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Kvichack Bay

Site Facts

Country, State, Province/Region:

United States, Alaska

Relative Location:

A principal estuary along the north side of the Alaska Peninsula and at the head of Bristol Bay


58 37' N, 157 30' W



Basis for Designation:

More than 20,000 shorebirds annually.


140800 hectares (347924 acres)


March 2001

Site Owner/Steward:

Bureau of Land Management, Alaska Depst of Natural Resources and Fish and Game, Levelock Native Village, Naknek Village, Qinuyang-South Naknek Native Village 

Site Partners:

Bristol Bay Borough, Bristol Bay Native Association, Bristol Bay Native Corporation

Human Population within 100 km:



Rob MacDonald
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Togiak National Wildlife Refuge


Kvichak Bay is located at the head of the much larger Bristol Bay and encompasses lands from Etolin Point near Nushagak Bay east and south to about 35 km south of the village of Knickknack (Cape Chichagof). The bay is fed by the Kvichak and Naknek rivers and several other smaller drainages. About 530 km2 of intertidal habitat fringes the bay, mostly unvegetated mud flats and sand flats. Areas especially attractive to shorebirds in autumn occur south of Knickknack off Johnston Hill; from Nakneck north to Libbyville: throughout Halfmoon Bay; and along the western shore from Lake Point to Etolin Point near Nushagak Bay. At low tide extensive interdial habitat is exposed throught upper Kvichak Bay, but its use by shorebirds has never been documented.

Kvichak Bay is an important as a stop-over/staging area for waterfowl, supporting close to 200,000 King Eiders and high numbers of black Scoters in the spring and fall. It is also a part of an ecological system which supports a multi-million dollar salmon fishing industry.

Information from limited assessments shows that Kvichak Bay is used by Black-bellied Plovers, Pacific Golden Plover, Greater Yellowlegs, and Dunlin. Studies in nearby areas suggest that dominate species would also include: Western Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Short-billed Dowitcher, Rock Sandpiper, and Bar-tailed Godwit.

The combined lagoon and by system along the southern shore of Bristol Bay support hundreds of thousands of individual shorebirds and high proportions of several flyway populations of shorebirds. Shorebirds that use these habitats migrate south to spend the winter along Pacific coast of the Americas or cross the Pacific Ocean to Australia, New Zealand, Southeaster Asia, and Oceania. Dominant species include the Dunlin, Wester Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Short-billed Dowitcher, Rock Sandpiper, and Bar-tailed Godwit. The entire population of the Beringian Marbled Godwit stages in these bays, and this subspecies of Marbled Godwit breeds exclusively on the norther Alaskan Peninsula. For species that migrate directly across the ocean to Hawaii or other South Pacific islands (e.g., Pacific Golden-Plover, Bar tailed Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone), Bristol Bay lagoons provide the last stopover before undertaking long overwater flights. Dunlins, dowitcher, and possibly Western Sandpipers also use the Peninsula?s lagoons to replenish energy reserves before departing for non-stop flights across the Gulf of Alaska.

Ecology & Conservation


Special Information



Rob MacDonald
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Togiak National Wildlife Refuge
P.O. Box 270 Dillingham, Alaska 99576 (907) 842-1966 x314

Additional Resouces

Gibson, D.D. and B. Kessel. 1989. Geographic variations in the Marbled Godwit and description of an Alaska subspecies. Condor 91:436-443.

Gill, R.E.Jr., T.L. Tibbitts, & C.M. Handel. 2001. Profiles of important shorebird sites in Alaska. Information and Technology Report USGS/BRD/ITR-2001-000X. U.S. Government Printing Office, Seattle, WA.

Gill, R.E. & C.M. Handel. 1981. Shorebirds on the eastern Bering Sea. Pages 719-38 in E.W. Hood & J.A. Calder, eds., Eastern Bering Sea Shelf; Oceanography and Resources. Office of Marine Pollution Assessment, National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration. University of Washington Press, Seattle.Last updated Jan 2003

Gill, R.E. Jr., & P.D. Jorgenson. 1979. A preliminary assessment of timing and migration of shorebirds along the northcentral Alaska peninsula. Studies in Avian Biology 2:113-23.