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East Bay/Native Bay (NU023)

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East Bay/Native Bay (NU023)

Southampton Island, Nunavut

Latitude 63.948°N
Longitude 82.305°W
Altitude 0 - 122m
Area 3,332.64km²

Site Description

The East Bay Native Bay Important Bird Area, in the arctic of eastern Canada, comprises a large part of the southeastern arm of Southampton Island. The community of Coral Harbour lies on the coast a few kilometres to the west. The site spans the southeastern arm of Southampton Island, with East Bay itself on the east side and Native Bay and Native Point, where there is an archeological site, on the west side. Ice break-up in this area begins sometime between mid June and early July. The habitat around East Bay proper is mainly sedge meadow and tundra ponds interspersed with raised beaches. On the slightly higher land away from the coast, there are rock outcrops of both limestone and Precambrian rock. Five kilometres offshore, in East Bay, there is a small low-lying island (800 by 100 m) that is used by breeding eiders in the summer. It is covered in boulder fields and bordered by gravel beaches. The small ponds on the island are used as a water source by female brooding eiders.

The East Bay area is not only used by waterfowl, but by marine mammals. In the summer, Beluga Whales Polar Bears, Ringed and Bearded seals can all be seen in the area. Caribou are common in the area during summer and Arctic Foxes can be seen feeding on the eggs of Brant, Common Eiders and Canada Geese.

Birds

Three key species of waterfowl come to the East Bay area each summer to breed in large colonies. Within the bay itself there is a small island where thousands of Common Eiders nest. In the early 1980s a quick survey revealed between 3,800 and 5,900 pairs; this is from 4 to 6% of the northern borealis subspecies. In 1999, biologists who were at the colony were not able to conduct a count, but did estimate that the colony was composed of between 3,800 to 4,500 nests. From 1996 to 2000, research was conducted on the eider colony. During those years, the first eggs were observed around June 20 and most females were laying their eggs by July 2. Through the early part of the incubation period, the male eiders guarded their brooding mates while sitting nearby. In the first two weeks of July, the males leave the colony, with the females remaining to finish the incubation and brood-rearing. The majority of eggs hatch by July 28, with a small percentage hatching as late as August 8 (this date varies depending on weather at the beginning of the breeding season). Although this colony is primarily composed of the borealis subspecies, detailed bill measurements taken in 1996 showed that at least 5% of the eiders were actually the sedentaria subspecies.

An immense colony of about 144,800 Lesser Snow Geese is on the mainland. This number compares to 44,600 geese in 1979. The most current figure represents 5 % of the mid-continent population of Snow Geese, and 3% of all Snow Geese. Most of the nesting geese are concentrated in an area within 500 m of East Bay itself. However, areas further inland are used for feeding and brood-rearing. Another goose species, the Atlantic Brant, breeds here too - there were an estimated 900 Brant nests in 1980. This is about 4% of the 1979 population of the eastern subspecies (40,000 birds).

Other common breeding birds that occur on the East Bay mainland, mainly associated with tundra ponds, are: King Eider, Oldsquaw, Red-throated Loon, Sabines Gull, Arctic Tern and jaegers. In 1980, researchers counted 21 Sabines Gull nests in a small portion of the IBA. Breeding shorebirds include Black-bellied Plover, Golden Plover, Semipalmated Plover, White-rumped Sandpiper, Red Phalarope, Red Knot and Ruddy Turnstone. Breeding birds on the island containing the eider colony include Black Guillemot, Brant, Canada Goose, Herring Gull, and Red-throated Loon. On the summers of 1979 and 1980 a total of 41 species of birds were recorded.

Conservation Issues

The East Bay area does not face any imminent threats. Nonetheless, this site has a few sensitivities; eiders are sensitive to human disturbance, drainage patterns of these low-lying areas can be altered by even low-level use of motorized vehicles, and water pollution is a possible if distant threat. Two animals are perhaps the largest environmental concern here: Snow Geese are so numerous that they are over-grazing some parts of the Native Bay area, and although caribou are also very numerous (50,000), it is not clear if they are overly trampling the site or not. This area has been recognized as a Key Migratory Bird Terrestrial Habitat site by the Canadian Wildlife Service.

IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status
Iceland Gull (Thayer's)
Number Year Season
3002001Summer
Snow Goose
Number Year Season
144,8001997Summer
44,6001979Summer