Peace-Athabasca Delta

Country/territory: Canada

IBA criteria met: A4iii (2008)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 740,000 ha

Birds Canada / Nature Canada

Site description (2001 baseline)
Located in the northeast corner of Alberta, the sprawling Peace-Athabasca Delta is one of the largest freshwater deltas in the world. It covers much of the southeastern portion of Wood Buffalo National Park, and includes the deltas of the Athabasca, Peace, and Birch rivers. Four major lakes are present; all are very shallow (less than 3 m deep) and characterized by thick growths of submergent and emergent vegetation. Large open grasslands are interspersed with numerous river channels and ponds that are slightly elevated above the surrounding plain. These features have created thousands of kilometers of shoreline habitat that is ideal for nesting waterfowl

This area contains critical spawning and nursery habitat for fish coming from Lake Claire and Lake Athabasca. Over 20 fish species are known to occur in the area including Lake Trout, Lake Whitefish, Arctic Grayling, Northern Pike and the nationally threatened Shortjaw Cisco.

Key biodiversity
The wetlands and grasslands of the Peace-Athabasca Delta provide vital resting and feeding area for ducks and geese, migrating to and from their breeding grounds on the Mackenzie River lowlands, Arctic river deltas, and western Arctic islands. The site is located far enough north that it supports waterfowl from all four major continental flyways. In this respect, it is a globally significant area for waterfowl.

Over 400,000 waterfowl have been recorded during spring migration, and during fall migration estimates have exceeded 1 million. In the late 1950s and early 1960s estimates were as high as 320,000 pairs of breeding ducks. More recently, breeding estimates have been lower, with about 120,000 pairs of dabbling ducks (Mallard, Gadwall, American Wigeon and Northern Pintail) and about 40,000 pairs of diving ducks (Canvasback, Redhead, Lesser Scaup) being recorded.

Some of the breeding waterfowl species found in abundance on the delta include Canada Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler and Canvasback. In all, 215 bird species have been recorded, including the globally endangered Whooping Crane, the nationally vulnerable Tundra Peregrine Falcon (ssp. tundrius), Bald Eagle, and Osprey. A colony of Black Terns is found on Richardson Lake, and other waterbirds recorded here include Western Grebe, Eared Grebe, Ring-billed Gull, and Common Tern.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Peace-Athabasca Delta. Downloaded from on 27/02/2024.