IBA Pelican Lake (Alberta)
Sandy Lake, Alberta
Site Summary
AB100 Latitude
55.800° N
113.256° W
564 m
78.90 km²
freshwater lake, inlets/coastal features (freshwater)
Land Use:
Not Utilized (Natural Area)
Potential or ongoing Threats:
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Congregatory Species
Conservation status:
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Site Description
Pelican Lake is located at the eastern end of the Wabasca Lakes chain, 21 km east of the town of Sandy Lake, in northern Alberta. Pelican Lake is a permanent boreal lake that is surrounded by boggy wetlands. Two islands within the lake host breeding birds. The lake is situated in a relatively remote location.
A globally significant number of American White Pelicans breed on two islands within Pelican Lake. In 1998, 2,108 young and in 2000, 1,660 young were recorded in the colony. Since pelicans lay a two-egg clutch, these numbers translate to a minimum of 1,054 and 830 pairs. These are minimum estimates because it assumes that all birds successfully hatched two young. This number of pairs is probably about 1% of the global population of the species, and the colony is the second largest in the province. The pelicans use nearby lakes, such as Sandy Lake, north and south Wabasca lakes and others to the west for feeding.

Several other colonial waterbird species breed on the islands. In both 1998 and 2000 there were just over 1,000 Double-crested Cormorant nests on the islands. This is one of largest cormorant colonies in the province. In 1967, the California Gull population at Pelican Lake was estimated at 100-500 pairs, and in 2000, 297 nests were counted. In recent years between about 80 and 200 Ring-billed Gull and 35 Common Tern nests were recorded.

In 1978, 57 Great Blue Heron nests were built in the trees, but since then many of the trees have died and fallen down from accumulations of droppings and bird trampling. Herons have been absent since at least 1998 because of this.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
American White Pelican 1998 SU 2,000
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
Breeding pelicans are sensitive to human disturbance. Excessive disturbance of birds results in exposure of eggs and young and consequently increased susceptibility to gull predation. Provincial government biologists have applied for seasonal bird sanctuary status for these islands. If successful, it would then be illegal to approach within 800 m of the islands. There is considerable oil and gas exploration and development in the vicinity of the lake, although there is no road access or fishing of any kind.

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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