The North Channel of Lake Huron lies between the northern shores of Manitoulin Island and the mainland of Central Ontario. The IBA follows the Manitoulin Island shoreline from Cole Bay to West Bay. This large piece of water is bordered on the south by the sloping shoreline of the island, and includes numerous bays and inlets.
Between September and December large numbers of moulting Red-necked Grebes are found in the North Channel. Total numbers of Red-necked Grebes recorded here have been as high as 1,163 in 1995, and 2,000 in 1996. This is perhaps 4% of the North American population of the species, although the percentage is difficult to estimate accurately since the population estimate is rough. The Cole Bay area and Julia Bay waters are two sections that see particularly high concentrations of grebes (about 300 at a time), although there are thought to be additional hotspots in other sections of water that are not so easy to survey. Other open water birds, such as Common Loons, Horned Grebes and small numbers of scoters and Oldsquaw, can been seen in the fall and early winter.
The moulting locations that Red-necked Grebes use in the vicinity of Manitoulin Island share several characteristics. They are generally between 100 to 2,000 m away from the shoreline, the water depth varies from 3 to 55 m, they are partially sheltered (that is in the lee of islands or in large bays), and have varied lake bottom topography containing shelves or holes.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
There are no known conservation issues surrounding the usage and birdlife of The North Channel. Although these waters are used fairly heavily by boaters at other times of the year, between October and December boating traffic is minimal or nonexistent.