Vankarem lowlands and Kolyuchin bay

Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
This embayment is 56 miles (90 km) long and 25 miles (40 km) wide along the north coast of the Chukotsky Peninsula in the Chukotka Autonomous District (66° 13' N; 174° 00'W). Shallow waters at the head of the bay, Kolyuchin Island 31 miles (50 km) northwest on the continental shelf, and Belyaka Spit at the bay's entrance constitute the IBA's most outstanding bird concentration areas. The nearest habitation is the Native village of Nutepel'men, 57 miles (91 km) northwest from the bay's entrance.

Key biodiversity
The bay’s shallow waters and low-lying tussock tundra with its shallow lakes are attractive to a variety of nesting and molting waterbirds. This is an area where the ranges of the North American tundra swan and Asian Bewick’s swan overlap. Pacific and yellowbilled loons are common, along with lesser numbers of Arctic and red-throated loons. Greater white-fronted geese are common nesters, along with northern pintails, long-tailed ducks, common eiders and sandhill cranes. Several thousand each of snow geese, emperor geese and brant arrive annually to molt. The fall season brings aggregations of migrating geese, eiders and shorebirds. Kittlitz's murrelets that are seen in the bay may nest in the nearby mountains. Pacific golden-plovers, Eurasian dotterels, rufous-necked stints, and short-billed dowitchers are typical nesting shorebirds. Northern wheatears, bluethroats, Arctic warblers, red-throated pipits, hoary redpolls, Lapland longspurs and snow buntings are the most common breeding passerines. Kolyuchin Island supports a seabird colony of thousands of common and thick-billed murres and black-legged kittiwakes along with homed puffins and herring gulls. The 447-square-mile (1,144 sq km) Belyaka Spit provides nestmg habitat to two endemic Beringian birds, the emperor goose (5 percent of the Russian population) and spoon-billed sandpiper (3 percent of world population).

Other notable wildlife: Pacific walrus and seals inhabit coastal waters, and polar bears range throughout the coastal zone. An endemic species of blackfish can be found in area lakes.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Occasional human disturbance and poaching may occur and there is the danger of fuel spills from ships transiting the offshore Northern Shipping Route.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Conservation needs: Periodic monitoring of bird populations is highly desirable. Kolyuchin Bay, Kolyuchin Island and Belyaka Spit are prime candidates for designation as Ramsar wetland sites of international significance, and for inclusion as units in the proposed Beringian Heritage International Park.

Habitat and land use
Extensive shallow inlets surrounded by vast lake-dotted tussock-tundra plains crossed by several major rivers occur at the head of the bay. Kolyuchin Island is covered with large stones interspersed with scree slopes and patchy tundra. Sea cliffs occur at the northeast and southwest ends. Belyaka Spit has open sand and pebble beaches, sand dunes and dry crowberry tundra backed by shallow lagoons and lake-dotted tussock-tundra alluvial plains.

The map polygon is provided courtesy of the Spatial Database on Important Bird Areas of Russia 2014 (© Russian Bird Conservation Union, © Transparent World).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Vankarem lowlands and Kolyuchin bay. Downloaded from on 12/08/2022.