IBA Site Listing
IBALong Point Peninsula and Marshes
Port Rowan, Ontario
Site Summary
42.591° N
80.307° W
173 - 181 m
241.49 km˛
coniferous forest (temperate), deciduous woods (temperate), mixed woods (temperate), savanna, sedge/grass meadows, freshwater marsh, coastal sand dunes & beaches, unknown
Land Use:
Agriculture, Hunting, Not Utilized (Natural Area), Tourism/recreation, Urban/industrial/transport
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Disturbance, Recreation/tourism, Urban/industrial development
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Congregatory Species, Waterfowl Concentrations, Migratory Landbird Concentrations, Nationally Significant: Threatened Species, Congregatory Species
Conservation status: International Monarch Butterfly Reserve, National Wildlife Area (federal), Ramsar Site (Wetland of International Significance), World Biosphere Reserve
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Site Description
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.

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.

Summary of bird records available for Long Point Peninsula and Marshes
Click here to view all records
American Black DuckFA7,650GI1995
American Black DuckSP12,771GI1998
American GoldfinchSU900I1994
American Green-winged TealFA5,409I1998
American PipitFA1,100I1994
American RedstartSP450I1993
American WigeonFA21,000GI1991
American WigeonWI14,655NI1993
Baltimore OrioleFA350I1993
Bank SwallowFA25,000I1996
Barn SwallowFA25,000I1996
Bonaparte's GullSP20,000GI1995
Bonaparte's GullWI15,000GI1994
Canada GooseWI1,389I1997
Cedar WaxwingFA2,000I1995
Chestnut-sided WarblerSP300I1993
Chipping SparrowSP270I1996
Common GrackleFA220,000I1995
Common MerganserSP4,950NI1995
Common TernFA2,000GI1994
Common TernSP1,000GI1997
Forster's TernOT154NN1981
Golden-crowned KingletFA900I1992
Great Black-backed GullSP160I1994
King RailOT2NP1995
Least BitternOT11NP1995
Least FlycatcherSP550I1993
Little GullSP120I1996
Magnolia WarblerSP850I1993
MallardFA14,901 - 25,200GI1995 - 1998
Marbled GodwitFA9I1995
Peregrine FalconSU9I1995
Piping Plover (Great Lakes)OT1CI2000
Prothonotary WarblerOT
Red-breasted MerganserWI2,970GI1998
Red-eyed VireoSP450I1993
Red-headed WoodpeckerFA20I1995
Ring-necked DuckWI8,270GI1994
Rose-breasted GrosbeakFA350I1995
Ruddy DuckFA3,970I1997
Scaup speciesFA31,600 - 122,820GI1993 - 1998
Swainson's ThrushSP600I1993
Tree SwallowFA25,000I1996
Tundra SwanFA9,544 - 11,260GI1993 - 1998
Tundra SwanSP8,000GI1992
WaterbirdsWI766,000 - 9,624,545CD1992 - 1998
White-crowned SparrowFA600I1995
White-throated SparrowSP800I1996
Yellow WarblerFA400I1993
Yellow-rumped WarblerFA2,000I1993
Note: species shown in bold indicate that their population level (as estimated by the maximum number) exceeds at least one of the IBA thresholds (national, continental or global). The site may still not qualify for that level of IBA if the maximum number reflects an exceptional or historical occurence.
Conservation Issues
In August 1996, the Long Point area was announced as the first globally significant Important Bird Area in Canada. This international recognition is one of many: in 1982 it was designated as a Ramsar site following the convention on Wetlands of International Importance; in 1986 it was recognized as a World Biosphere site by UNESCO within the Man and Biosphere Program; and in 1995 it was recognized as an International Monarch Butterfly Reserve.

The presence of the significant natural features at Long Point is largely due to the stewardship of the Long Point Company. They have owned and managed a large portion of the Point for duck hunting since 1866. More recently, the Canadian Wildlife Service has become active in the conservation of the area through the establishment of National Wildlife Areas in 1973 and 1979. Other major tenants who manage their land for conservation include the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Long Point Region Conservation Authority, Ducks Unlimited, and at least five different private waterfowl clubs.

Although much of the area is protected through ownership by conservation interests, there are direct threats to non-protected wetlands due to proposals to convert the marsh for agricultural or recreational purposes. In addition to direct loss of habitat through development, disturbance to resting flocks of waterfowl by motor boats is also a serious concern. To counter this threat public awareness programs have been undertaken. Other threats include the potential for off-site developments that may interfere with the shoreline transport of sand that forms Long Point or the artificial manipulation of Great Lakes water levels.

The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Bird Studies Canada and Nature Canada.
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