Babbage and Spring River Deltas

Site description (2001 baseline):

Site location and context
The Babbage River and Spring River deltas are located on the Beaufort Sea along the Yukon coast. The site encompasses about 15 km of coastline and extends out 12 km into the Beaufort Sea to include Kay Point and Phillips Bay. The site continues about 1 km inland, except at the Babbage River delta where it continues up to 5 km inland. The larger Babbage River flows westward into the east side of Phillips Bay, while the Spring Rivers empties into the bay about 8 km to the west, and approaches from the south. Within these deltas, the dominant habitats include ponds, channels, grass-sedge wetlands, salt marshes, and tidal mudflats. Along the coast, gravel and sand beaches dominate, while further inland arctic tundra consists of dwarf shrubs, sedges, and herbs.

Key biodiversity
With its sheltered bays and wetlands, this site is used for moulting and staging by many species of birds, especially waterfowl. In September, 1980, a total of 12,000 Black Brant were surveyed in Phillips Bay. This represents 4% of the global population and 8.6% of the western subspecies nigricans. In 1975, 1175 were counted in Phillips Bay. The Brant are usually concentrated in the tidal flats of the Spring and Babbage river deltas. Other geese seen in the area include over 1,500 Greater White-fronted Geese recorded in Phillips Bay in the fall of 1986 and Canada Geese and Lesser Snow Geese (in breeding and migration seasons). Small numbers of Glaucous Gulls breed in scattered locations, but in the fall, numbers increase significantly: a high count of 222 birds in 1981 represents about 1% of the national population.

Breeding birds recorded in the area include Pacific Loon, waterfowl (especially Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Oldsquaw and Red-breasted Merganser), and shorebirds, such as Semipalmated Sandpiper and Red-necked Phalarope. In late summer, it is thought that the area is important for brood-rearing and staging shorebirds.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Part of the site is within the boundary of Ivvavik National Park, which was established in 1984. Outside the park, oil and gas exploration, along with the associated infrastructure development, are still concerns in the area. There are currently ongoing exploration activities on the Alaska coastal plain, and in the Beaufort Sea. Rapid and widespread coastal erosion has occurred over the past 20 years.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Babbage and Spring River Deltas. Downloaded from on 24/02/2024.