Pakowki Lake is 25 km east-southeast of the town of Foremost. Road access surrounds the lake but actual access to the shore is mostly not possible. This large lake is an intermittent (playa) freshwater lake and sand dune-wetland complex. There are extensive bulrush marshes and areas of open water. The only inflow channel is the Etzikom Coulee, which is an impressive glacial spillway channel; the lake has no outflows, except for under extremely high water levels where a channel south to the Milk River would allow for outflow. The surrounding uplands are predominantly mixed-grass prairie. Interesting fauna found at the site include Pronghorn Antelope, especially along the east shore, and Plains Hognose Snake. The sites significant flora include Western Spiderwort (nationally threatened), Smooth Goosefoot (nationally vulnerable), Great Basin Downingia, Sand Nut-grass and Annual Skeletonweed.
Pakowki Lake is significant for great congregations of waterfowl and shorebirds. On July 4, 1996, over 61,135 waterfowl were censused, while on September 15 of the same year, 29,000 were seen on the lake. Northern Pintail are often the dominant duck species during spring migration, with 50,000 being seen on March 23, 1998. Congregations of dowitchers (mostly Long-billed) in the fall of 1996 were over 10,000 strong. This represents as much as 4% of their estimated global population. Another shorebird detected in impressive numbers is the Stilt Sandpiper, with 1,250 (representing up to 2.5% of the estimated global population) seen in early August, 1996. American Avocet has been seen in numbers approaching nationally significance, with 500 being tallied in one day in July, 1996. Wilsons Phalarope has also been seen in high numbers, such as 3,000 in August, 1996.
Many birds nest on the lake; a 1998 colonial waterbird survey found the following species: California Gull (730 nests), Double-crested Cormorant (136 nests), and Common Tern (185 nests). Other breeding species include Black-crowned Night-Heron, American White Pelican, Eared Grebe, Ring-billed and Franklins gulls, Black-necked Stilts, and White-faced Ibis (108 surveyed in 1996). The Piping Plover (nationally endangered) was found in 1998, with only one bird seen during the breeding season.
Breeding land birds include the prairie population of Loggerhead Shrike, Spragues Pipit (both nationally threatened), Ferruginous Hawk and Sharp-tailed Grouse (both nationally vulnerable).
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Much of the surrounding areas around Pakowki Lake is used for livestock pasture (70% Crown lease), while the rest is private. One of the major threats to the waterfowl using the lake, is outbreaks of avian botulism. Recently, the disease struck 4 years in a row from 1994 to 1997. The worse year was 1995 when 100,825 dead birds were collected and the estimated loss being 200,000 birds (104,000 Green-winged Teal, 40,000 Northern Pintail, 20,000 Northern Shoveler and 16,000 Mallards made up 90% of the projected losses). During high water years, however, the waterfowl productivity far outweighs these losses. The lakes productivity has decreased severely due to prolonged drought (it is fed only by intermittent streams). Interest in oil drilling in the lake is high which would be a potential threat to the lake. Part of the lake is designated a Provincial Bird Sanctuary.
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Pakowki Lake. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 15/04/2021.