Red Deer Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Mallards picture
Photo: © Thinkstockphotos.ca. Mallards.

Red Deer Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is situated in the City of Red Deer, Alberta, and is located within the Aspen Parkland ecoregion of the Prairie ecozone. The MBS is centred around two oxbow lakes formed by an abandoned channel of the Red Deer River. Known locally as Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary, the MBS is part of a larger natural area bounded on all sides by relatively recent subdivisions within the City of Red Deer. Some subdivision and an urban cemetery occur within the sanctuary itself. The steepest slopes above the lakes are vegetated mainly by White Spruce. Balsam poplar-dominated mixed-wood occurs on the less steep slopes. Upland vegetation between the lakes is largely aspen and Balsam Poplar, with an understory of Red Osier Dogwood, Wild Rose and Snowberry. The relatively shallow lakes are fed by a perennial stream from the southeast and groundwater discharge from the uplands to the east. Aquatic vegetation includes pondweed and duckweed, while the emergent vegetation around the shorelines consists largely of cattail. Several sedge meadow areas are found at the north end of the lakes.

Importance of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The sanctuary was proposed by the local chapter of the Alberta Natural History Society on behalf of J. Gaetz, the owner of the property at that time. The MBS was officially designated in 1924. After the death of Mr. Gaetz, the land was sold to the Province of Alberta. Since this time, the City of Red Deer has grown to encompass the sanctuary, which is now an urban refuge owned by the City of Red Deer, the Province of Alberta and private interests.

Several species of waterfowl use the Red Deer MBS, but only a few species nest there. Those observed include Mallard, Gadwall, Blue-winged and Green-winged teal, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Canvasback, Redhead, Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, and Canada Goose. Other waterbirds using the sanctuary are Horned, Eared, Pied-billed, Red-necked and Western Grebes; American Bittern; Great Blue Heron; California, Ring-billed and Franklin's Gulls; Wilson’s Snipe; Killdeer; Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers; Wilson's Phalarope; American Avocet; and Common and Black Terns. The mixed poplar-spruce, shrub and wetland habitats support a variety of passerine (songbird) species, grouse, hawks, and owls, as well as several species of mammals.

Access and Activities

MBSs are established for the protection and conservation of migratory birds. Activities that could harm migratory birds, their nests or their eggs are prohibited.

MBSs can be and have been established on private, provincial, territorial and federally owned lands. Access to each MBS varies by site and is at the discretion of the landowner and land manager.

Where MBSs are located on federal land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the management and protection of migratory birds, nests, eggs and habitat. Where MBSs are located on provincial land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests, while the chief game officer of the province is responsible for the management of habitat. Where MBSs are located on private or municipal land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests. Habitat management is the responsibility of the landowner.

Public access to the MBS is at the discretion of the landowners (private, the City of Red Deer and the Province of Alberta). The standard prohibitions under the Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations apply to Red Deer MBS: hunting migratory birds is prohibited, and no person shall disturb, destroy or take the nest of a migratory bird or have in his or her possession a live migratory bird, or a carcass, skin, nest or egg of a migratory bird, except under the authority of a permit issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada or unless authorized by the Regulations. Possession of firearms or other hunting appliances is prohibited. Dogs and cats must not be allowed to run at large.

For more information on entry, activities and permits in MBSs, please visit the Management and Activities section of the Migratory Bird Sanctuaries website. For more information on Environment and Climate Change Canada's protected areas, please contact the regional office.

For greater certainty, nothing in this document shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for existing Aboriginal or treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Map of the Area

  • Map of Vaseux Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
Long description of the map

Map showing the location of Red Deer Migratory Bird Sanctuary relative to Alberta and Red Deer. The map shows the boundaries of the sanctuary, which create a large rectangular area. The scale of the map is in hundreds of meters.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Red Deer MBS can also be viewed using Google Maps. Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information and does not represent the official map or site name.

Summary table

Summary table for Red Deer Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Category Information
Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Alberta
Latitude/longitude 52°17' N, 113°46' W
Size in hectares (ha) 129 ha
Date created (Gazetted) 1924
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management category N/A
Additional designations None
Main habitat type Wetland (12%), shrub/trees (73%), cultivated land (11%), landscaped area/cemetery (4%)
Key bird species None
Other species Birds: Mallard, Gadwall, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Canvasback, Redhead, Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, Canada Goose, Horned Grebe, Eared Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Western Grebe, American Bittern, Great Blue Heron, California Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Franklin's Gull, Wilson’s Snipe, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Wilson's Phalarope, American Avocet, Common Tern and Black Tern.
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Prairie and Northern Region
Landowner Private, City of Red Deer and Province of Alberta

Contact Information

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Prairie and Northern Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas and Stewardship Unit
Eastgate Offices
9250 - 49th Street
Edmonton AB T6B 1K5
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
Email: ec.enviroinfo.ec@canada.ca
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