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Location Canada, Alberta
Central coordinates 119o 3.13' West  58o 45.02' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii
Area 59,000 ha
Altitude 325 - 350m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Bird Studies Canada/Nature Canada

Site description The Hay and Zama Lakes area is a remote complex of lakes in northwestern Alberta. The nearest population centre is Rainbow Lake, 25 km to the southwest. The site is a large lowland wetland complex which includes a series of eutrophic freshwater lakes, floodplains and river deltas. The size and depth of the lakes vary according to the seasonally fluctuating inflow from Hay River. The surrounding forests are dominated by spruce, trembling aspen, and balsam poplar. The site is a movement corridor for ungulates, and has good habitat for Woodland Caribou and Wood Bison (one of few wild populations).

Key Biodiversity This wetland complex is globally significant for its huge concentrations of geese and ducks in spring and fall migration. Ducks of various species gather in both seasons in numbers as high as 200,000. Lesser Snow Geese of the Western Central Flyway population are regularly recorded here with peak numbers reaching 130,000 birds (2.6% of the global Snow Goose population). Canada Geese of the Short-grass Prairie population migrate through the area with counts as high as 47,000, which is just over 1% of the global Canada Goose population. Ducks Unlimited have estimated that, under ideal conditions, as many as 1,000,000 waterfowl utilize this lake complex during the whole of the fall migration. The site is also provincially significant for breeding ducks and locally significant for moulting ducks.

Colonial nesting birds include Franklins, Herring, Bonapartes and Ring-billed gulls, and Common Terns. Ten species of raptors have been documented at this site to date.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons passage  1985  15,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Snow Goose Anser caerulescens passage  1985  130,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds passage  1985  500,000-999,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Hay-Zama Lakes Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 50,000 protected area overlaps with site 36,000  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Boreal coniferous forest; Boreal deciduous woods; Boreal mixed woods  -
Wetlands (inland) Freshwater lakes and pools; Freshwater marshes/swamps; Rivers  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research major
fisheries/aquaculture minor
hunting minor
rangeland/pastureland minor
urban/industrial/transport major

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Hay and Zama Lakes. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016

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