Whooping Crane Nesting Area and Summer Range

Country/territory: Canada

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

Area: 910,000 ha

Protection status:

Birds Canada / Nature Canada

Site description
The Whooping Crane nesting area and summer range is located approximately 75 km west of Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. The site, which straddles the border between the Northwest Territories and Alberta, encompasses the northeastern portion of Wood Buffalo National Park and adjacent wetlands. Habitats within this area are poorly drained and interspersed with numerous shallow water wetlands, most with marl bottoms. The wetlands are generally separated by narrow ridges that support black spruce, tamarack, willows, and dwarf birch. Within the wetlands, the dominant species are bulrush, sedge, and cattail. The large upland areas between the marsh complexes support coniferous and mixed forests dominated by white spruce, black spruce and aspen.

Key biodiversity
As implied by the site's name, this area supports the entire breeding population of migratory Whooping Cranes during the late spring and summer months. About 178 Whooping Cranes, a species which has been identified as globally endangered, have been recorded here during recent surveys. There are currently about 100 additional Whooping Cranes in captive breeding programs in Canada and the U.S., and a small introduced population in Florida.

The migratory Whooping Crane population has increased from 15 birds in 1941 to the current population of about 178 (a non-migratory population in Louisiana was extirpated in the late 1940s). The birds winter approximately 4,000 km south of their breeding range on the coast of Texas, mainly in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

In addition to Whooping Cranes, the area supports three to four pairs of the nationally endangered anatum ssp. of the Peregrine Falcon. A typical community of boreal forest and wetland birds is also present including Yellow-rumped Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Swamp Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, and Bald Eagle, among others.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Whooping Crane Nesting Area and Summer Range. Downloaded from on 25/10/2020.