Anderson River Delta Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Lesser Snow Geese in Anderson River Delta Migratory Bird Sanctuary picture
Photo: © Environment and Climate Change Canada. Tundra Swans in Anderson River Delta MBS.

Anderson River Delta Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located 160 km east of Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. The sanctuary offers a diversity of habitats ranging from coastal beaches and mud flats to tundra and open spruce forests. The lower Anderson River lies in a flood plain and flows through a series of low rolling hills covered by willows, dwarf birch and open spruce forest. Toward the coast, the flood plain widens into a delta containing many marshes and patterned ground, small lakes and ponds. A tundra landscape is found on the drier and higher areas of the delta.

The diversity of habitat found within Anderson River Delta offers nesting and feeding habitat for a variety of waterfowl and shorebirds. The main channel flowing through the delta has leveed banks covered with mats of grasses and willows. The outer delta, the newest and lowest portion of the delta, is a series of islands and mud bars frequently washed by storm surges. The hummocks and depressions of the older, middle delta contain marshes and grasslands. The inner delta is flat and is studded with lakes, lush marshy meadows and shallow sloughs. Sand and gravel beaches extend along the shallow waters of Wood Bay and continue around the southern shores of Nicholson Island. Numerous archaeological sites occur in the area; abundant wildlife and available driftwood once supported a thriving Inuvialuit community.

Importance of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Anderson River Delta MBS supports a wide diversity of bird species. A total of 104 species, including 76 breeding species, use the sanctuary for different seasonal activities. The delta offers extensive feeding grounds to sandpipers, plovers, phalaropes and other shorebirds during the summer months. The presence of trees attracts species--such as warblers, thrushes, swallows and sparrows--that are at the northern limit of their range in North America. During the spring and fall, the shallow waters of Wood Bay offer feeding habitat for several thousand staging scaups, Long-tailed Ducks, White-winged Scoters and Red-breasted Mergansers.

An estimated 5% of the Canadian population of Black Brants, up to 2500 birds, nests on the outer delta. Approximately 5% of the western arctic population of Lesser Snow Geese, about 8000 birds, nests on islands in the middle delta in some years. The inner delta is used by 150 breeding and 1200 non-breeding Tundra Swans. Greater White-fronted and Canada Geese, King Eiders, Long-tailed Ducks, Northern Pintails, Green-winged Teals, Mallards, American Wigeons, Greater Scaups, and White-winged Scoters nest in the sanctuary. Several water bodies in the sanctuary are used by large numbers of moulting waterfowl.

Water birds and shorebirds that breed in the sanctuary are Glaucous, Mew and Bonaparte's Gulls, Arctic Terns, Red-throated and Arctic Loons, Semipalmated, Golden and Black-bellied Plovers, Whimbrels, Hudsonian Godwits, Red and Red-necked Phalaropes, Wilson's Snipes, and several species of sandpiper. The endangered Eskimo Curlew formerly nested along the Anderson River; six sightings were reported between 1961 and 1964. Gyrfalcons and Peregrine Falcons nest on bluffs in the sanctuary. A high diversity of passerine species is attracted to the variety of plant communities.

Access and Activities

MBSs are established for the protection and conservation of migratory birds. Activities that could harm migratory birds, their nests or their eggs are prohibited.

MBSs can be and have been established on private, provincial, territorial and federally owned lands. Access to each MBS varies by site and is at the discretion of the landowner and land manager.

Where MBSs are located on federal land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the management and protection of migratory birds, nests, eggs and habitat. Where MBSs are located on provincial land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests, while the chief game officer of the province is responsible for the management of habitat. Where MBSs are located on private or municipal land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests. Habitat management is the responsibility of the landowner.

Access to Anderson River Delta MBS may be authorized as per the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations. However, under the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, only Inuvialuit beneficiaries have right of access for the purpose of subsistence harvest and do not require a permit to carry out activities related to subsistence harvesting.

For all other users, the standard prohibitions under the Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations apply to Anderson River Delta MBS: hunting migratory birds is prohibited, and no person shall disturb, destroy or take the nest of a migratory bird or have in his or her possession a live migratory bird, or a carcass, skin, nest or egg of a migratory bird, except under the authority of a permit issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada or unless authorized by the Regulations. Possession of firearms or other hunting appliances is prohibited. Anyone wishing to access Anderson River Delta MBS is advised to apply for a permit.

For more information on entry, activities and permits in MBSs, please visit the Management and Activities section of the Migratory Bird Sanctuaries website. For more information on Environment and Climate Change Canada's protected areas, please contact the regional office.

For greater certainty, nothing in this document shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for existing Aboriginal or treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Map of the Area

  • Map of the Anderson River Delta Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
Long description of the map

Map showing the location of Anderson River Delta Migratory Bird Sanctuary relative to the Northwest Territories, Anderson River, Liverpool Bay and Wood Bay. The map shows the boundaries of the sanctuary, which covers a portion of Wood Bay as well as Anderson River and extends inland. The scale of the map is in kilometers.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Anderson River Delta MBS can also be viewed using Google Maps. Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information and does not represent the official map or site name.

Summary table

Summary table for Anderson River Delta Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Category Information
Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Northwest Territories
Latitude/longitude 69°42' N, 129°00' W
Size in hectares (ha) 118 417 ha
Date created (Gazetted) 1961
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category Ib - Wilderness Area
Additional designations Part of Anderson River Delta Important Bird Area
Main habitat type Open water and sandy beaches (12%), delta (5%), wetland (47%), shrubs (36%)
Key bird species Black Brant, Lesser Snow Goose, Tundra Swan, Greater White-fronted Goose, Canada Goose, King Eider, Long-tailed Duck, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, American Wigeon, Greater Scaup and White-winged Scoter
Other species

Birds: Glaucous Gull, Mew Gull, Bonaparte's Gull, Arctic Tern, Red-throated Loon, Arctic Loon, Semipalmated Plover, American Golden-Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Whimbrel, Red Phalarope, Red-necked Phalarope, Hudsonian Godwit, Wilson's Snipe, sandpipers, Eskimo Curlew, Gyrfalcon and Peregrine Falcon

Mammals: Grizzly Bear, Barren-ground Caribou and Moose

Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Eskimo Curlew and Peregrine Falcon
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Prairie and Northern Region
Landowners Inuvialuit lands and Crown land

Contact Information

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Prairie and Northern Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas and Stewardship
Western Arctic Unit
P.O. Box 2310
5019 52nd Street, 4th Floor
Yellowknife NT X1A 2P7
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
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