IBA Grande Prairie - Trumpeter Swan IBA
Grande Prairie, Alberta
Site Summary
AB107 Latitude
55.291° N
119.104° W
650 m
1,308.08 km²
mixed woods (boreal/alpine), rivers/streams, freshwater lake, freshwater marsh, arable & cultivated lands
Land Use:
Agriculture, Nature conservation and research, Tourism/recreation, Urban/industrial/transport
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Dykes/dam/barrages, Extraction industry, Intensified management, Recreation/tourism, Urban/industrial development
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Congregatory Species, Waterfowl Concentrations
Conservation status: IBA Conservation Plan written/being written, Migratory Bird Sanctuary (federal), Provincial Park (including Marine)
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Site Description
The Grande Prairie IBA is situated in northwestern Alberta, near the city of the same name. The communities of La Glace, Wembley and Clairmont are within the site, which focuses on the many lakes of the area. The lakes range greatly in size, from small 500 metre ponds, to the 10 kilometre-long Bear Lake. Bear Lake and Lac La Glace are connected by a branch of the Bear River. The surrounding uplands of this rolling plain are used primarily for agricultural purposes. Most of this site is within the Peace River Parkland subregion of Alberta, although the southwestern portion is within the Dry Mixedwood subregion. An area around Saskatoon Lake is an excellent example of upland Peace River Parkland.

The lakes of the Grande Prairie area support significant numbers of breeding and staging Trumpeter Swans, as well as very large numbers of staging ducks. During the breeding season, many of the small lakes support a family of Trumpeter Swan. There have been at least 28 locations where families of Trumpeter Swans have been recorded over the last 40 years, within an area roughly bounded by Valhalla, Wembley, Flyingshot, Clairmont and Wolfe lakes. On a yearly basis, 10 to 12 pairs of Trumpeter Swans breed in this area.

Hundreds of staging Trumpeter and Tundra swans are found on many lakes within the site, but Bear, Clairmont, Saskatoon, Valhalla, Gummer, Lac La Glace and Wilken lakes hold the largest numbers. In the autumn, usually sometime between early October and early November, mixed flocks of between 800 and 1,000 swans are recorded. Up to 309 Trumpeters have been recorded in one year (Valhalla Lake, Nov 8, 1998). Using the peak numbers recorded in the years between 1996 and 1998, an average of 237 Trumpeter Swans were seen. This represents over 1% of the estimated global population of Trumpeter Swans, and about 7% of the Rocky Mountain population. These are likely to be conservative figures since the surveys that these numbers are based on do not cover all the lakes at any one time.

Bear Lake, Lac la Glace, Valhalla Lake and the Buffalo Lake complex, are the most important lakes for staging ducks. Over 20,000 ducks have been recorded at each of these locations during fall staging, suggesting that the Grande Prairie area hosts many tens of thousands of ducks in most years. These lakes are also important colonial waterbird and shorebird breeding and staging areas.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Bonaparte's Gull 2008 SP 3,370
Franklin's Gull 2017 SP 9,000 - 10,000
Trumpeter Swan 1998 - 2019 FA 300 - 309
Waterbirds 1995 SP 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
Increasing residential subdivision/urbanization will result in increased disturbance to breeding and staging swans and other waterfowl on area lakeshores and within lakes in the County of Grande Prairie. It is thought that new pairs are less likely to establish themselves on lakes adjacent to higher levels of human disturbance.

The degree that recreational activities occur on lakes within the Grande Prairie region varies water-skiing occurs on Saskatoon and Bear Lakes, while other lakes such as Clairmont and Lac La Glace have had very little use. A provincial park was established on the shores of Saskatoon Lake, and more recently the waters of the lake were designated a federal Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Visitors to the park and some local landowners use the lake for water-based recreation, which can disrupt Trumpeter Swan use of the lake. To prevent water access, the federal and provincial governments have cordoned off many bays on the lake. Use of ATVs along shorelines throughout the site is becoming more prevalent.

There has been considerable interest in the Trumpeter Swans in the area. Many programs involving the transplanting of Trumpeter Swans, have used swans from this region. Also, the Friends of Saskatoon Island Provincial Park Co-operating Association have started an annual Swan Festival.

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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