Management and Activities section of the website. For more information on Opuntia Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Opuntia Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Saskatchewan
Latitude/longitude 51°48' N, 108°33' W
Size 1395 hectares
Date created (Gazetted) 1952
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category IV – Habitat/Species Management Area
Additional designations None
Main habitat type Open water and mud flats (95%) and marsh/sedge meadow (5%)
Key bird species Canada goose, white-fronted goose, snow goose, Ross's gull, mallard, northern pintail, sandhill crane and tundra swan
Other species Birds: Spotted sandpiper, upland sandpiper, American avocet, piping plover, willet, marbled godwit, Wilson's phalarope, long-billed curlew, Franklin's gull, red-winged blackbird, ring-billed gull and eared grebe
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Piping plover (circumcinctus subspecies) and long-billed curlew (numenius americanus)
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service
Landowner Province of Saskatchewan

Related links

Opuntia Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary on Google Maps (Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information that can help locate the migratory bird sanctuary and does not represent the official map or site name)

Contact Information

Environment and Climate Change Canada
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas – Prairie Region
115 Perimeter Road
Saskatoon, SK S7N 0X4

Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
Email: ec.enviroinfo.ec@canada.ca

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: