Long Point Peninsula and Marshes

Country/territory: Canada

IBA criteria met: A4i, A4iii (2008)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 26,000 ha

Birds Canada / Nature Canada

Site description (2001 baseline)
The Long Point site includes the Long Point Peninsula, Long Point Inner Bay and the Turkey Point and Big Creek marshes. Extending 32 km into Lake Erie, the Long Point Peninsula is the longest freshwater sandspit in the world. With an area of approximately 105,000 ha, it is constantly changing due to the continuous deposition and erosion of sediments through wind and wave erosion. The peninsula itself is a series of alternating ridges that are separated by ponds and swales. These wetlands and associated sand dunes are the best remaining example of this type of ecosystem in the Great Lakes basin.

Protected from the prevailing south-westerly winds by the sandspit, extensive marshes have formed in its lee or northern side. The Inner Bay (approximately 28,000 ha) encompasses the open water from the Big Creek marshes in the west to an imaginary line drawn from Turkey Point to Pottahawk Point in the east. The northern and western shores are fringed by shallow marshes, with the extensive marshes of Turkey Point in the northeast corner and those of Long Point to the south and west. The moderating effect of Lake Erie, combined with the southern geographic location of Long Point, allows a number of plants and animals to survive here at the northern fringe of their North American range.

Key biodiversity
The Long Point area is most renowned for the concentrations of waterfowl that make use of the area during spring and fall migration. Single day counts of 70,000 to over 100,000 waterfowl are made regularly. Over the last five years (1992 to 1996) nationally and/or globally significant numbers (i.e., greater than 1% of the biogeographic population) of eight waterfowl species have been recorded (Tundra Swan - eastern population, American Black Duck, Canvasback, Common Merganser, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, Redhead, and scaup (Greater and Lesser Scaup combined). Of these eight species, Tundra Swan, American Black Duck and Canvasback consistently occur in globally significant numbers (6.0% to 13%; 2.1% to 3.6%; and 2.1% to 6.8% of their populations respectively). It should be recognized that these data are based on single-day-counts; over the course of the migration season it is likely that the number of individuals and associated percentages for each of these species would be even higher. Over the last 20 years there have been occasions when even higher numbers of waterfowl have been recorded: 10 to 15% of the Canvasback population; up to 10% of the Redhead population; and up to 35% to 45% of the Tundra Swan (eastern) population. Other waterbirds that occur in large numbers include Whimbrel (often in the hundreds), Bonaparte?s Gull (regular one-day counts in excess of 5,000), and Common Terns (regular one-day counts in excess of 1,000)

In addition to waterfowl, the Long Point area also supports an exceptional number and diversity of resident and migrant landbirds. A total of 367 bird species have been recorded at Long Point to date. This represents approximately 85% of the species that have been recorded thus far in Ontario. About 120 species have nested in the area and on average, about 260 species of birds are recorded each year.

The Long Point Bird Observatory operates three migration monitoring stations on the spit. As of the end of 1995, they had banded 522,244 birds of 265 different species. Using the estimated daily totals of migrant birds in each of the three census areas it has been estimated that the average number of migrants using the area is 2.4 million individuals in the spring and 7 million in the fall.

Several nationally threatened bird species nest in the Long Point area including nationally significant numbers of King Rail (endangered), Least Bittern (vulnerable), and Prothonotary Warbler (endangered). Red-headed Woodpecker (nationally vulnerable) are also present, but not in nationally significant numbers. Local populations of all of these species appear to have declined in recent years and some may be extirpated or only occasional breeders. Long Point formerly supported a significant breeding population of Piping Plovers (globally vulnerable; nationally endangered) but the last recorded evidence of attempted breeding was in 1981. This species is now very rarely seen during migration. However, suitable breeding habitat still remains.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Long Point Peninsula and Marshes. Downloaded from on 03/12/2023.