Old Crow Flats

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
The Old Crow Flats are located in the northern Yukon about 125 km south of the Beaufort Sea. The Flats are located on a large, ancient lake bottom which is bordered by mountains on three sides and dotted with over 2,000 shallow lakes and ponds. With an area of over 617,000 ha, it is in many respects, an unique wetland system in the mostly mountainous landscape of the northern Yukon.

The Old Crow River and its tributaries wind through the flats in down-cut ravines that are well below the general level of the plain. Most of the habitat consists of lakes and ponds ringed with sedge marshes and shrub thicket habitats in the slightly drier areas.

Key biodiversity
The Old Crow Flats have been identified as an IBA primarily due to the large numbers of waterfowl that make use of the site for staging, breeding and moulting. During the summer, approximately 500,000 waterfowl make use of the area, more than any other site in the Yukon. The most abundant breeding species include White-winged and Surf Scoters (20-80,000), Greater and Lesser Scaup (50-100,000), and Northern Pintail (10-100,000). From a global perspective this translates into approximately 1.1% to 4.5% of the White-winged and Surf Scoter population, 0.83% to 1.65% of the Greater and Lesser Scaup population, and 0.4% to 4.0% of the Northern Pintail population.

Other waterfowl species that breed in this area in substantial numbers include Oldsquaw, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, swans, loons and grebes. Additional duck species also move into the Flats to moult, rest and feed prior to fall migration, especially Barrow's Goldeneye and Canvasback.

Two nationally threatened raptors breed in this area: the anatum subspecies of Peregrine Falcon (Threatened in Canada) and Short-eared Owl (Vulnerable in Canada). The Siberian Tit, a landbird with a very restricted range within Canada also occurs in this area.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
In 1982, the entire area was designated as a Wetland of International Significance under the Ramsar convention. Part of the Flats lies within Vuntut National Park and the section south of the Old Crow River has been designated as a Special Management Area. The Vuntut Gwichin First Nation manages the Special Management Area, and in co-operation with the federal government, the Vuntut National Park. Although industrial development is prohibited in the park the entire area is threatened by possible road construction and pipeline development. Some oil exploration has occurred within the area, but in general the Flats have experienced little impact from industrial activities. Management plans for Vuntut National Park and Old Crow Flats will be cooperatively developed by the federal government and the Vuntut Gwitchen First Nation.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Old Crow Flats. Downloaded from on 20/08/2022.