IBA Ekwan to Lakitusaki Shores
James Bay, Ontario
Site Summary
ON129 Latitude
53.921° N
82.263° W
0 - 5 m
1,568.09 km²
salt marshes/brackish marshes, rivers/streams
Land Use:
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Disturbance, Industrial pollution
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Congregatory Species, Waterfowl Concentrations, Shorebird Concentrations, Continentally Significant: Congregatory Species
Conservation status: Provincial Park (including Marine)
Restricted access for IBA coordinators
Login name: Password:


View in mobile

Site Description
This site is located in northeastern Ontario, along the northwestern edge of James Bay. It is defined by wide coastal marshes, both intertidal and supertidal, that form a continuous strip from Ekwan Point northward to just beyond the Lakitusaki River mouth. At the northern end, supertidal marshes extend about 5 km inland, narrowing southward to only about 1 km at the Swan River, and even less near Ekwan Point. Also at the northern end, muddy tidal marshes extend up to 5 km offshore, with submerged shoals extending farther into the bay. These marshes and shallow shoals also narrow somewhat to the south, but still extend 2 3 km into James Bay. Along this stretch of coastline numerous small rivers enter James Bay and provide a source of calcareous freshwater that enriches the marine system. Inland, a beach ridge runs along the coast with a series of older beach ridges meandering through the extensive supertidal marshes.

The coastal marshes of this site provide excellent staging habitat for many species of waterfowl and shorebirds during both the spring and fall migration. In particular, huge concentrations of Lesser Snow Geese have been recorded, with as much as 3.7% of the mid-continent (Hudson Bay) population being recorded during a single survey in the spring of 1994. The total number of Snow Geese using this area is likely much higher since the turnover rate as the population moves through this site is not included. Large concentrations of Canada Geese have also been recorded during fall migration, with over 18,000 being counted during a single day survey in 1979. The estimate may have involved geese from as many as three different populations (Mississippi Valley, Southern James Bay, and/or the Tall Grass Prairie population) and it is possible that the 1% threshold was exceeded for one or all of these populations. Large numbers of Brant also utilize this area, but no surveys have been completed during their migration. In addition to staging geese, approximately 30% of the eastern North American Black Scoter population uses this site as a summer moulting area. Red-throated Loons have also been present in numbers approaching global significance with over 400 being recorded during a 3-day period.

This area has been recommended as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) site, due to its significance as a major staging area for thousands of shorebirds. Shorebird species for which a significant portion of their North American population has been recorded include: Hudsonian Godwits (over 1%); Semipalmated Sandpipers (2%); and Pectoral Sandpipers (possibly as much as 10%). American Golden-Plover and Whimbrel can also be observed in large (but non-significant) numbers. Large numbers of larks, pipits and longspurs also migrate along the coastline, with as many as 900 Horned Larks being observed in one day.

This area is also a key nesting area for Canada Geese from the Mississippi Valley population. Thousands of geese have been banded along this shoreline. During 1994 and 1997 there were also large numbers of nesting Snow Geese (but not annually). It appears that this site is a second choice nesting area if the birds are prevented from nesting in their home colonies because of inclement weather, water or ice conditions.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Black Scoter 1977 SP 42,000
Black Scoter 1994 SU 37,640
Pectoral Sandpiper 1993 FA 5,000
Red-throated Loon 1993 SP 400
Semipalmated Sandpiper 1995 SU 70,000
Snow Goose 1994 SP 143,000
Waterbirds 1994 SP 143,000
Note: species shown in bold indicate that the maximum number exceeds at least one of the IBA thresholds (sub-regional, regional or global). The site may still not qualify for that level of IBA if the maximum number reflects an exceptional or historical occurrence.
Conservation Issues
The northern half of this area is located within Polar Bear Provincial Park, while the rest of the area is undesignated, provincially-owned crown land. The most significant threat to this area may be the impact of goose foraging (by millions of geese) on the marsh structure and vegetation.

The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Birds Canada and Nature Canada.
   © Birds Canada