In the late 19th century, Icy Bay was completely covered by a glacier. More than 40 km of glacial retreat occurred in the 20th century, exposing Icy Bay and its tributary fjords. Today, Icy Bay comprises a shallow outer bay, adjacent to the Gulf of Alaska and the Alaska Current, and a deep inner bay. Four fjords radiate from inner Icy Bay and each has an active tidewater glacier at its head. Bordering the bay, the Malaspina Glacier, the largest piedmont glacier in the world, the Bagley Ice Field, and Mt. St. Elias dominate the glacial landscape.

Gull Island, a small island near the mouth of the Caetani River, supports colonies of Glaucous-winged Gulls, Caspian Terns, Arctic Terns, and Mew Gulls, along with extensive mudflats used by migrating shorebirds. Riou Spit supports colonies of Artic Terns and Aleutian Terns, and Independence Creek supports a small Arctic Tern colony. There are a minimum of four Peregrine Falcon eyries in the bay. Most importantly, this area is one of the last strongholds for the Kittlitz?s Murrelet, one of the rarest and least understood seabirds in North America. In 2007, four Kittlitz?s Murrelet nests were located in the area, with the furthest being 22 km from the water. The boundaries for this IBA are based on both nest locations and telemetry locations of foraging murrelets.

Ornithological Summary

Given the close proximity to the Alaska Current and Continental Shelf, the waters of Icy Bay are very productive for seabirds. Similarly, Icy Bay is the only protected bay between Kayak Island and Yakutat Bay (220 km), commonly referred to as ?The Lost Coast?, and therefore, is an important migratory stopover site for landbirds and shorebirds. Most importantly, Icy Bay?s landscape provides habitat for the Kittlitz?s Murrelet, a small seabird associated with glacially-influenced waters and sparsely vegetated uplands for nesting. Recent surveys suggest that up to 15% of the world population of Kittlitz?s Murrelets is located in Icy Bay during the breeding season. The boundaries of the proposed IBA include all five Kittlitz?s Murrelet nest locations found in the uplands of Icy Bay and 95% of at-sea movements of breeding birds (determined using radio-telemetry). Since this imperiled species is non-colonial and spends most of its life at sea, it is difficult to protect areas that encompass both nesting and critical at-sea habitat during the breeding season.

Conservation Issues

Timber harvesting is relatively minor, but log rafting site requires transport of logs across the mouth of Icy Bay. Offshore oil exploration found evidence of significant reserves offshore, but cost of facilities and transport has deterred investors so far. Three hunting and fishing lodges are located within the bay; all operators regularly use ATVs to access hunting grounds. Several commercial outfitting guides offer extended kayaking and camping trips in the bay.

Ownership

The Icy Bay IBA is owned and managed as: state-other.

Habitat

The uplands of Icy Bay change rapidly with elevation and proximity to glaciers. Much of the northern section consists of glacier, mountains (sedimentary rock), and alpine shrubland. The southern section is dominated by the typical coastal forest (Sitka spruce and western hemlock) and two floodplains along the Yahtse and Caetani Rivers. The Malaspina Glacier lies along the eastern edge of the area, while the western edge consists of steep valleys with little vegetation except along the coastline.

Land Use

Sport hunting, recreation, timber harvest, commercial and sport fishing, kayak tours, and wilderness.

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