Saskatoon Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary
The Saskatoon Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located near Grande Prairie, Alberta. It conserves habitat for trumpeter swans and many other bird species.
Importance of the sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife
If you drive 24 kilometers northwest of Grande Prairie, Alberta, you’ll find the Saskatoon Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary. This sanctuary was established in 1948 due to this site being recognized as an important place not only for waterfowl, but also for the once-rare trumpeter swan. Since then, trumpeter swan numbers have risen greatly and they can be seen yearly during their migration, breeding and nesting on Little Lake and sometimes in the larger basin of Saskatoon Lake itself.
This area is also important for tundra swans as well as many species of ducks, including those known to nest in the sanctuary, such as:
- northern pintail
- American wigeon
- lesser scaup
- white-winged scoter
- ring-necked duck
- ruddy duck
Other water, marsh or shore birds that are known to, or believed to, nest in the sanctuary include:
- Canada goose
- eared grebe
- horned grebe
- common tern
- black tern
- Franklin's gull
- American bittern
- red-winged blackbird
- yellow-headed blackbird
- rusty blackbird
- black-bellied plover
- spotted sandpiper
In the area surrounding the lakes, the diverse vegetation also makes wonderful nesting habitat for several species of sparrow and birds of prey as well as:
- northern flicker
- yellow-bellied sapsucker
- downy woodpecker
- eastern kingbird
- tree swallow
- barn swallow
- black-capped chickadee
- warbling vireo
- yellow-rumped warbler
- western meadowlark
- pine siskin
- ruffed grouse
The lakes located in the Boreal Parkland ecoregion of northern Alberta, have shorelines that vary between the muddy-marshy areas found particularly in the bays to the long stretches of stony beach and gravelly or boulder-strewn points. The water levels in Saskatoon Lake average approximately 2.5 metres and, for both lakes, these levels are completely dependent on the runoff from the surrounding, gently rolling terrain as there are no streams that flow in or out of either lake. Little lake was at one point a large bay in Saskatoon Lake, but low water levels over the years have resulted in the bay being cut off from the larger lake to form a separate small lake.
Did you know?
One of the main reasons that the trumpeter swan population decreased in North America was due to overhunting by early European settlers. These swans were prized for their feathers, which were sent back to Europe and used to make fashionable accessories and writing quills.
Map of the area
Map showing the location of the Saskatoon Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) in relation to Alberta, and Saskatoon Lake, Little, Bear and Cutbank lakes. The map shows the boundaries of the refuge, which encloses Saskatoon Lake, Little Lake as well as the lands between these two lakes. The MBS is located east of road 724 and north of highway 43. The scale of the map is in kilometers. Permanent waters, intermitent waters, roads and highways are shown on the map. An inset on the map shows the location of the shelter in Canada.
Planning your visit
Most of the land between Saskatoon Lake and Little Lake is part of the Saskatoon Island Provincial Park. Opportunities to see wildlife are offered here throughout the year, but spring and fall are particularly great times to see migratory birds from the bird-viewing platform, equipped with a telescope, that you will find near Little Lake. The Friends of Saskatoon Island Cooperating Association also organize a yearly swan festival in the park each April to celebrate the spring migration of the Trumpeter Swan.
Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, such as Saskatoon 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. Access to each migratory bird sanctuary varies by site and is at the discretion of the landowner and land manager. 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 Saskatoon Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.
Key facts about Saskatoon Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary
- Saskatoon 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)
- Saskatoon Island Provincial Park (Alberta Parks)
Environment and Climate Change Canada – Prairie and Northern Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas and Stewardship Unit
9250 – 49th Street
Edmonton AB T6B 1K5
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
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