Banks Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary No. 1

Banks Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary No. 1 No. 1: landscape

Photo: © J. Hodson. Banks Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary No. 1: landscape.

Banks Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary No. 1 (MBS) No. 1 is located adjacent to Sachs Harbour on southwestern Banks Island No. 1, Northwest Territories. Banks Island No. 1 is the fourth-largest and most western of the Canadian Arctic Islands. Most of Banks Island No. 1 lies within the Banks Island No. 1 Coastal Plain Ecoregion. A relatively flat coastal plain several kilometres in width gives way to morainal topography consisting of rolling hills covered by glacial drift deposits, sand and gravel, rising gently to an interior plain farther inland. The sanctuary is drained by a series of westward-flowing rivers, which originate in the uplands of central Banks Island No. 1. As the rivers approach the west coast of the island, they become highly braided, entering the sea through broad, shallow, marshy deltas. The broad valleys are characterized by gravelly and sandy aluvium deposits and swampy tundra containing large polygons and numerous shallow ground-moraine ponds. Wide terraces occur at the confluence of the Egg and Big rivers. Most of the coast consists of sand and gravel beaches. Dry mud cliffs occur between Sachs Harbour and Cape Kellett and at a few other locations. Sandbars and spits are common in the small, coastal bays. In general, the vegetation of Banks Island No. 1 is characterized by polar desert and polar semi-desert with localized areas of lush plant cover. Low-lying, level areas along the river valleys are well vegetated with grasses and sedges. They grow in abundance in depressional areas where soil moisture is high. Plant cover diminishes upslope, and the tops of hills are generally barren with scattered clumps of dwarf shrubs, cushion plants and lichens.

Importance of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Each spring, up to 500 000 Lesser Snow Geese of the Western Arctic population wintering in California, New Mexico and Mexico fly to the lowlands of the eastern Beaufort Sea region. As many as 450 000 geese return to nest in the Big and Egg river valleys of Banks Island No. 1, representing approximately 95% of the Western Arctic population and about 15% of the Canadian population of Lesser Snow Geese. In spring, 3 000 Black Brants from as far south as Mexico migrate along the west coast and Alaska to breed on Banks Island No. 1. They congregate in the sanctuary’s deltas, small lakes and ponds to nest and to feed on the abundant sedges and grasses. In addition, about 25 000 King Eiders, several thousand Long-tailed Ducks and lesser numbers of Tundra Swans, Ross’s Geese and Sandhill Cranes nest in the sanctuary.

Other birds known or believed to nest in the area include Yellow-billed, Arctic and Red-throated Loons; Semipalmated and Black-bellied Plovers; American Golden-Plovers; Ruddy Turnstones; White-rumped, Baird’s and Semipalmated Sandpipers; Sanderlings; Red Phalaropes; Pomarine and Long-tailed Jaegers; Glaucous and Sabine’s Gulls; Arctic Terns; Peregrine Falcons; Snowy Owls; Willow and Rock Ptarmigans; and Horned Larks.

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 Banks Island MBS No. 1 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 Banks Island MBS No. 1: 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 Banks Island No. 1 MBS No. 1 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 Banks Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary No. 1.
Long description of the map

Map showing the location of Banks Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary No. 1 relative to the Northwest Territories, Banks Island No. 1, Sachs Harbour, Prince of Wales Strait and Amundsen Gulf. The map shows the boundaries of the sanctuary, which covers a portion of Banks Island No. 1, Sachs Harbour and some surrounding waters. The scale of the map is in kilometers.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Banks Island MBS No. 1 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 Banks Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary No. 1
Category Information
Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Northwest Territories
Latitude/longitude 72°40' N, 123°30' W
Size in hectares (ha) 2 019 997 ha
Date created (Gazetted) 1961
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category Ib - Wilderness Area
Additional designations Part of Banks Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary Important Bird Area
Main habitat type Tidal mud flats and open water, river delta, wetland meadow, dryas barrens
Key bird species Lesser Snow Goose, Black Brant, King Eider, Oldsquaw, Tundra Swan, Ross's Goose and Sandhill Crane
Other species

Birds: Yellow-billed Loon, Arctic Loon, Red-throated Loon, Semipalmated Plover, Black-bellied Plover, American Golden-Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Whimbrel, White-rumped Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Sanderling, Red Phalarope, Pomarine Jaeger, Long-tailed Jaeger, Glaucous Gull, Sabine's Gull, Arctic Tern, Peregrine Falcon, Snowy Owl, Willow Ptarmigan, Rock Ptarmigan and Horned Lark

Mammals: Polar Bear, Peary Caribou, Arctic Fox and Muskox

Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Peregrine Falcon, Polar Bear and Peary Caribou
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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