Important Bird Areas

Izembek-Moffet-Kinzarof Lagoons


The Izembek Lagoon complex includes Izembek, Moffet and Kinzarof Lagoons (and partially Morzhovoi and Cold Bays?) and is the largest of the seven principal estuaries along the north side of the Alaska Peninsula. Noted for its diverse shorebirds habitats and extensive eel grass (Zostera) beds.

Area: 89,600 ha land; 150,500 ha water

Identified as GLOBAL in 2003.

Ornithological Summary

The location of Izembek Lagoon complex along avian migration routes and the presence of an abundant food resource (eelgrass) make Izembek Lagoon one of the most important migratory bird staging and wintering habitats in the world. More than 82 species of birds have been documented using habitats in the vicinity of Izembek lagoon. The site is especially critical for the many species of waterfowl (particularly geese) and shorebirds that undertake transoceanic flights to wintering habitats on the lower North Pacific coast or southern Pacific islands. The area regularly supports more than 90% of the eastern Pacific coast population of Brant, more than half the world population of Emperor Geese, and a significant percentage of the world populations of Steller's Eider and Taverner's Canada Goose.
Shorebird habitats are diverse at this site. Extensive unvegetated mud and sand flats occur throughout the lagoons. Sand beaches run the entire length of the Bering Sea side of all barrier islands and protecting peninsulas. Twenty-eight species of shorebirds have been recorded on the area, 20 of them as migrants and 8 as breeders. The largest number of shorebirds recorded on a single-day count was 41,351 in mid October. Three speciesRock Sandpiper, Dunlin and Western Sandpiperaccount for more than 95% of all shorebirds recorded. Rock Sandpipers are the single most abundant species, with more than 32,000 present in early September, followed by Dunlins, that peak at 28,000 birds in mid October. Use by Least Sandpipers may exceed both of these figures combined, but areas favored by this species are difficult to survey.

Conservation Issues

There is some concern about pressure from commercial guided waterfowl hunting. At present, the Izembek State Game Refuge lacks any sanctuaries where waterfowl are undisturbed. Over the longer term, there is potential for oil development in Bristol Bay, which, because of ocean circulation patterns, could threaten Izembek Lagoon. Finally, if global climate change results in increased sea levels in the Bering Sea, this could harm eelgrass beds, which could not survive even small increases in water levels.


State (Alaska Department of Fish and Game), Federal (U.S.Fish and Wildlife Serivce), Native.

Izembek State Game Refuge
Izembek National Wildlife Refuge
Ramsar site


Rocky intertidal, Intertidal mud/sandflats, Eel grass beds, Barrier island/bars, Sand beach, and Vegetated intertidal

Shoreline 419 km
Barrier beach/spit -29 km
Veget. intertidal 157 km
Unveg. intert. - 125 km

Land Use

Subsistance hunting, Recreation