Skidegate Inlet

Country/territory: Canada

IBA Criteria met: A4ii (2001)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 200 ha

Birds Canada / Nature Canada

Site description
Skidegate Inlet is a large embayment between the two main islands (Graham and Moresby Islands) of the Queen Charlotte archipelago in British Columbia. The IBA site extends west from Leonide Point on Graham Island, and eastward on the north coast to a point halfway between the village of Skidegate and Dead Tree Point. On the southern side of the inlet, the site extends east and southward along the coast near Moresby Island to a point between Cape Chroustcheff and Copper Bay. It includes all the marine waters in this region, in an arc to about 5 km offshore. The smaller islands are rocky, whereas the larger islands contain small conifer forests. The western portion of the site is characterized by comparatively sheltered channels and bays around two large islands at the centre of the inlet. Here, a long sand spit extends out from Spit Point across the mouth of Skidegate Inlet. A broad shallow tidal shelf extends eastwards from here, with adjacent beaches and intertidal flats consisting of a mixture of mud sand and stones. Gray Whales are often seen feeding in offshore waters.

Key biodiversity
Based on spring migration surveys in 1991, it was estimated that 3,000 to 4,000 Brant (subspecies nigricans) feed on eelgrass in Skidegate Inlet (1% of the North American Brant population and at least 3% of the subspecies nigricans population). Up to 2,000 birds were seen in a single day during these surveys. Other waterbirds such as diving ducks, loons and grebes concentrate in large numbers around schools of spawning Pacific Herring. For example, on more than one occasion hundreds of Red-necked Grebes have been seen here. Flocks of thousands of Surf Scoters and Greater Scaup, and hundreds of Black Scoters, White-winged Scoters and Harlequin Ducks were observed during 1991 surveys. Peak single day counts revealed: 4,910 Surf Scoters, 2,025 Greater Scaup, 1,025 Black Scoters, and 336 Harlequin Ducks.

During 1990 breeding season surveys, 44 pairs of American Black Oystercatcher (4% of the national population) and 2,630 Pigeon Guillemots (1% of the global population and 25% of the Canadian population) were observed. Researchers estimated that there were approximately 1,000 nesting pairs of guillemots in the area. The largest numbers of guillemots were on Lillihorn, Jewell, and Torrens islands. Glaucous-winged Gulls also nest throughout the 26 islets and islands.

Near the eastern end of the inlet, at Sandspit, migrating shorebirds are abundant during spring and fall migration. A high diversity of species can be found at the sandspit; 37 species were recorded during surveys in 1991 and 1992. The four most numerous species are Western Sandpiper, Dunlin, Black Turnstone, and Sanderling.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Skidegate Inlet. Downloaded from on 04/10/2022.