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Location Canada, British Columbia
Central coordinates 125o 50.68' West  49o 7.10' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii
Area 10,000 ha
Altitude 0 - 5m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Bird Studies Canada/Nature Canada

Site description The Tofino mudflats are located on both sides of the Browning Passage near the town of Tofino, British Columbia. There are six mudflats in total with these being known locally as Arakan Flats, Ducking Flats, Doug Bank's Flats, Maltly Slough, South Bay, and Grice Bay. About half of the 32 km2 area is mudflats that are left exposed during low tides. These mudflats are partially covered by dense growths of eelgrass and algae. The upper tide limit is lined with salt marshes and forests. Chesterman Beach, which is located on the seaward side of the Esovista Peninsula, is a clean sand beach with driftwood tangles along the upper tide line. This beach is an important roosting area for Western Sandpipers.

Key Biodiversity The Tofino mudflats are a critical stopover site for migrating Western Sandpipers. In southern British Columbia the site is second only to the Fraser River Delta in terms of usage by this species. The peak counts of 16,000 Western Sandpipers in May 1988, 23,000 in August 1989, and an average autumn peak of 35,000 at Chesterman Beach are reported to be amongst the highest recorded on the west coast of Canada for this species.

Elsewhere in British Columbia, studies on Western Sandpipers fitted with miniature radio transmitters in spring indicated an average stopover period of about three days. Assuming that this three-day stopover period also applies to Tofino, the population using this area in the spring may be as high as 45,000, and as high as 164,000 in the fall. These numbers represent at least 2.25% of the global population during spring and possibly as much as 8.2% of the global population during fall. In addition to Western Sandpipers, the Tofino Mudflats also provide habitat for a variety of other shorebird species including dowitchers, Dunlin, Least Sandpipers, Black-bellied Plovers, Greater Yellowlegs, Sanderling, Whimbrel and American Black Oystercatchers. The adjacent areas are also important as a wintering area for variety of waterfowl. Some of the more abundant species include Trumpeter Swan, Mallard, Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Surf Scoter, Bufflehead and various species of loons and grebes.

The site is also important as a late summer feeding area for the northwestern population of the Great Blue Heron (ssp. fannini). Up to 100 individuals occur on the mudflats each August. This represents approximately 1.1% of the global population of this subspecies. The fannini ssp. of the Great Blue Heron has been identified as nationally vulnerable.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Western Sandpiper Calidris mauri passage  1995  164,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds non-breeding  1989-1995  50,000-99,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve 51,474 protected area overlaps with site 3,600  
Tofino Mud Flats Wildlife Management Area 1,447 protected area contained by site 1,600  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Temperate coniferous forest  -
Wetlands (inland) Intertidal mud, sand or salt flats; Salt/brackish marshes  -
Sea Open sea  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research major
hunting minor
tourism/recreation minor

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Tofino Mudflats. Downloaded from on 20/10/2016

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