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Location Canada, Alberta
Central coordinates 112o 33.28' West  53o 26.28' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii
Area 21,000 ha
Altitude 668 - 670m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Bird Studies Canada/Nature Canada

Site description Beaverhill Lake is located approximately 60 km southeast of Edmonton near the town of Tofield, Alberta. The site includes the waters of Beaverhill Lake (13,900 ha) and the Beaverhill Natural Area (410 ha). The Lake is strongly alkaline and shallow with a maximum depth of two to three m. The water levels fluctuate annually in response to precipitation. The shoreline is variable and includes shallow mudflats, narrow sandy beaches, and areas of dense emergent vegetation. The adjacent Beaverhill Natural Area has flat to gently rolling open grasslands with a mix of aspen groves and willow stands. Outside of the Natural Area habitats are comprised primarily of rangeland with some cultivated areas.

Key Biodiversity Beaverhill Lake is an important waterfowl staging area (spring and fall) with more than 200,000 individuals regularly using the site each year. During spring migration, more than 150,000 geese stage here, including daily numbers of 50-75,000 Snow Geese (greater than 1% of the global population) and 50-100,000 Greater White-fronted Geese (approximately 6.3% to 7.9% of the mid-continent population). In fall, 40-70,000 dabbling ducks (mostly Mallards and Pintails) are also present. The Lake is also an important waterfowl moulting area with up to 25,000 moulting ducks being reported (1976 data). Sandhill Cranes also stage here in spring migration with 8,000 being recorded in late April, 1993.

In addition to waterfowl, Beaverhill Lake regularly supports substantial numbers of a variety of shorebirds. Intensive shorebird surveys in 1995 included two counts with over 50,000 individuals present (19 and 24 May). In total, 32 species of shorebirds were recorded during 1995. Single species high counts included 10,000 Red-necked Phalaropes, 10,000 Pectoral Sandpipers, 10,000 dowitcher spp., 7,800 Black-bellied Plover, 7,200 Semipalmated Sandpiper, and 1,000 American Avocet. Intensive shorebird survey data are available for only a few years (1995, 1987) and average numbers for most of these species may to be lower. Nonetheless, these numbers suggest that approximately 20% of the estimated North American Pectoral Sandpiper population, and almost 16% of the estimated North American Black-bellied Plover population may have been present at Beaverhill Lake during May of 1995.

The Beaverhill Bird Observatory has been monitoring landbird migration in the Natural Area at the southwestern corner of the lake since 1986. Since 1994, this monitoring has consisted of a standardized daily program of mist netting and censuses. The number and diversity of landbirds captured varies considerably from year to year. Good numbers (1,000 to 3,000) and diversity (39 to 50+ species) of landbird migrants are banded at the site each season, with the total number of individuals moving through the area being much higher. Some of the more common species included Yellow-rumped and Yellow Warbler.

Piping Plover is the only threatened species that nests at Beaverhill Lake. During the 1996 International Survey, six breeding pairs of this globally Vulnerable, nationally Endangered species were reported. During migration, Peregrine Falcons are also regularly observed.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Sandhill Crane Antigone canadensis passage  1993  8,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola passage  1995  7,800 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos passage  1989  5,500 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Buff-breasted Sandpiper Calidris subruficollis passage  1978  1,500 individuals  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
Franklin's Gull Larus pipixcan breeding  1976  10,000 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds passage  100,000-499,999 individuals  poor  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Beaverhill Natural Area 410 protected area contained by site 410  
Beaverhill Lake Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 18,050 protected area overlaps with site 17,000  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Boreal coniferous forest; Temperate deciduous woods  -
Grassland Steppe & dry calcareous grassland  -
Wetlands (inland) Intertidal mud, sand or salt flats; Saline/alkaline lakes; Sand dunes and beaches  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture major
nature conservation and research major
hunting major
tourism/recreation major

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Beaverhill Lake. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016

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