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Nunavut

Ptarmigan 2
Rock Ptarmigan Lagopus mutu ©Daisuke Tashiro - Creative Commons Website

Birding Nunavut

Canada's newest territory, Nunavut, was created mainly from the old Northwest Territories and came into being on April 1, 1999. A vast area of land and water, it covers almost 2 million square kilometers, and is sparcely populated by about 27,000 inhabitants. It spans an area from 52 degrees to 84 degrees latitude.

The southern islands in James Bay are dominated by extensive boreal forest similar to the adjacent mainland. The bulk of Nunavut though is well above the treeline in Canada. The further one travels northwards, the more the vegetation becomes sparce and stunted. The landscape is generally low and gently rolling, from the lowland tundra to the glaciers in the extreme north, punctuated in some locales by mountainous cliffs and sea walls.

Travel to Nunavut can be a logistical nightmare. Although there is a regular air service from the south into larger settlements, visits to more remote locations can be costly and difficult. Most settlements are fairly small and with limited resources. Due to the shortage of certain supplies, the cost of purchasing or shipping almost any goods in Nunavut is significantly higher than in southern Canada.

The extreme harsh conditions, and sparce vegetation throughout most of Nunavut, is a limiting factor on the abundance and diversity of bird species. The current territorial list stands at about 230 bird species. The further north one travels in Nunavut, the lower the number of species one encounters daily. However, the experience of seeing large goose colonies, Snowy Owls hunting lemmings, singing shorebirds, and jaegers strafing the tundra will enthrall the ardent birder.

The best time to visit Nunavut is from mid June to mid July. When birding at that time, you will be regaled with the beautiful songs of various shorebirds, which usually only peep or are silent during migration. With 24 hours of sunlight during this period, birding can be enjoyed around the clock. Occasional warm temperatures in the 10c-20c degree range can prompt an onslaught of mosquitoes which can be problematic at times. Most bird species arrive, breed and depart in a relatively short period of time.

Top Sites

Cambridge Bay (Victoria Island)

Information

Satellite View

Cambridge Bay, with a population of approximately 2,200 people, is located on southeast Victoria Island and receives regular air service from Edmonton. Accommodation is available in the community, as are most services. The bird species list for Cambridge Bay consists of 79 species. Common species seen near the township include Thayer's Gull, Sabine's Gull, King Eider, Long-tailed and Parasitic Jaegers, various shorebirds and Pacific Loon. Located about 15km northeast of town is Mount Pelly. It can be easily accessed by road. Here, species such as Yellow-billed Loon, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Rock and Willow Ptarmigan, Sandhill Crane, Brant, Red Knot, Peregrine Falcon and Rough-legged Hawk can be seen, along with roaming herds of Muskoxen, Arctic Fox, Arctic Hare and lemmings.

Ellesmere Island

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The northernmost island in the Arctic Archipelago, Ellesmere Island, can appear as a desolate, isolated locale. Species such as White-rumped Sandpiper, Red Knot, Purple Sandpiper, Common Ringed Plover, and Northern Wheatear are regular breeders here.

Resolute area

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Resolute is the outpost for most of the northern Arctic. Access to Ellesmere, Devon, and other northern Islands is through this community. On nearby islands, large seabird colonies, consisting of Black-legged Kittiwake, Northern Fulmar, and Thick-billed Murre, thrive.

Contributor

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 278

(As at June 2018)

Provincial Bird - Rock Ptarmigan Lagopus mutus

Useful Reading

Birds of Nunavut

(Two volumes) | Edited by James M Richards & Anthony J Gaston | University of British Columbia Press | 2018 | Hardback | 960 pages, 765 colour photos, 155 distribution maps |

ISBN: 9780774860246

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Common Birds of Nunavut

By Mark L Mallory | Inhabit Media | 2014 | Paperback | 174 pages, colour photos, b/w illustrations, colour distribution maps |

ISBN: 9781927095669

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Organisations

James Bay Islands Bird Survey

Article

As you may or may not know, the James Bay coastline (a southeastern extension of the Hudson Bay in Canada) and surrounding area provide some of the world’s most important summer and stopover habitat with Canada’s Boreal Forest region for a vast number of wetland-dependent birds, especially shorebirds and waterfowl – many of which migrate to or through the United States later in the year

Reserves

Abbreviations Key

BS Akimiski Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary

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The coastal waters and wetlands are important feeding grounds for several varieties of migratory waterfowl and shorebirds. These include Atlantic brant, Canada goose, Caspian tern, Hudsonian godwit, lesser snow goose, red knot, and semipalmated plover.

BS Boatswain Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuary

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Boatswain Bay is a Canadian Important Bird Area; the MBS is situated within the IBA. The bay is also classified as a Biodiversity Reserve, and a Key Migratory Bird Terrestrial Habitat site.

BS Bylot Island Migratory

Webpage

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Bylot Island encompasses a rich wildlife, a great variety of habitats and spectacular scenery. Consequently, most of its terrestrial portion became part of the Sirmilik National Park, established in 2001. The island is composed of mountains, snowfields, ice fields, glaciers and pingos, a rare occurrence worldwide. In particular, birdlife is quite diverse on the island, owing to its prime nesting grounds for seabirds, which concentrate on the steep cliffs at Cape Hay, the northwestern tip, and Cape Graham Moore, the southeastern corner of the island. Other bird species include songbirds, waders and waterfowl, and Snow Geese in particular, which are found in the lowland tundra in the southwest sector of the island.

BS Dewey Soper Migratory Bird Sanctuary

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The bird sanctuary supports nearly 30% of the breeding geese in Canada, making it the largest goose colony in the world. Up to two million birds of various species use the area for summer nesting, and it is also habitat for one of Canada's major barren-ground caribou herds.

BS East Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuary

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The East Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuary is a migratory bird sanctuary in Kivalliq, Nunavut, Canada. It is located in East Bay, an arm of Hudson Bay, in southeast Southampton Island. The nearest community is Coral Harbour, 44 mi (71 km) to the west. It is one of two bird sanctuaries on the island, the other being the Harry Gibbons Migratory Bird Sanctuary, situated 87 mi (140 km) to the southwest.

BS Harry Gibbons Migratory Bird Sanctuary

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It is one of two bird sanctuaries on the island, the other being the East Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuary, situated 87 mi (140 km) to the northeast.

BS McConnell River Migratory Bird Sanctuary

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The Bird Sanctuary is home to and an important breeding ground for cackling goose, lesser snow goose, Ross's goose, and Canada goose.

BS Prince Leopold Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary

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The island is a Key Migratory Bird Terrestrial Habitat site (NU Site 15) and is classified as a Canadian Important Bird Area (#NU006). The MBS is situated within the IBA.

BS Queen Maud Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary

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In 1982, 450,000 geese, including the majority of the worlds Ross's geese, nested in the sanctuary, one of the largest concentration of geese on Earth.

BS Seymour Island

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The Seymour Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary, established in 1975, is 2,800 ha (6,900 acres) in size, including the island and surrounding waters. The migratory bird sanctuary is part of the Seymour Island Important Bird Area (No. NU045). The island is also an International Biological Programme Site (No. 1-7), and a Key Marine Habitat Site in Nunavut (No. 2)

NP Auyuittuq

Webpage

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A zig-zag skyline of craggy granite peaks and glittering glaciers overlooks tundra valleys and steep-walled fiords whose winding waterways teem with narwhal and ringed seals, Auyuittuq is a diverse and grand-scale Arctic experience.

NP Quttinirpaaq

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Some wildlife, notably Arctic hares, lemmings, muskoxen and Arctic wolves reside in this national park, but sparse vegetation and low temperatures support only small populations. There is a very small Peary caribou population as well. Other animal inhabitants include ringed seals, bearded seals, walruses, polar bears, and narwhals. During summer months, birds nest in the park including semipalmated plovers, red knots, gyrfalcons and long-tailed jaegers.

NP Sirmilik

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Lying 700 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle and 600 kilometres west of Greenland in the High Arctic, Sirmilik (glacier) National Park is one of the richest wildlife areas in all of Nunavut. A diversity of migratory birds, and land and marine mammals is framed by rugged mountains, deep fiords and inlets, intricate glaciers, precipitous cliffs and productive lowlands…

NP Ukkusiksalik

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Satellite View

In addition to a reversing waterfall and over 500 archeological sites, including an old Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) trading post, the region is home to such species as polar bears, grizzly bears, Arctic wolf, caribou, seals and peregrine falcons. Vegetation in the park is typical low tundra, with dwarf birch, willow and mountain avens. Scattered patches of boreal forest can be encountered in river valleys.

Nunavut Parks

Information

Nunavut, 'our land', is defined by its people and places. It is an arctic territory that evokes images of vast space and endless skies, wide tundra plains, ice-capped mountains, lands and seas teeming with wildlife, and rich cultural traditions still practiced today…

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Nahanni River Tours

Tour Operator

For nearly two decades Neil Hartling and Barry Beales of Nahanni River Adventures and Whitewolf Expeditions have fine tuned the most extensive offerings of the best of the north. In 1997 the two companies joined together to capitalise on the strengths of each outfit. The resulting selection has been referred to as the life list of northern rivers - all must do`s.

Nunavut Bird Watching and Birding Adventures

Article

Nunavut is a veritable birdwatchers' paradise. Phlaropes, peregrine falcons, gyrfalcons, snowy owls, ivory gulls, sandhill cranes, Arctic loons, jaegers, golden eagles, and terns are only a few of the species that make Nunavut their summer home. Mid-May to August is an excellent birding period, when migrant species return to nest on the Nunavut spring landscape.

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2016 [08 August] - John Brodie-Good - Baffin Island

PDF Report

Up early again, this time taxi to the airport. We were asked to be there early for our 0915 First Air departure to Iqualuit (Frosbisher Bay), our great Canadian Arctic adventure was about to begin. It was in the mid-twenties on a lovely morning in Ottawa when our B737 took to the sky and headed north east. First Air have clearly never heard of budget airlines and provided a delightful crew and full catering service. After a choice of two breakfasts the smiling ladies came back down the plane with trolleys of piping hot cookies in bags to finish off...

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Bathurst Inlet Lodge

Accommodation

A visit to Bathurst Inlet Lodge offers extraordinary experiences in a wild and ruggedly beautiful land, yet provides a level of personal comfort rarely found in such remote areas…

Inns North

Accommodation

A gazateer of communities, wildlife and places to stay in the NWT and Nunavut…

Blogs

Boreal Bird Blog

BLOG

The Boreal Songbird Initiative (BSI) is dedicated to education and outreach about the importance of the boreal forest to North America's birds, other wildlife, and the global environment. The Canadian Boreal Forest, one of the largest intact forests left on Earth, is increasingly under threat. Logging, mining, oil and gas, and hydroelectric development are expanding further and further into the boreal forest each year.

Other Links

Birdwatching Nunuvut

Article

The prime birdwatching season in Nunavut begins in May and continues through August, as millions of migratory birds return to the land where they were born to fledge a new generation before heading south for winter.

Photographers & Artists

Frank Droge

Gallery