IBA Criteria met: A4i, A4iii (2008)
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Area: 150,000 ha
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.
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.
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Ekwan to Lakitusaki Shores. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/03/2023.