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Nelson River Estuary & Marsh Point (MB008)


Nelson River Estuary & Marsh Point (MB008)

Hudson Bay Coast, Manitoba

Latitude 57.115°N
Longitude 92.348°W
Altitude 0 - 3m
Area 702.86km²

Site Description

The Nelson River empties into western Hudson Bay about 150 km downstream from Gillam, Manitoba. Marsh Point protrudes into Hudson Bay between the outlets of the Nelson River on the west and the Hayes River on the east. The substrate of this area consists of fine sand and gravel deposits. The land between the estuaries of these two rivers is known as Marsh Point and is extremely flat. It contains extensive tracts of grasses and willows interspersed with many bogs and small clumps of Black Spruce. There are no major rock outcroppings in the area. The land behind the Nelson River estuary is boggy and has extensive expanses of stunted spruce. The gently sloping tidal flats receive tides that reach four metres. The IBA also covers a large area north of the Nelson estuary along the coast of the Wapusk National Park, and east of the Hayes Estuary covering the intertidal flats in these areas.

Mammals found at this site include Polar Bear, Caribou, Timber Wolf and Beluga Whale. This site is a major summer staging, breeding and calving area that contains as many as a few thousand Belugas on peak days. The area does not include any year-round settlements, but there is seasonal occupancy of the former fur-trading post at York Factory by staff from Parks Canada.


The shorelines around the Hayes and Nelson River Estuaries provide spring foraging habitat for large concentrations of migratory shorebirds. A total of 4,532 Red Knot were counted on June 2nd 2014 during aerial surveys by Environment and Climate Change Canada. This represents over 4% of the North American breeding population of this species and significant concentrations of the endangered rufa subspecies. On the same day, 296 Black-bellied Plover and 524 Hudsonian Godwit were noted. In July 2013, 1,275 Hudsonian Godwits were observed east of the Hayes River. In the fall, this site supports congregations of North American Ruddy Turnstones (ssp. morinella), with 600 or more being reported in one day; the total for the fall season would be much higher considering turnover rates. Other species of shorebirds found at this site in the fall include Semipalmated Sandpiper (1,000), Dunlin (400), and Least Sandpiper (650).

The estuaries are also ideal feeding areas for concentrations of pre and post-breeding sea ducks. Concentrations of Black, White-winged and Surf Scoter may number in the hundreds or even thousands at peak times.. Other waterbirds found include Sandhill Crane (75), Arctic Tern (200) and Bonaparte's Gull (850).

Conservation Issues

This site has relatively few threats facing its habitat and bird fauna due to its remote, northern location. In light of unemployment problems at this site, both the provincial and federal government are promoting eco-tourism at this site. This could potentially have negative effects on local wildlife if not managed properly.

IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status
Hudsonian Godwit
Number Year Season
Rusty Blackbird
Number Year Season
60 - 802009Fall
Red Knot
Number Year Season
985 - 4,5322014Summer