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Location Canada, Nunavut
Central coordinates 94o 39.62' West  60o 49.87' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii
Area 560,000 ha
Altitude 0 - 60m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Bird Studies Canada/Nature Canada

Site description The McConnell River site is a large area of primarily coastal habitat situated on the west coast of Hudson Bay about 50 km north of the Manitoba border. It is a primarily flat landscape composed of coastal sedge marshes, which in some locations, extend as far as 8 km inland. Beyond the coastal marshes there are low hills interspersed with lakes and ponds. Austin Island is the only area containing rocky outcrops. The Thlewiaza River is the south border of the site; the Maguse River is the north border, and the McConnell River runs through the middle. The small coastal community of Arviat is located in the middle of the site. Numerous large mammals are found here, including the Kaminuriak herd of Barren-ground Caribou, which winter as far north as Arviat. Ringed Seals, White Whales and Polar Bears use the coastal and offshore waters.

Key Biodiversity The McConnell River coastal marshes and adjacent inland areas are of great importance for an impressive number of Snow Geese. In 1997, just over 150,000 geese bred in the sedge marshes. This is 3 % of all Snow Geese, and about 4 % of the late 1990s population of Lesser Snow Geese that breeds in the low arctic from James Bay to Victoria Island. This Snow Goose colony is unusual in that it is the only large colony that has actually decreased over the last two decades, unlike most Snow Goose colonies that have increased immensely in numbers. In 1985, 436,400 birds bred here. After breeding, in mid August, the geese move inland to ponds and lakes to feed and moult. In 1973, 1,300,000 snow geese were recorded at McConnell River during this post-breeding season. This number would include young of the year, successful breeding birds as well as non-breeding birds. By mid September most geese have left the area. Another white goose, the Ross Goose, also breeds at McConnell River. In 1997 or 1998, about 50,000 Ross Geese were counted. This is the about 5% of the worlds population of this species that only breeds in a few locations in the Canadian Arctic.

The McConnell River area also hosts breeding Canada Geese and Sandhill Cranes. Over the years, 111 bird species have been recorded for the area, including some unexpected prairie and woodland species.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Snow Goose Anser caerulescens breeding  1997  153,500 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Ross's Goose Anser rossii breeding  1998  50,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds breeding  100,000-499,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
McConnell River Migratory Bird Sanctuary 35,400 protected area contained by site 34,000  
McConnell River Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 32,800 protected area contained by site 10,000  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Grassland Tundra  -
Wetlands (inland) Freshwater lakes and pools; Rivers; Salt/brackish marshes  -
Coastline Rocky flats & barrens  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
not utilised major

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: McConnell River. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016

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