Anderson River Delta Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Anderson River Delta Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located north of Northwest Territories. It offers an ideal habitat for waterfowl and a wide diversity of songbirds.

Importance of sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife

The Anderson River Delta Migratory Bird Sanctuary, located 160 kilometres east of Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, supports an impressively wide diversity of bird species. A total of 104 species use the sanctuary during their lifecycle, including 76 species that breed within the sanctuary. During the spring and fall, the shallow waters of Wood Bay are ideal feeding habitat for several thousand scaup, long-tailed ducks, white-winged scoters and red-breasted mergansers, while, during the summer months, the delta offers extensive feeding grounds for sandpipers, plovers, phalaropes and other shorebirds. The presence of trees within the sanctuary attracts many species that are considered to be at the northern limit of their range in North America such as warblers, thrushes, swallows and sparrows. The great variety of plant life in this area also attracts a high diversity of songbirds (passerines).

Many species use Anderson River Delta as breeding grounds including:

Greater White-fronted Goose
Greater white-fronted goose

Black brant also breed in the area and it is estimated that 5% of the Canadian population of this species, up to 2500 birds, nest on the outer delta. The middle of the delta and the islands within it, by contrast, are used as a nesting ground by approximately 5% of the western arctic population of lesser snow geese, an estimated 8000 birds, while 150 breeding and 1200 non-breeding tundra swans use the inner delta.

Lesser Snow Geese
Lesser snow geese in Anderson River Delta Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Photo: Bob Bromley

Did you know?

While tundra swans travel in flocks, they are much more solitary during the breeding season. While nesting and raising their goslings, each pair will claim and protect an approximately two-kilometre square area.

Water birds and shorebirds, such as several species of sandpipers, also breed within the sanctuary. These include:

Waterfowl also use several bodies of water within the sanctuary during moulting. Several raptors, gyrfalcons and peregrine falcons, nest on the bluffs within the sanctuary. The endangered eskimo curlew was sighted nesting in the sanctuary on six occasions between 1961 and 1964, however its current status in the sanctuary is not known.


This northern migratory bird sanctuary offers wildlife a diversity of habitats ranging from coastal beaches and mud flats to tundra and open spruce forests.

The Anderson River flows through the sanctuary, running through a series of low rolling hills vegetated by willow, dwarf birch and open spruce forest until it empties into Wood Bay. The lower portion of the river lies in a flood plain, which, near the coast, widens into a delta containing marshes, patterned ground, small lakes and ponds. The higher areas of the delta are drier and have developed into a tundra landscape. The main channel of the river has leveed banks (raised ridges running parallel to and containing the river) covered with mats of grasses and willows.

The delta can be roughly separated into three sections: outer, middle and inner delta. The outer delta, the newest and lowest portion of the delta, is a series of islands and mud bars that are frequently washed by storm surges. The middle delta contains marshes and grasslands. The inner delta is the oldest section; it is flat and 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. There are numerous archaeological sites in this area as its abundant wildlife and the availability of driftwood once supported a thriving Inuvialuit community.

Map of the area

Map of Anderson River Delta Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Access to the sanctuary

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, such as Anderson River Delta, are established across the country to protect migratory birds during critical periods of their life cycle. Whether these areas are used for feeding, resting or nesting, they play an important role in the survival of many species. Access to each migratory bird sanctuary varies by site and is at the discretion of the landowner and land manager. Please ensure that you are aware of how you can help protect this sanctuary and please read the restrictions, including those on firearms and hunting, which are in place to conserve the wildlife that call it home. It is also important to remember that dogs and cats must not be allowed to run at large inside Migratory Bird Sanctuaries.

Under the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, Inuvialuit beneficiaries have unrestricted right of access for the purpose of subsistence harvest and do not require a permit to carry out activities related to subsistence harvesting. Anyone else wishing to access Anderson River Delta Migratory Bird Sanctuary is advised to apply for a permit.

If you would like further information on what is permitted in Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, please visit the Management and Activities section of the website. For more information on Anderson River Delta Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Anderson River Delta Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Northwest Territories
Latitude/longitude 69°42' N, 129°00' W
Size 108 300 hectares
Date created (Gazetted) 1961
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category 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, Northern Region
Landowners Inuvialuit lands and Crown land

Related link

Anderson River Delta Migratory Bird Sanctuary on Google Maps (Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information that can help locate the migratory bird sanctuary and does not represent the official map or site name)

Contact information

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Northern Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
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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