Quill Lakes

Country/territory: Canada

IBA Criteria met: A1, A4i, A4iii (2008)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 72,000 ha

Birds Canada / Nature Canada

Site description
The Quill Lakes are located immediately north of the town of Wynard in east-central Saskatchewan. The lakes are named (from west to east): Big Quill, Middle Quill (or Mud), and Little Quill Lakes. Middle Quill Lake is the smallest, while Big Quill is the largest - in fact the largest saline lake in Canada. During periods of high water levels, the lakes drain from west to east. The lakes, however, do not have an outlet. All three lakes are extremely shallow, such that any fluctuation of water level, or influence of the wind, can cause great differences in even the day-to-day location of the shoreline. The muddy and gravelly lakeshores are surrounded by grasslands, aspen parkland, and numerous freshwater marshes.

Key biodiversity
The lakes, Big Quill Lake in particular, support an exceptional number of breeding Piping Plovers. Over the last five years there has been an average of 284 birds observed (almost 7.5% of the global population, and over 25% of the Canadian northern Great Plains population). In 1996, 435 plovers were recorded, which was the largest breeding concentration in the world. During fall migration, the globally threatened Whooping Crane is also regularly observed at this site.

The Quill Lakes are also significant as a shorebird staging area (especially during the spring) with a one day peak count of 197,155 shorebirds being recorded during the spring of 1993. During a 1989-1992 study, several species were recorded in numbers (one day peak count averages) that exceeded 1% of their biogeographical populations, including Hudsonian Godwit, Least Sandpiper, Bairds Sandpiper, American Avocet and dowitcher. Especially large numbers of White-rumped Sandpipers (as much as 2% of their global population) and Stilt Sandpipers (as much as 8.9% of their global population) were also noted.

The Quill Lakes are also known as an important waterfowl breeding and staging area with hundreds of thousands of ducks, Sandhill Cranes (1.8% of their global population), Canada Geese, and Snow Geese using the area each fall.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Quill Lakes. Downloaded from on 27/09/2022.