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Location Canada, Ontario
Central coordinates 80o 25.19' West  51o 19.87' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii
Area 6,600 ha
Altitude 0 - 5m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Bird Studies Canada/Nature Canada

Site description The Moose River estuary is located along the southwestern coast of James Bay, about 20 km northeast of Moosonee. The site stretches north and east from the mouth of the Moose River, for about 10 km in each direction and it includes Ship Sands Island, which is located on the northern side of the rivers mouth. Moose River is one of the two largest rivers flowing into James Bay and shoals and mudflats extend 8 to 10 km offshore as a result of deposition. The tidal flats are over 1 km wide to north of Ship Sands Island. These flats are covered by a mosaic of sedges and other plants, amidst shallow pools and drainage ways. The seaward third of Ship Sands Island is covered with sedge marshes that are seasonally flooded. A succession of low gravel ridges, with supertidal marshes between, extends over a km inland from the normal high tide.

Key Biodiversity Tremendous numbers of staging Snow Geese have been recorded in the Moose River estuary during fall migration. In 1980, approximately 179,000 geese were counted at this site. Although numbers of Snow Geese using this area have declined somewhat, there is no doubt that numbers present are still of global significance.

In addition to geese, large numbers of other waterbirds utilize this site. Examples of one-day counts include: American Black Duck (200), Green-winged Teal (180), Lesser Scaup (200), Common Snipe (200), and Black-bellied Plover (40 to 50), Dunlin (1,000), and Sandhill Crane (42). As a whole, however, few detailed surveys of this area have been completed. For example, the flooded foreshores to the east of Moose River is an area of very heavy use by returning dabbling ducks during the spring, but no population estimates are available.

At least 45 species have shown some evidence of breeding on Ship Sands Island. These species include Northern Harrier, Le Contes Sparrow, Nelsons Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Marbled Godwit, and Yellow Rail. Yellow Rail was recently identified as a nationally vulnerable species: it is recorded as being common at this site.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Snow Goose Anser caerulescens passage  1975  179,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds passage  1975  100,000-499,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland) Estuarine waters; Intertidal mud, sand or salt flats; Rivers; Salt/brackish marshes  -
Sea Open sea  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research major
fisheries/aquaculture minor
hunting major
tourism/recreation minor

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Moose River Estuary. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016

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