IBA Gull Bay Spits
Grand Rapids, Manitoba
Site Summary
MB053 Latitude
52.891° N
98.860° W
217 m
18.73 km²
freshwater lake, coastal sand dunes & beaches
Land Use:
Nature conservation and research, Fisheries/aquaculture, Hunting
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Disturbance, Other environmental events
IBA Criteria: Nationally Significant: Threatened Species
Conservation status:
Restricted access for IBA coordinators
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Site Description
The Gull Bay Spits, located in the north basin of Lake Winnipeg, are about 30 km to the southeast of the town of Grand Rapids, Manitoba. They are attached to the south side of Long Point, at its extreme southwest corner, and they extend out into the Gull Bay portion of Lake Winnipeg. There are two spits in total, the north spit and the south spit. The base of the north spit has been covered in water, thereby creating an island.
The Gull Bay Spits host breeding Piping Plovers, an endangered species in Canada. A total of 52 adults and 14 juveniles were counted in July 1988 and in June of 1991, a total of 38 Piping Plovers were recorded during the International Piping Plover Breeding Census. Five years later, in 1996, a total of 17 birds were detected in the same area. The average of these years is nationally significant. Unfortunately, and in line with other previously well-established areas for Piping Plover in Manitoba, there have been no sightings of this species since 2005.

Piping Plover censuses in this area also indicates that there has been an increase in the numbers of breeding gulls and terns. Ring-billed Gull (3,750 nests), Herring Gull (33 nests) and Common Tern (1,140 nests) all bred here during the 2000 Piping Plover Census. Also, these spits are heavily utilized by staging and migrating gulls and waterfowl.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Piping Plover 1991 - 1996 SU 17 - 38
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
One of the threats to the endangered Piping Plover is the disturbance of their habitat or their nests and eggs. Although this beach is fairly isolated, there is always the potential of too much human activity, primarily from fishing activity, leading to decreasing reproduction of birds nesting on the beach. ATV use has also been identified as a potential issue. The increasing gull and tern population, possibly exacerbated by discards from the fishing industry, may increase the likelihood of predation events on chicks. The plovers are also affected by high water levels and wind storms. This is especially so because Manitoba Hydro keeps Lake Winnipeg water levels high.

The Province of Manitoba has designated this IBA as part of the Walter Cook Special Conservation Area for Piping Plover. The designation will ban the use of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) from April 1st through to September 15th and restrict access if Piping Plover breed within the IBA in future years. The wider area, including Gull Bay Spits, has been proposed for a National Park, thereby providing some form of protection.

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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