Upper Rousay Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Upper Rousay Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located near Yorkton, in Saskatchewan. It offers a quality habitat where many birds can feed, rest and nest.

Importance of the sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife

The Upper Rousay Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary is known to be a wonderful breeding and moulting habitat for waterfowl in Saskatchewan’s Aspen Parkland ecoregion. Located 6 kilometers southwest of Yorkton, this sanctuary is one of five migratory bird sanctuaries that were established on November 3, 1948, to replace five others that were no longer deemed to be suitable migratory bird habitat due to drought conditions. 

Large numbers of ducks and Canada geese nest yearly in this protect area and also use the sanctuary as a fall resting and feeding area. Other water and marsh birds also use this area as a breeding ground including:

  • eared grebe
  • pied-billed grebe
  • red-necked grebe
  • sora
  • marsh wren
  • red-winged blackbird
  • yellow-headed blackbird
Pied-billed grebe
Pied-billed grebe

A variety of shorebirds use the sanctuary and an assortment of species are either known or suspected of breeding here including:

  • Wilson’s phalarope
  • marbled godwit
  • killdeer
  • Wilson’s snipe
  • upland sandpiper
  • willet
  • spotted sandpiper
  • Baird's sandpiper
  • American avocet

In the summer you can observe:

  • great blue heron
  • black-crowned night heron
  • American bittern
  • common loon
  • western grebe
  • American white pelican
  • herring gull
  • ring-billed gull

During migration, you may also spot:

  • semipalmated plover
  • greater yellowlegs
  • lesser yellowlegs
  • short-billed dowitcher
  • pectoral sandpiper
  • least sandpiper
  • solitary sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Short-billed dowitcher


Upper Rousay Lake is part of a larger wetland complex of shallow, interconnected bodies of water including Lower Rousay, York, Leech and Crescent lakes. Water levels in the complex fluctuate substantially, and are largely dependent on local runoff and some intermittent streams. Upper Rousay Lake itself is shallow, with an average depth of 0.5 meters. The sanctuary includes numerous bays, peninsulas and temporary islands, as well as several artificial islands constructed by Ducks Unlimited Canada.  

The lake shoreline is vegetated by sedges and associated wet meadow grasses and scattered clumps of aspen and willow occur on its periphery. The lands surrounding the lake were cultivated and are now used for tame pasture, hay and cereal crops.

Did you know?

It is estimated that 23 to 28 percent of the world’s wetlands are in Canada. The Canadian Wetland Inventory is a tool created in partnership with Ducks Unlimited Canada that is mapping, classifying and looking at the potential threats to all wetlands across the country. This information is very beneficial for making informed conservation decisions.

Map of the area

Map of Upper Rousay Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary
  • Long description
    Map showing the location of the Upper Rousay Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) in relation to Saskatchewan, Vanstone, Willow Brook, Rousay Lake and Upper Rousay Lake. The map shows the refuge boundaries, which enclose Upper Rousay Lake and a few nearby pieces of water. The MBS is located west of Highways 10 and 52 junction's. 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 Upper Rousay 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 Upper Rousay Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Upper Rousay Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Saskatchewan
Latitude/longitude 51°19' N, 102°58' W
Size 518 hectares
Date created (Gazetted) 1948
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category IV – Habitat/Species Management Area
Additional designations None
Main habitat type Open water (55%), marsh/sedge meadow (45%)
Key bird species Canada goose and mallard
Other species Birds: Horned grebe, eared grebe, pied-billed grebe, red-necked grebe, sora, marsh wren, red-winged blackbird, yellow-headed blackbird, great blue heron, black-crowned night-heron, American bittern, common loon, western grebe, American white pelican, herring gull, ring-billed gull, Wilson’s phalarope, marbled godwit, killdeer, Wilson’s snipe, upland sandpiper, willet, spotted sandpiper, Baird's sandpiper, American avocet, semipalmated plover, greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, pectoral sandpiper, least sandpiper, solitary sandpiper, short-billed dowitcher
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service
Landowner Province of Saskatchewan

Related links

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

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