Haida Gwaii, British Columbia
Kunghit Island is a large island that lies at the southern tip of the Haida Gwaii archipelago, in British Columbia. It is separated from Moresby Island by Houston Stewart Channel. Luxana Bay is a large bay midway along the eastern coast of Kunghit Island. The island consists of deeply cut bays, particularly along the east coast of this steep-sided island, which create a series of projecting peninsulas. Cliffs are prominent along the island coastline. Sitka Spruce is generally more abundant near shore, while Western Hemlock and Western Redcedar become more dominant further inland. The steep slopes surrounding the exposed cliffs have a ground cover of grasses under the spruce forest. Inland, the ground cover changes to bare litter and moss. Salal is abundant in some areas while other shrubs occur sporadically. This IBA consists of part of Kunghit Island and the surrounding waters. Harbour Seals pup and haul out on this island.
Kunghit Island is one of the largest seabird islands on the British Columbia coastline. It is a site of global significance for Ancient Murrelet (nationally vulnerable), and national significance for Pigeon Guillemot and Peregrine Falcon (the nationally vulnerable west coast subspecies pealei). The most recent surveys in 1993, recorded 3,550 pairs of Ancient Murrelet (probably about 1% of the uncertain North American population). However, this colony has declined substantially since 1986, when 8,000 pairs nested over a larger area. This decline is due to Norway Rats, which depredate both adult birds and eggs within nesting burrows. Pigeon Guillemots breed around the island perimeter; 117 birds (1% of the national population) were surveyed in 1986. Furthermore, Peregrine Falcons (subspecies pealei) nest in the area. Since 1971, surveys of the area have recorded 29 potential nest sites for peregrines. In 1991, 11 of these sites were occupied, and in 2000, 7 were occupied. This is perhaps 10% of the small Peales Peregrine Falcon population.
An estimated 2,500 Rhinoceros Auklets pairs nested in disjunct patches throughout the site in both 1986 and 1993. There are also 200 to 300 breeding pairs of Tufted Puffins. Pelagic Cormorants, Black Oystercatchers, Glaucous-winged Gulls, and Bald Eagles nest in the area, and Marbled Murrelets likely nest on the island. During 1986 surveys, groups of up to 80 adult Marbled Murrelets were seen regularly, and birds were heard calling and flying into the forest at dawn and dusk.
The primary threat to Kunghit Island is the presence of introduced Norway Rats, which are the cause of the decline of the Ancient Murrelet colony. Signs of rat depredation are abundant and there is some concern that rats will spread to other nearby seabird islands. Unfortunately, given the size of the island, it is unlikely that rats can be eradicated using methods employed on other islands. The potential spread of introduced raccoons from the mainland shores of Moresby Island is also a considerable threat to colonial seabirds. Other threats to the area are from potential oil spills, and possible disturbance from boaters and other visitors.IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status