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Location Canada, Saskatchewan
Central coordinates 104o 19.83' West  51o 54.06' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii
Area 72,000 ha
Altitude 516 m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Bird Studies Canada/Nature Canada

Site description The Quill Lakes are located immediately north of the town of Wynard in east-central Saskatchewan. The lakes are named (from west to east): Big Quill, Middle Quill (or Mud), and Little Quill Lakes. Middle Quill Lake is the smallest, while Big Quill is the largest - in fact the largest saline lake in Canada. During periods of high water levels, the lakes drain from west to east. The lakes, however, do not have an outlet. All three lakes are extremely shallow, such that any fluctuation of water level, or influence of the wind, can cause great differences in even the day-to-day location of the shoreline. The muddy and gravelly lakeshores are surrounded by grasslands, aspen parkland, and numerous freshwater marshes.

Key Biodiversity The lakes, Big Quill Lake in particular, support an exceptional number of breeding Piping Plovers. Over the last five years there has been an average of 284 birds observed (almost 7.5% of the global population, and over 25% of the Canadian northern Great Plains population). In 1996, 435 plovers were recorded, which was the largest breeding concentration in the world. During fall migration, the globally threatened Whooping Crane is also regularly observed at this site.

The Quill Lakes are also significant as a shorebird staging area (especially during the spring) with a one day peak count of 197,155 shorebirds being recorded during the spring of 1993. During a 1989-1992 study, several species were recorded in numbers (one day peak count averages) that exceeded 1% of their biogeographical populations, including Hudsonian Godwit, Least Sandpiper, Bairds Sandpiper, American Avocet and dowitcher. Especially large numbers of White-rumped Sandpipers (as much as 2% of their global population) and Stilt Sandpipers (as much as 8.9% of their global population) were also noted.

The Quill Lakes are also known as an important waterfowl breeding and staging area with hundreds of thousands of ducks, Sandhill Cranes (1.8% of their global population), Canada Geese, and Snow Geese using the area each fall.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Sandhill Crane Antigone canadensis passage  1985  12,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Whooping Crane Grus americana passage  1997  1 individuals  A1  Endangered 
Piping Plover Charadrius melodus breeding  1996  435 individuals  A1,A4i  Near Threatened 
Hudsonian Godwit Limosa haemastica passage  1990  1,450 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla passage  1993  23,637 individuals  A4i  Near Threatened 
Stilt Sandpiper Calidris himantopus passage  1990  8,961 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus passage  1990  45,188 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds passage  1985  50,000-99,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Dafoe Game Park 606 protected area overlaps with site 410  
Mud Lake Wildlife Refuge 65 protected area contained by site 840  
Quill Lakes Designation Not Known 37,936 protected area overlaps with site 38,000  
Quill Lakes Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 63,500 protected area overlaps with site 57,000  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Grassland Steppe & dry calcareous grassland  10%
Wetlands (inland) Freshwater marshes/swamps; Saline/alkaline lakes  90%

Land use

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

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Quill Lakes. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife