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165. Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary, Red Deer, Alberta

Alberta’s first migratory-bird sanctuary is a great spot for waterfowl, woodpeckers, and songbirds.

I love to get people enthused about nature, and I’ve had many opportunities to wander the trails here with both children and adults. Once, when I was at the bird blind with a group of Girl Guides (the equivalent of Girl Scouts in the United States), we heard the hysterical giggle of a Sora. I explained that Sora is secretive and hard to see. A girl asked what it looked like, and I told her. She replied, “You mean, like that one standing there?” Sure enough, a Sora was foraging out in the open. The girls were thrilled. Later, the girl confided to me that she hadn’t realized birding could be so much fun.

The Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary, established in 1924, was the first federal migratory-bird sanctuary in Alberta.

I have many fond memories here. I habitually check the tree where I saw my first Pileated Woodpecker, and I’ll never forget my first Yellow-bellied Sapsucker: It was tapping on a wooden garbage can at one of the observation platforms. From the blind, I love watching the nest of one of my favorite birds: Red-necked Grebe. Come for a walk in the sanctuary and make memories of your own. — Judy Boyd

Judy Boyd is a naturalist for the Kerry Wood Nature Centre, the secretary for Red Deer River Naturalists, and the leader and fieldtrip coordinator of its Bird Focus Group.

165. Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary, Red Deer, Alberta


Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary protects two oxbow lakes, woods, and other habitats in its 300 acres (118 hectares) in Red Deer, which is about halfway between Calgary and Edmonton. From 67 St., turn south on Gaetz Ave., drive one mile (1.6 km) to 55 St., and turn left. Go 0.5 miles (0.9 km), turn left on 45 Ave. and drive to the Kerry Wood Nature Centre.

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At a Glance

Click on coordinates below to view map:
52°17’5.83″N 113°47’37.17″W


Two eutrophic oxbow lakes, disturbed meadows, deciduous, mixed-wood, and spruce forests, wetlands, and springs.


Short hills, firm gravel trails. One wheelchair-accessible trail. Birds can be viewed at feeders in parking lot and behind nature center.


Nearly 200 species. Spring and summer: Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Redhead, Canvasback, Ruddy Duck, Red-necked and Horned Grebes, Cooper’s Hawk, Franklin’s Gull, flycatchers, kinglets, Yellow, Orange-crowned, and other warblers, Song and Clay-colored Sparrows. Winter: redpolls, Common Raven, Bohemian Waxwing, Black-capped and Boreal Chickadees, crossbills, House Finch, nuthatches, Northern Shrike, American Three-toed, Blackbacked, and Pileated Woodpeckers.

When to go



Kerry Wood Nature Centre has checklists, a recent-sightings list, snacks, drinks, and restrooms. Bird blind, boardwalks, and observation towers along trails. Bird walks begin at nature center at noon every Monday September-May (excluding holidays). Snowshoes available for rent, and binoculars and a field guide can be borrowed.


Federal bird sanctuary operated by non-profit Waskasoo Environmental Education Society. No fees. Open all day, every day. Nature center open 10–8 in the summer, 10–5 in the winter; closed on Christmas Day. When building is closed, sanctuary access is through a gate north of nature center.


Spotting scope useful but not necessary. Dress for the weather, and in summer, bring bug spray.

For more info

Waskasoo Environmental Education Society

Kerry Wood Nature Centre, (403) 346-2010.

Red Deer River Naturalists, (403) 347-8200.

Sites nearby

Medicine River Wildlife Centre
46 miles (75 km) southwest of Red Deer near Spruce View on Township Rd. 36-0. Nesting Sandhill Cranes. Great Gray Owl possible.

Ellis Bird Farm
About 15 miles (25 km) northeast of Red Deer on Prentiss Rd. Water gardens, butterfly and hummingbird gardens. Mountain Bluebird, Tree Swallow, and other cavity-nesting birds nest in bird boxes.

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