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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)


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


Satellite View

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


Satellite View

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.


Number of Species

Number of bird species: 230

Provincial Bird - Rock Ptarmigan Lagopus mutus

Useful Reading

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


James Bay Islands Bird Survey


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


Abbreviations Key: See the appropriate Continent Page (or Country Page of those used on country sub-divisions)

Auyuittuq National Park Reserve


Satellite View

Protecting a pristine part of the eastern Arctic, Auyuittuq National Park Reserve, is located on Baffin Island’s Cumberland Peninsula, about 2400 kilometres from Montreal. Its 19 707 square kilometres lies almost entirely within the Arctic Circle and, except for the 6000 square kilometre Penny Ice Cap, the park’s landscape has been entirely glacier-formed…

Bylot Island


Satellite View


Nunavut Parks


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…

Quttinirpaaq National Park (Ellesmere Island)

Information PDF

Satellite View

Quttinirpaaq (Top of the world) protects the most remote, fragile, rugged, and northerly lands in North America. Natural features include high mountains, deeply cut plateaus, polar desert, and arctic tundra landscape.

Sirmilik National Park


Satellite View

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…

Guides & Tour Operators

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

Birding Pal


Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

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.

Trip Reports

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


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


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


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

Other Links

James Bay Islands Bird Survey


Welcome to the James Bay Islands Bird Survey (JBIBS). This survey is a long-term study of the birdlife of the James Bay islands. Most of the islands in this remote region have never been visited by ornithologists and only brief visits have been made to the larger islands…

Photographers & Artists

Frank Droge