Hay and Zama Lakes

Country/territory: Canada

IBA criteria met: A4i, A4iii (2008)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 59,000 ha

Birds Canada / Nature Canada

Site description (baseline)
The Hay and Zama Lakes area is a remote complex of lakes in northwestern Alberta. The nearest population centre is Rainbow Lake, 25 km to the southwest. The site is a large lowland wetland complex which includes a series of eutrophic freshwater lakes, floodplains and river deltas. The size and depth of the lakes vary according to the seasonally fluctuating inflow from Hay River. The surrounding forests are dominated by spruce, trembling aspen, and balsam poplar. The site is a movement corridor for ungulates, and has good habitat for Woodland Caribou and Wood Bison (one of few wild populations).

Key biodiversity
This wetland complex is globally significant for its huge concentrations of geese and ducks in spring and fall migration. Ducks of various species gather in both seasons in numbers as high as 200,000. Lesser Snow Geese of the Western Central Flyway population are regularly recorded here with peak numbers reaching 130,000 birds (2.6% of the global Snow Goose population). Canada Geese of the Short-grass Prairie population migrate through the area with counts as high as 47,000, which is just over 1% of the global Canada Goose population. Ducks Unlimited have estimated that, under ideal conditions, as many as 1,000,000 waterfowl utilize this lake complex during the whole of the fall migration. The site is also provincially significant for breeding ducks and locally significant for moulting ducks.

Colonial nesting birds include Franklins, Herring, Bonapartes and Ring-billed gulls, and Common Terns. Ten species of raptors have been documented at this site to date.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Hay and Zama Lakes. Downloaded from on 07/06/2023.