IBA Kimiwan Lake
McLennan, Alberta
Site Summary
AB055 Latitude
55.754° N
116.918° W
619 - 625 m
51.36 km²
freshwater lake, freshwater marsh, mud or sand flats (freshwater)
Land Use:
Nature conservation and research, Hunting, Tourism/recreation
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Drought, Extraction industry, Intensified management, Interactions with native species/disease, Recreation/tourism, Urban/industrial development
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Congregatory Species, Waterfowl Concentrations, Shorebird Concentrations
Conservation status: Environmentally Significant Area (provincial), IBA Conservation Plan written/being written, Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (potential)
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Site Description
Kimiwan Lake is a large freshwater lake situated beside the town of McLennan, Alberta, about 135 km northeast of Grande Prairie. Along most of the shoreline, the lakeshore is characterized by marsh and mud flat habitats. The surrounding landscape is a mix of agricultural land and boreal forest, with dominant species including White Spruce, Balsam Fir, and Trembling Aspen.
In the spring of 1988, two counts of over 20,000 shorebirds were recorded at Kimiwan Lake, including a one-day maximum of 27,067. The actual numbers of shorebirds moving through this site is likely much large considering the likelihood of high turnover rates. During the 1988 surveys, the most abundant species were Pectoral Sandpipers (7,000 or perhaps 5% of the world's population of this poorly known species), and dowitchers (12,000, most probably Long-billed, which would represent about 2% of the world's population).

Kimiwan Lake is also important for waterfowl during the summer moulting and fall migration periods. During the fall, one-day counts of greater than 20,000 waterfowl are made regularly, with the species including dabbling and diving ducks, Canada Geese, White-fronted Geese, Tundra and Trumpeter swans. During the summer, counts of moulting waterfowl often range from 5,000 to 20,000. However, total numbers of moulting waterfowl using the lake may be much larger. In 1998, approximately 50,000 dabbling ducks were collected after a probable outbreak of avian botulism. Total waterfowl losses in 1998 were estimated at 200,000 birds.

In addition, the lake also supports large numbers of other species. Over 5,000 non-breeding Franklin's Gulls (about 1% of the world's estimated population) have been recorded at the lake during the mid-summer. Songbird monitoring in 2000 found at least 66 species utilizing the nearshore forested habitats.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Long-billed Dowitcher 1988 FA 12,000
Pectoral Sandpiper 1988 FA 7,000
Pectoral Sandpiper 2003 SP 676
Waterbirds 1995 FA 20,000
Waterbirds 1995 OT 20,000
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
Water levels of the lake are regulated by diversion ditches and canals. Agricultural activities including annual cropping and livestock grazing have increased along the shorelines in recent years. Approximately 93% of the shoreline is currently influenced by agriculture. Recent petroleum extraction activities have increased to the east. On the south shore of the lake, within the town of McLennan, there is a well-developed wildlife-viewing site with boardwalks, viewing platforms and interpretive signage. The interpretive centre is staffed full time through the summer months and provides opportunities for education and promotion of local conservation issues.

Kimiwan Lake has been recognized as an environmentally significant area (ESA) at the provincial level, and it is the most northerly of the potential Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network sites in the prairies. Hunting of game birds is prohibited within 0.8 km of the lake.

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