IBA Boas River and associated wetlands
Southampton Island, Nunavut
Site Summary
NU022 Latitude
63.842° N
85.886° W
0 - 60 m
7,998.47 km²
tundra, sedge/grass meadows, rivers/streams, mud or sand flats (saline), freshwater lake, inlets/coastal features (marine), rocky flats & barrens
Land Use:
Hunting, Not Utilized (Natural Area)
Potential or ongoing Threats:
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Congregatory Species, Waterfowl Concentrations
Conservation status: Migratory Bird Sanctuary (federal)
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Site Description
The Boas River area of the low arctic covers the southwestern portion of Southampton Island. The site is divided into two areas; the larger area covers a piece of land encompassing, Ell Bay and Cape Kendall, to a point 80 km upstream along the Boas River, and eastward about five to ten kiometres east of the Boas River. The smaller piece runs along the coast from Bear Cove Point to the southernmost tip of Southampton Island. The bedrock in this flat area is Paleozoic limestone that is covered by glacial drift and beach deposits. The majority of the site is sedge-grass lowland, broken every so often by raised limestone beach ridges. There are also numerous lakes, streams and rivers, the largest of which is the Boas River. Twenty-five kilometres from the coast, the Boas River becomes a braided river of about five kilometres width. Most of the coastline is composed of tidal flats. In the winter, just west of Cape Kendall, is a regularly occurring polynya; an area of upwelling warm water that stays free of ice all winter long. Here are found White Whales, Walruses, and Harbour Seals. Polar Bears, Bearded Seals, and Ringed Seals are here all year, while Bowhead Whales and Narwhals use the polynya in summer.

In 1979, there were about 92,500 pairs of Snow Geese breeding in the Boas River area. Typical of other Snow Geese colonies, the population has increased dramatically over recent decades. In 1997, the colony was estimated to contain 529,100 Snow Geese. This is about 18 % of the mid-continent population of Snow Geese and about 10% of all Snow Geese. The largest colony is found around the Boas River Delta, with smaller colonies at Ell Bay, Bear Cove and west along the coastline from Boas River. The Snow Geese are present between late May and early September.

About 40 bird species can be found here during the summer. Common breeding birds in the appropriate habitat on Southampton Island, and therefore very probably in the IBA include: Arctic Loon, Red-throated Loon, Tundra Swan, Atlantic Brant, Canada Goose, Ross Goose, Oldsqaw, King Eider, Sandhill Crane, Semipalmated Plover, American Golden Plover, White-rumped Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Red Phalarope, jaegers, Herring Gull and Lapland Longspur.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Snow Goose 1973 - 1997 SU 138,800 - 529,100
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
There are no existing or imminent threats to this area. A third of the area is designated as the Harry Gibbons Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Although not anticipated, if people were to use all-terrain vehicles or similar vehicles for mineral exploration, this could change the drainage patterns of these lowlands. Ruts in arctic soils take significantly longer to disappear than they do further south.

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.
   © Birds Canada