IBA Lesser Slave Lake PP
Slave Lake, Alberta
Site Summary
AB003 Latitude
55.440° N
115.376° W
570 - 1,005 m
2,018.74 km²
coniferous forest (boreal/alpine), deciduous woods (boreal/alpine), mixed woods (boreal/alpine), rivers/streams, freshwater lake, freshwater marsh, coastal sand dunes & beaches, cliffs/rocky shores (inland)
Land Use:
Nature conservation and research, Fisheries/aquaculture, Tourism/recreation
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Disturbance, Deforestation, Other increased mortality, Recreation/tourism, Urban/industrial development
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Congregatory Species, Migratory Landbird Concentrations, Continentally Significant: Congregatory Species, Nationally Significant: Congregatory Species, Waterfowl Concentrations
Conservation status: IBA Conservation Plan written/being written, Provincial Park (including Marine)
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Site Description
The massive Lesser Slave Lake in northcentral Alberta, is one of the largest lakes in the province. The town of Slave Lake is near the southeastern corner, and several small communities are located along the highway that runs along the south shore. The northern shore of this relatively shallow (20 m) lake is steeper and often rockier than the shallower southern shore, which contains various marsh communities. Sandy beaches and dunes are found at the eastern end of the lake. In Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park (at the eastern end of the lake) and all around the lake, are hilly mixedwood forests of Trembling Aspen, Balsam Poplar, Balsam Fir, White Spruce and Black Spruce. Two Alberta subregions are represented here: Central Mixedwood and Lower Foothills. At the western end of the lake there is a rich delta leading into Buffalo Bay. Both marsh and swamp habitats are represented here.
This diverse area is host to over 200 species of birds, both landbirds and waterbirds. On Lesser Slave Lake itself, up to 3,500 swans occur in spring and fall. Since only a small portion (or none) of these are likely to be Trumpeter Swans, this number must represent between 1 and 2 % of the North American population of Tundra Swans. Depending on water levels, in some years, the swans can be found all along the south shore, while in other years they concentrate in certain locations, including Nine Mile Point and The Flats near Widewater. Other waterfowl are abundant during migration. In the delta at the west end of the lake, thousands of ducks congregate in the fall. Large numbers of Western Grebes, perhaps the largest in the province, nest in several places along the lakeshore there are records of 400 nests at Assineau Point, 200 nests at Driftpile Point and 50 nests at Giroux Bay.

During the breeding season, numerous other waterbird species are found here. Common Goldeneye, Mallard, Common Merganser, Bufflehead, Black Tern, Common Tern and Forsters Tern are just some of the regular breeders. The lake and its associated shoreline provide excellent habitat for breeding Bald Eagles and Ospreys. In August 1997, a survey of the lake and nearby shorelines produced an estimated 72 Bald Eagles.

The forests are rich in breeding forest birds. Some of the most abundant species are Lincolns Sparrow, Tennessee Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Magnolia Warbler. In all, 20 species of breeding warblers have been recorded in Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park. During migration, good concentrations of songbirds move between the eastern edge of the lake and Marten Mountain. Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory, established in 1994, has banded many neotropical migrants. The five most commonly banded species are American Redstart, Least Flycatcher, White-throated Sparrow, Alder Flycatcher, and Yellow-rumped Warbler.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Greater White-fronted Goose 2011 - 2015 SP 9,390 - 20,607
Rusty Blackbird 2015 FA 24 - 60
Rusty Blackbird 2000 - 2015 SP 45 - 236
Tundra Swan 1985 FA 3,500
Tundra Swan 1985 SP 3,500
Western Grebe 1975 OT 1,300
Note: species shown in bold indicate that the maximum number exceeds at least one of the IBA thresholds (sub-regional, regional or global). The site may still not qualify for that level of IBA if the maximum number reflects an exceptional or historical occurrence.
Conservation Issues
Along the shoreline, cumulative development of houses, cottages, marinas, and municipal properties is of increasing concern. This leads to the loss of riparian vegetation and nearshore forests, the most productive areas for nesting and foraging waterbirds, and for migrating neotropical species. Increased boating activity and access to the lake can cause disturbance to colonial nesting species and nesting raptors. The relatively isolated north shore is being considered as a possible route for part of the Trans Canada Trail (a recreational trail), as well as a potential Alberta Special Places site.

Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park is home to Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory, an organization that is active in landbird research (particularly forest bird research), education, and conservation. An annual Songbird Festival is held here every year in the late spring. Within the park, activities associated with oil exploration are allowed only because these were occurring before park status was designated; but no new lease access roads have been allowed for many years in the park. The park is also highly developed for recreational activities.

The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Birds Canada and Nature Canada.
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