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Location Canada, Ontario
Central coordinates 82o 17.82' West  54o 6.20' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii
Area 150,000 ha
Altitude 0 - 5m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Bird Studies Canada/Nature Canada

Site description This site is located in northeastern Ontario, along the northwestern edge of James Bay. It is defined by wide coastal marshes, both intertidal and supertidal, that form a continuous strip from Ekwan Point northward to just beyond the Lakitusaki River mouth. At the northern end, supertidal marshes extend about 5 km inland, narrowing southward to only about 1 km at the Swan River, and even less near Ekwan Point. Also at the northern end, muddy tidal marshes extend up to 5 km offshore, with submerged shoals extending farther into the bay. These marshes and shallow shoals also narrow somewhat to the south, but still extend 2 3 km into James Bay. Along this stretch of coastline numerous small rivers enter James Bay and provide a source of calcareous freshwater that enriches the marine system. Inland, a beach ridge runs along the coast with a series of older beach ridges meandering through the extensive supertidal marshes.

Key Biodiversity The coastal marshes of this site provide excellent staging habitat for many species of waterfowl and shorebirds during both the spring and fall migration. In particular, huge concentrations of Lesser Snow Geese have been recorded, with as much as 3.7% of the mid-continent (Hudson Bay) population being recorded during a single survey in the spring of 1994. The total number of Snow Geese using this area is likely much higher since the turnover rate as the population moves through this site is not included. Large concentrations of Canada Geese have also been recorded during fall migration, with over 18,000 being counted during a single day survey in 1979. The estimate may have involved geese from as many as three different populations (Mississippi Valley, Southern James Bay, and/or the Tall Grass Prairie population) and it is possible that the 1% threshold was exceeded for one or all of these populations. Large numbers of Brant also utilize this area, but no surveys have been completed during their migration. In addition to staging geese, approximately 30% of the eastern North American Black Scoter population uses this site as a summer moulting area. Red-throated Loons have also been present in numbers approaching global significance with over 400 being recorded during a 3-day period.

This area has been recommended as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) site, due to its significance as a major staging area for thousands of shorebirds. Shorebird species for which a significant portion of their North American population has been recorded include: Hudsonian Godwits (over 1%); Semipalmated Sandpipers (2%); and Pectoral Sandpipers (possibly as much as 10%). American Golden-Plover and Whimbrel can also be observed in large (but non-significant) numbers. Large numbers of larks, pipits and longspurs also migrate along the coastline, with as many as 900 Horned Larks being observed in one day.

This area is also a key nesting area for Canada Geese from the Mississippi Valley population. Thousands of geese have been banded along this shoreline. During 1994 and 1997 there were also large numbers of nesting Snow Geese (but not annually). It appears that this site is a second choice nesting area if the birds are prevented from nesting in their home colonies because of inclement weather, water or ice conditions.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Snow Goose Anser caerulescens passage  1994  143,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Melanitta nigra non-breeding  1994  37,640 individuals  A4i  Not Recognised 
Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla passage  1995  70,000 individuals  A4i  Near Threatened 
Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos passage  1993  5,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds passage  1993-1995  100,000-499,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Polar Bear Provincial Park 2,355,200 protected area overlaps with site 34,000  
Polar Bear Provincial Park Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 2,408,700 protected area overlaps with site 31,000  


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

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
hunting major

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Ekwan to Lakitusaki Shores. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016

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