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Location Canada, Nunavut
Central coordinates 73o 59.97' West  66o 10.27' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii
Area 1,500,000 ha
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Bird Studies Canada/Nature Canada

Site description The Great Plain of the Koukdjuak is located on the western side of Baffin Island along the southeastern coast of Foxe Basin. It is a broad, flat, water-logged sedge lowland. High tides sweep across the plain from Foxe Basin, and create a tidal zone that extends up to 15 km inland. The landscape is dominated by water, with circular shallow lakes and wetlands crossed by numerous small streams that drain the marshy plain. Raised beach ridges, 25 to 80 km from the coast, mark the inland limit of the plain, while granite outcrops scattered throughout the southern area interrupt the level horizon. The tundra covers marine clay soils, which overlay limestone and shale bedrock. The Great Plain is part of both the Dewey Soper Bird Sanctuary and the Bowman Bay Game Sanctuary. An important caribou migration route crosses the Koukdjuak River inland from the nesting area.

Key Biodiversity The Great Plain of Koukdjuak supports the largest goose colony in the world. In the summer of 1998, 1,766,500 Lesser Snow Geese migrated here to breed. This is about a third of all the Snow Geese in the world. In late May geese begin arriving at the site, and after the young are hatched both adults and offspring head further inland to feed. The geese depart from the Great Plain by early to mid-September.

Other birds that breed in this area include Sabines Gulls, which nest near the coast in numbers close to 8% of the national population. Canada Geese, Oldsquaw, King and Common Eiders and Atlantic Brants can also be found here. In 1979, 1600 Atlantic Brant bred at this site, representing 1% of the estimated national population. Due to the biological richness and size of this site, about one half of the Eastern Arctic populations of Lesser Snow Goose, Canada Goose, and Atlantic Brant, can be found here. Shorebirds, such as Red Phalaropes, are also likely to be present in large numbers, but no data are available for these species.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Snow Goose Anser caerulescens breeding  1998  1,766,500 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds breeding  1998  1,000,000-2,499,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Bowman Bay Wildlife Sanctuary 107,900 protected area contained by site 155,128  
Dewey Soper Migratory Bird Sanctuary 793,000 protected area contained by site 642,415  
Dewey Soper Migratory Bird Sanctuary Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 815,900 protected area contained by site 722,319  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Grassland Edaphic grassland  -
Wetlands (inland) Rivers; Salt/brackish marshes  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research major
not utilised major

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Great Plain of the Koukdjuak. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016

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