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Location Canada, Nunavut
Central coordinates 81o 19.79' West  53o 10.27' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii
Area 320,000 ha
Altitude 0 - 5m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Bird Studies Canada/Nature Canada

Site description Akimiski Island is situated just east of the mouth of the Attawapiskat River, in mid-western James Bay. The IBA focuses on the northern shores, which are flat and marshy with beach ridges, and the interior of the island, which features numerous small lakes and ponds, as well as sedge marshlands, and fens. Also part of this site is the eastern half of the south coast, including the eel grass beds at Cape Duncan in the southeastern corner. The vegetation communities present on the island have similarities to both northern Hudson Bay associations and to southern associations.

In addition to its importance for birds, the southern region of Akimiski Island is a maternity denning area and the coasts are a summer retreat for polar bears. The mean annual temperature is approximately 2.5°C and the average rainfall and snowfall are 450 and 250 mm respectively.

Key Biodiversity Akimiski Island is a critical stopover for thousands of geese, ducks and shorebirds. Single day counts in the 1990s have recorded over 10,000 Brant, which is over 3% of this species global population. It is likely that thousands more Brant use Akimiski Island as a spring staging ground. The mid-continent population of Lesser Snow Geese also use Akimiski Island as a spring staging area. During the 1990s, sprong migration counts of Lesser Snow Geese ranged from 10,000 to 20,000. At least 2,000 Snow Geese also nest on the island.

In 1997, a fall migration count recorded over 100,000 Semipalmated Sandpipers, which is almost 4% of this species global population. A small disjunct population of Marbled Godwits (approximately 1,500 birds) breeds along the southwestern James Bay coast. It is likely that the majority of this small population passes through Akimiski Island during migration.

More than 10,000 pairs or 26% of the Southern James Bay Canada Goose population nests on Akimiski Island and more than 24,000 non-breeders may also be present.

The waters surrounding the island provide important habitat for several duck species, such as Oldsquaw and scoters. In total, 140 species of birds have been recorded on Akimiski Island. Of those, 30 are confirmed breeders and an additional 40 probably breed on the island.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Snow Goose Anser caerulescens passage  1991  250,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Brent Goose Branta bernicla passage  1973  20,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla non-breeding  1995  100,000 individuals  A4i  Near Threatened 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds non-breeding  1991-1995  100,000-499,999 individuals  poor  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Akimiski Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary 336,700 protected area overlaps with site 260,000  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Shrubland Scrub  -
Wetlands (inland) Fens transition mires & springs; Freshwater marshes/swamps; 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 major

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

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