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Location Canada, Nunavut
Central coordinates 85o 39.60' West  63o 45.07' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii
Area 780,000 ha
Altitude 0 - 60m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Bird Studies Canada/Nature Canada

Site description The Boas River area of the low arctic covers the southwestern portion of Southampton Island. The site is divided into two areas; the larger area covers a piece of land encompassing, Ell Bay and Cape Kendall, to a point 80 km upstream along the Boas River, and eastward about five to ten kiometres east of the Boas River. The smaller piece runs along the coast from Bear Cove Point to the southernmost tip of Southampton Island. The bedrock in this flat area is Paleozoic limestone that is covered by glacial drift and beach deposits. The majority of the site is sedge-grass lowland, broken every so often by raised limestone beach ridges. There are also numerous lakes, streams and rivers, the largest of which is the Boas River. Twenty-five kilometres from the coast, the Boas River becomes a braided river of about five kilometres width. Most of the coastline is composed of tidal flats. In the winter, just west of Cape Kendall, is a regularly occurring polynya; an area of upwelling warm water that stays free of ice all winter long. Here are found White Whales, Walruses, and Harbour Seals. Polar Bears, Bearded Seals, and Ringed Seals are here all year, while Bowhead Whales and Narwhals use the polynya in summer.

Key Biodiversity In 1979, there were about 92,500 pairs of Snow Geese breeding in the Boas River area. Typical of other Snow Geese colonies, the population has increased dramatically over recent decades. In 1997, the colony was estimated to contain 529,100 Snow Geese. This is about 18 % of the mid-continent population of Snow Geese and about 10% of all Snow Geese. The largest colony is found around the Boas River Delta, with smaller colonies at Ell Bay, Bear Cove and west along the coastline from Boas River. The Snow Geese are present between late May and early September.

About 40 bird species can be found here during the summer. Common breeding birds in the appropriate habitat on Southampton Island, and therefore very probably in the IBA include: Arctic Loon, Red-throated Loon, Tundra Swan, Atlantic Brant, Canada Goose, Ross Goose, Oldsqaw, King Eider, Sandhill Crane, Semipalmated Plover, American Golden Plover, White-rumped Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Red Phalarope, jaegers, Herring Gull and Lapland Longspur.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Snow Goose Anser caerulescens breeding  1997  529,100 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds breeding  1997  500,000-999,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Harry Gibbons Migratory Bird Sanctuary 122,400 protected area contained by site 140,000  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Grassland Edaphic grassland; Tundra  -
Wetlands (inland) Freshwater lakes and pools; Intertidal mud, sand or salt flats; Rivers  -
Sea Sea inlets  -
Coastline Rocky flats & barrens  -

Land use

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

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Boas River and associated wetlands. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016

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