IBA Lambert Channel/Hornby Island Waters
Courtney, British Columbia
Site Summary
BC061 Latitude
49.538° N
124.667° W
0 - 10 m
131.66 km²
tidal rivers/estuaries, open sea, coastal cliffs/rocky shores (marine)
Land Use:
Fisheries/aquaculture, Tourism/recreation
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Disturbance, Fisheries, Recreation/tourism, Urban/industrial development
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Congregatory Species, Waterfowl Concentrations, Colonial Waterbirds/Seabird Concentrations, Continentally Significant: Congregatory Species, Nationally Significant: Congregatory Species
Conservation status: IBA Conservation Plan written/being written, Pacific Marine Heritage Legacy, Provincial Park (including Marine)
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Site Description
Comox Valley IBA, Baynes Sound IBA and Lambert Channel/Hornby Island Waters IBA share common populations of waterbirds but were established as separate IBAs because they were nominated independently. In 2013, these sites were amalgamated into the K'omoks IBA; follow this link for current information for this area.

Lambert Channel is the body of water that separates Denman and Hornby Islands. These islands are located off the east coast of Vancouver Island in the central part of the Strait of Georgia. Within Lambert Channel, the IBA extends several kilometres along the entire northern shore of Denman Island (including the Seal Islets), and the northwestern, western, eastern and southern shores of Hornby Island. The shores of the channel are a mixture of gravel and rock, with the water currents in the channel being influenced by tides twice daily. The upland habitats adjacent to the channel are part of the dry Garry Oak/Douglas fir forests that are restricted in British Columbia to the Strait of Georgia. Hornby Island is forested with Douglas fir on the southeast peninsula, and has mostly rocky shores, culminating in a large rocky headland (St. Johns Point) at the tip of this peninsula. The waters within 2 km of the shores of Hornby Island are included in the IBA.

Birds concentrate in the Lambert Channel to take advantage of spawning herring, which are usually present during the first few weeks of March. Significant numbers of waterfowl, especially Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, and Long-tailed Duck, and significant numbers of waterbirds, especially Glaucous-winged Gull, Mew Gull and Thayer's Gull, are found at this time. As well, continentally important numbers of Black Brant occur during spring migration. Lambert Channel and the waters off of Hornby Island support significant concentrations of Harlequin Duck in more than one season. Aggregations of Harlequin Duck gather at a few locations on the northeast side of Hornby Island for 2-3 weeks during herring spawning. These aggregations can include 49-81% of the midwinter population of Harlequin Duck in the northern Strait of Georgia. An estimated 3400-5500 birds were present in 1996-2001. Aggregations occur in only a small fraction of the habitat area where spawn is available, indicating the importance of the site. During summer and early fall, the shores of Hornby Island are also a major roost site for moulting Harlequin Duck. The relative importance of the IBA to the other species listed in the table below is under review.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Black Turnstone 2002 FA 1,000
California Gull 2016 SP 5,000
Glaucous-winged Gull 1989 - 2017 SP 4,300 - 45,000
Glaucous-winged Gull 2001 WI 5,176
Great Blue Heron 2003 SP 38
Great Blue Heron 1999 - 2007 SU 38 - 110
Harlequin Duck 1999 OT 4,277
Harlequin Duck 1995 - 1998 SP 2,500 - 5,000
Heermann's Gull 2014 FA 100
Iceland Gull (Thayer's) 2005 - 2015 FA 86 - 4,000
Iceland Gull (Thayer's) 2000 - 2017 SP 80 - 2,000
Iceland Gull (Thayer's) 2000 - 2017 WI 80 - 1,200
Long-tailed Duck 1990 SP 8,500
Pelagic Cormorant 1990 SP 2,080
Pelagic Cormorant 2017 WI 900
Short-billed Gull 2001 - 2017 SP 2,800 - 5,000
Short-billed Gull 2001 WI 4,687
Surf Scoter 2015 - 2016 SP 6,000 - 8,000
Surfbird 2012 FA 600
Surfbird 2015 SP 530
Surfbird 2013 WI 600
Waterbirds 1990 SP 28,000
Waterbirds 2010 WI 23,070
Western Grebe 2003 SP 2,000
Western Grebe 2005 WI 6,340
Note: species shown in bold indicate that the maximum number exceeds at least one of the IBA thresholds (sub-regional, regional or global). The site may still not qualify for that level of IBA if the maximum number reflects an exceptional or historical occurrence.
Conservation Issues
Lambert Channel and the waters surrounding Hornby Island have long been recognized as an important area for waterbirds and herring. Any activity that negatively impacts the herring spawn (e.g. reductions in water quality, foreshore development) could have significant impacts on the ability of this site to support a concentration of birds. Disturbance from increased recreational activities also poses a threat to bird populations using the area. The recent demand for expanded mariculture development will need to be monitored carefully for its impact on birds. There is limited protection in place, particularly for the marine waters; the most significant is the marine extension to Helliwell Provincial Park.

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