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Location Canada, British Columbia
Central coordinates 124o 42.30' West  50o 9.58' North
IBA criteria A1
Area 34,000 ha
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Bird Studies Canada/Nature Canada

Site description Desolation Sound is situated on the mainland coast of British Columbia at the northeastern end of the Strait of Georgia. The town of Campbell River is about 40 kilometers to the west across the strait. The IBA includes the coastal waters of the sound, from the Gifford Peninsula north to the Redonda islands. There are steeply sloping forested lands surrounding these waters although none of this land is within the IBA. Significant amounts of logging have occurred in the forests.

Key Biodiversity Large numbers of Marbled Murrelets feed on the waters of Desolation Sound in the summer. Between about 4,000 and 5,000 of this nationally threatened bird species are found here at this time of year. This number is a little over 1% of the global population, and about 10% of the estimated Canadian population. Researchers have been surveying the birds of the sound since 1991 in the summer and since 2000 in the winter. The birds are present through the summer, and in the early fall when in moult, but only very small numbers are present in the winter.

While some of these breeding season murrelets are certainly coming from forests on the adjacent hillsides, it is not known from how far away these birds are coming. Nor is it known what portion are breeding versus non-breeding birds. Eighty-five murrelet nest locations have been found in the forests and subalpine area in the forests adjacent to the sound and outside the IBA. Birds were radio-collared when on the sea and then nest locations were found using radio-telemetry techniques from a helicopter. Presumably all or most of these birds feed in the sound.

Birds seen on the water may also be coming from the Toba River watershed, at the far head of the sound, as this was the watershed on the mainland coast with the largest numbers of murrelets recorded in radar surveys conducted in 2000.

Hundreds of Surf Scoters, Barrows Goldeneyes Bonapartes Gulls and Harlequin Ducks are seen in the sound in the fall. Small numbers of Black Oystercatchers, Bald Eagles, and Glaucous-winged Gulls breed along the coastline.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Marbled Murrelet Brachyramphus marmoratus non-breeding  1995  5,000 individuals  A1  Endangered 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park 7,701 protected area contained by site 8,000  
East Redonda Island Regional District Park 1,422 protected area contained by site 6,200  
Roscoe Bay Provincial Park 247 protected area contained by site 240  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Sea Open sea; Sea inlets  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
fisheries/aquaculture major
tourism/recreation major

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Desolation Sound. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016

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