Arctic Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Submitted by Paul Madore

Established in 1995, The Prince Leopold Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary is one of the most important multi-species seabird colonies in the Arctic. It is situated in Nunavut’s Lancaster Sound; 150 kilometres southeast of Resolute Bay and 175 kilometres northwest of Arctic Bay.

The sanctuary encompasses the entirety of Prince Leopold Island and all waters within five kilometres of the shore. The sandstone and limestone cliffs surrounding the island are between 245 to 265 metres above sea level, creating ideal nesting habitat for the variety of seabirds that flock to the island each summer. The area is an important site for seabird research and supports large numbers of nesting thick-billed murre, northern fulmar, black-legged kittiwake and black guillemot. Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Canadian Wildlife Service in partnership with the Sulukvaut Area Co-management Committee of Resolute Bay, Nunavut manages the site.

Two researchers sitting on a snowy cliff on Prince Leopold Island, migratory bird sanctuary
Two researchers sitting on a snowy cliff on Prince Leopold Island, migratory bird sanctuary

ECCC alumnus Paul Madore spent over 38 years of his career with ECCC, 18 of them with the Canadian Wildlife Service. Reflecting on his time working as a technologist, Paul recalls banding fulmars on the steep ledges of the island as one of his most demanding jobs. While he tightened his grip on the ropes that kept him safe, he marvelled at the fledgling birds that dove with confidence from their nest into the frigid waters below. The research done by Paul and his colleagues in the 1970s hatched what has become the one of the strongest datasets for seabird monitoring in the Arctic.

Today, there are 92 Migratory Bird Sanctuaries across the country comprising almost 11.5 million hectares of habitat that protect migratory birds during critical periods of their life cycle.

Man holding sea bird for banding at the Prince Leopold Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
Man holding sea bird for banding at the Prince Leopold Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
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