IBA Nelson River Estuary & Marsh Point
Hudson Bay Coast, Manitoba
Site Summary
MB008 Latitude
57.115° N
92.348° W
0 - 3 m
702.86 km²
coniferous forest (boreal/alpine), deciduous woods (boreal/alpine), tundra, sedge/grass meadows, rivers/streams, fen, tidal rivers/estuaries, mud or sand flats (saline), bog, open sea, inlets/coastal features (marine)
Land Use:
Nature conservation and research, Hunting
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Hunting, Industrial pollution, Other decline in habitat quality, Recreation/tourism
IBA Criteria: Continentally Significant: Congregatory Species
Conservation status:
Restricted access for IBA coordinators
Login name: Password:


View in mobile

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).

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Hudsonian Godwit 2013 SU 1,275
Red Knot 1974 SP 3,500
Red Knot 2014 SU 985 - 4,532
Rusty Blackbird 2009 FA 60 - 80
Rusty Blackbird 2013 SU 24
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
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.

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