IBA Whitford & Rush Lakes
Andrew, Alberta
Site Summary
AB044 Latitude
53.846° N
112.249° W
625 - 630 m
69.05 km²
deciduous woods (temperate), rivers/streams, freshwater lake, freshwater marsh, arable & cultivated lands, improved pastureland
Land Use:
Agriculture, Hunting, Rangeland/pastureland
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Disturbance, Dredging/canalization, Filling in of wetlands, Hunting, Intensified management, Recreation/tourism
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Waterfowl Concentrations, Shorebird Concentrations, Nationally Significant: Congregatory Species
Conservation status:
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Site Description
The Whitford and Rush lakes are close to the railway community of Andrew, and are about 90 km northeast of Edmonton, Alberta. The lakes are shallow and are located in a flat to gently rolling part of Albertas aspen parkland. The shorelines have extensive emergent vegetation that is used by breeding birds. Like many lakes in the prairies, these lakes are naturally subject to large fluctuations in water level, which are partially controlled by canals, dykes and other man-made structures. These two lake in particular go through long dry spells (most years of the 1990s), but water, at least in Whitford Lake, was present in 2000 and is expected to return again in quantities to attract large numbers of birds. Drying cycles are part of the process that restores lake fertility.
The Whitford and Rush lakes are extremely important wetland sites for waterfowl and other water birds. In both spring and fall, in years when water is present, large numbers of waterfowl stage in the area. In spring, Greater White-fronted Goose, Canada Goose, Tundra Swan, Mallard and Northern Pintail are the most common species. Numbers of fall staging waterfowl are larger than in the spring. A high count of 91,300 staging ducks was recorded in 1963.

Avian botulism outbreaks have occurred regularly here over the last 40 years. Over 20,000 shorebirds have visited these lakes in spring, although this is a one time observation. One percent or more of the Canadian

population of Forsters Terns (30 or more pairs) have nested in the marshes of Whitford and Rush lakes, but the exact or current numbers of nests of this very local breeder is unknown.

Numerous other bird species, especially those associated with water, are also found at these lakes. Western Grebe (<100 nests, all pre-1990), Eared Grebe (>20), Franklins Gull (>20 nests), American White-Pelican (>50 non-breeding) and migrating Bald and Golden eagles are all seen.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Buff-breasted Sandpiper 2019 SP 50
Rusty Blackbird 2018 - 2020 FA 30 - 300
Waterbirds 1962 - 1985 FA 41,000 - 91,300
Whooping Crane 2001 SU 1
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
Extensive water stabilization projects are planned to prevent flooding, an event that has been a problem for adjacent farms in the past. This could seriously affect the functioning of the lakes as they are now. In the 1970s, both Ducks Unlimited and the Canadian Wildlife Service considered acquiring this land. There is a bait station on Whitford Lake that in the fall has attracted many ducks. The area has been designated as a Wetlands for Tomorrow site. Muskrat is commercially harvested around the lakes.

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.
   © Birds Canada