Lac La Biche

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
Lac La Biche is a large lake in central Alberta situated within the southern boreal forest region. It has numerous bays, and many rocky offshore islands. In some of the shallower areas protected by wind and wave action, extensive stands of emergent vegetation have formed. Coniferous and mixed forest surround the lake and are present on the larger islands. Typical tree species include White and Black Spruce, poplars and birch. In the eastern basin of the lake, a large island has been connected to the mainland by a causeway and a provincial park has been established (Sir Winston Churchill). The Lac La Biche area is valued by visitors for its excellent beaches and well-forested park.

Key biodiversity
The offshore islands and marshes of Lac La Biche support significant concentrations of several colonial waterbird species during the nesting season. In particular, large concentrations of nesting California Gulls have been recorded on some of the islands (over 2,000 nests about 1% of the world's estimated population), along with large concentrations of nesting Western Grebes in the emergent marshes (greater than 500 nests just over 1% of the world's estimated population).

Double-crested Cormorants are also present in large numbers with over 1,964 nests being recorded in 1998 (between 1987 and 1993, 600 to 1500 Double-crested Cormorants nested on a single island on an annual basis). Other colonial waterbirds include Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Common Tern, Great Blue Heron, and American White Pelican. Outside of the nesting season, the lake supports relatively large numbers of several species including Eared Grebe (100 1,000), American White Pelican (50 500) and staging waterfowl (2,000 5,000).

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Lac La Biche supports a significant commercial and recreational fishery based on species such as Lake Whitefish, Northern Pike, Walleye, Yellow Perch and suckers. In recent years, a decline in the fish harvest has been attributed by some to fish-eating birds such as pelicans and cormorants, despite the fact that the main food species eaten by the birds are not the commercial fish species. This belief may be the reasoning behind the destruction by vandals of some nesting colonies that has occurred over the last ten years.

In some areas of the lake there is heavy recreational use, with development occurring along the shorelines and on some of the islands. This sometimes leads to inadvertent disturbance of the nesting colonies.

This site has been recognized by both the federal government and the provincial government as being worthy of protection. The lake and islands are a federal Migratory Bird Sanctuary, and the province has given the islands the status of protective notation, which means that their potential as a natural area is recognized, but that a formal designation has not yet been made. Despite their status the islands are clearly not receiving the protection that is needed. The protection from hunting and disturbance that is supposed to occur in a Migratory Bird Sanctuary is not being enforced.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lac La Biche. Downloaded from on 23/05/2022.