Blue Quills National Wildlife Area

Blue Quills National Wildlife Area is in east-central Alberta within the North Saskatchewan River Basin. Blue Quills NWA provides habitat for a variety of songbirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, grouse and small mammals.


Blue Quills National Wildlife Area (NWA) is approximately 190 kilometers (km) northeast of Edmonton. The Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) acquired this area in 1968 for two reasons. First was to protect and manage upland nesting cover for migratory birds. The other reason was to secure a block of habitat typical of the region's natural vegetation.

The NWA is mostly deciduous forest, grassland, and wetland. People have observed a variety of species in Blue Quills NWA. Most of these observed species are typical ofthe boreal transition zone. Amongst other, songbirds include:

Shorebirds include the sora and American bittern

Waterfowl include species such as:

In previous decades, the rusty blackbird and short-eared owl (both species of special concern) were observed in the NWA. However no comprehensive survey of the site in the past decade was conducted. Little is known about the contemporary species composition.

Image of a Short-earedowl
Short-earedowl within Blue Quills National Wildlife Area

One can find a small number of water bodies wholly or partially within the NWA. These wetlands have localized watersheds and no defined inlet or outlet. As a result, the NWA’s water fluctuates considerably in response to climate. Many water bodies have been dry for much of the past decade. In wet periods, these wetlands may again absorb water and support breeding waterfowl such as mallard, horned grebe, or American coot.

The NWA is situated in the boreal transition eco region. Therefore the area has plant species common to both the boreal forest to the north and the aspen parkland to the south. On the higher, drier areas, the site is characterized by old field meadows and aspen-dominated forest of varying age. The old field meadows are dominated primarily by introduced species such as bluegrass, smooth brome, and red fescue. Shrubs and forbs include introduced species such as alfalfa and sweet clover along with native species such as snowberry, wild rose, buttercup, and wild strawberry. The aspen forest communities are dominated by aspen and balsam poplar with wildrose, dogwood, wild raspberry and Saskatoon berry in the understory. A large area at the southern end of the NWA that was previously seeded to tame for ageis now undergoing natural succession and is slowly reverting back to native shrub and tree species. Vegetal species of this portion of the NWA consist of  a patchwork of native and introduced species.

Find more information on Blue Quills NWA in the summary table below.

Image of a Yellow warbler
Yellow warbler sitting on a branch


Under the Canada Wildlife Act, NWAs are protected and managed in accordance with the Wildlife Area Regulations. The primary purpose of NWAs is to protect and conserve wildlife and their habitat. For this purpose and according to the legislation, all activities in a NWA that could interfere with the conservation of wildlife can be prohibited. Consequently, most NWAs are not accessible to the public and all activities are prohibited. However, some activities may be authorized through public notice or the issuance of permits as long as they are consistent with the management plan goals for the NWA.

For more information, consult the NWAs Management and Activities section.

More information on access and permitting for Blue Quills NWA can be obtained by contacting the Environment and Climate Change Canada regional office.

Map of the area

Map of the Blue Quills NWA
Map of Blue Quills NWA
Long description

Map showing an areain mid-eastern Alberta near St. Paul. The boundaries of Blue Quills NWA are indicated. The wildlife area covers a rectangular area to the south of Township Road 582, to the west of St. Paul and to the south-west of Montagnais Lake. The NWA covers portions or whole of several small bodies of water. The scale on the map is in kilometers. Permanent water, intermittent water, and roads are all indicated on the map. An inset shows the NWA’s location in Canada.

This map is for illustrative purposes only. It should not be used to define legal boundaries.

Summary Table

Summary table
Category Information
Protected area designation NWA
Province/territory Alberta
Latitude/longitude 54°0' North / 111°23' West
Size 97 ha
Reason for creation of protected area
  • to protect and manageupland nesting cover for migratory birds
  • to secure a block ofhabitat typical of the region's natural vegetation
Date created (gazetted) 1968 - legal description
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category IV -Habitat/Species Management Area
Additional designations None
Keystone or flagship species The following species have been observed at Blue Quills NWA in the past:

Main habitat type
  • deciduous forest
  • ephemeral wetlands
  • oldfield meadows
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA)
Invasive species Several introduced plant species are well established species, including:

  • smooth brome
  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • crested wheatgrass
  • perennialsow-thistle
Additional links Birds:

Main threats and challenges
  • small size
  • non-native and invasive species
  • partially cultivated and seeded areas
  • non-native species in the past
Management agency Environment and Climate Change Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)
Public access and usage Certain activities may be allowed by permit

Note: If there is a discrepancy between the information presented on this web page and any notice posted at the NWA site, the notice prevails as it is the legal instrument authorizing theactivity.

Contact us

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Prairie Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas program
East gate Offices
9250 - 49th Street NW
Edmonton AB
T6B 1K5

Toll-Free: 1-800-668-6767 (inCanada only)

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