Whitford and Rush Lakes

Country/territory: Canada

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

Area: 1,900 ha

Birds Canada / Nature Canada

Site description (baseline)
The Whitford and Rush lakes are close to the railway community of Andrew, and are about 90 km northeast of Edmonton, Alberta. The lakes are shallow and are located in a flat to gently rolling part of Albertas aspen parkland. The shorelines have extensive emergent vegetation that is used by breeding birds. Like many lakes in the prairies, these lakes are naturally subject to large fluctuations in water level, which are partially controlled by canals, dykes and other man-made structures. These two lake in particular go through long dry spells (most years of the 1990s), but water, at least in Whitford Lake, was present in 2000 and is expected to return again in quantities to attract large numbers of birds. Drying cycles are part of the process that restores lake fertility.

Key biodiversity
The Whitford and Rush lakes are extremely important wetland sites for waterfowl and other water birds. In both spring and fall, in years when water is present, large numbers of waterfowl stage in the area. In spring, Greater White-fronted Goose, Canada Goose, Tundra Swan, Mallard and Northern Pintail are the most common species. Numbers of fall staging waterfowl are larger than in the spring. A high count of 91,300 staging ducks was recorded in 1963.

Avian botulism outbreaks have occurred regularly here over the last 40 years. Over 20,000 shorebirds have visited these lakes in spring, although this is a one time observation. One percent or more of the Canadian

population of Forsters Terns (30 or more pairs) have nested in the marshes of Whitford and Rush lakes, but the exact or current numbers of nests of this very local breeder is unknown.

Numerous other bird species, especially those associated with water, are also found at these lakes. Western Grebe (<100 nests, all pre-1990), Eared Grebe (>20), Franklins Gull (>20 nests), American White-Pelican (>50 non-breeding) and migrating Bald and Golden eagles are all seen.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Whitford and Rush Lakes. Downloaded from on 10/06/2023.