East Bay (Qaqsauqtuuq) Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The East Bay (Qaqsauqtuuq) Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located on Southampton Island east coast, in Nunavut. The site allows the lesser snow goose to nest securely.

Importance of the sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife

East Bay (Qaqsauqtuuq) Migratory Bird Sanctuary is situated 35 kilometres east of Coral Harbour on Southampton Island within the Kivalliq Region of Nunavut. In 1957, the Canadian Wildlife Service (Environment and Climate Change Canada) proposed the establishment of a sanctuary at East Bay in order to protect this area, known to be an important lesser snow goose nesting site, from potential disturbances due to eventual prospecting or tourism on Southampton Island. Following this recommendation, the sanctuary was officially established in 1959.

The most recent photo surveys of this protected area, carried out in 2008, suggest that a nesting population of approximately 165 000 lesser snow geese rely on the area within and adjacent to the sanctuary. An estimated 5000 to 6000 Atlantic brant and 600 cackling geese also use the sanctuary as a nesting site, as do other waterfowl species such as king eider, long-tailed duck and tundra swan. Other bird species known to breed within the sanctuary include:

Ruddy Turnstone
Ruddy turnstone at East Bay MBS. Photo: Ryan Clancy

Northern pintails are also regularly seen within the sanctuary and are thought to breed here, but this has yet to be confirmed. Whimbrels can be spotted within the sanctuary as they pass through in large numbers during their fall migration. There is also a small island, located in the middle of East Bay, which in 2011 was home to approximately 4800 common eiders.

Did you know?

When threatened, mother common eiders and other non-breeding female will gather their young together with other broods in the area. This gathering of chicks for protection purposes is called a crèche (from the French word for cradle) and can comprise between several to 150 chicks.


The East Bay (Qaqsauqtuuq) Migratory Bird Sanctuary includes the marine waters of East Bay, a 50-kilometre long inlet, and a large portion of the land located between East Bay and Native Bay. The sanctuary is mostly part of the Boothia-Foxe Shield and it lies atop limestone with poorly drained, flat sedge meadows dotted with irregularly shaped shallow lakes and raised beaches. The sedge meadows are dominated by the grass-like sedges along with cotton-grass and a variety of mosses, while the lake edges are bordered by sedge-willow meadows containing sedge, cotton-grass, bog rush and willows.

East Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuary landscape. Photo: Paul Smith

As the elevation increases towards Native Bay, disintegrated limestone outcrops begin to break up the meadows and, in the northern portion of the sanctuary, outcroppings of granite can also be found. The small island found in the middle of East Bay is located approximately 5 kilometres from the south shore and is predominantly rocky.

Map of the area

Map of East Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Access to the sanctuary

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, such as East Bay, 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. Dogs and cats must not be allowed to run at large inside Migratory Bird Sanctuaries.

The MBS is managed by Environment and Climate Change Canada in partnership with the Irniurviit Area Co-management Committee (ACMC) of Coral Harbour, Nunavut.

Please note that, as per the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement for National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries in the Nunavut Settlement Area, Nunavut beneficiaries do not require a permit to carry out activities related to subsistence harvesting in this sanctuary. Other individuals who wish to access East Bay (Qaqsauqtuuq) Migratory Bird Sanctuary must 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 East Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about East Bay (Qaqsauqtuuq) Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Nunavut
Latitude/longitude 64°00' N, 82°00' W
Size 112 811 hectares
Date created (Gazetted) 1959
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category Wilderness Area
Additional designations Part of East Bay/Native Bay Important Bird Area
Main habitat type Water bodies and exposed sediment (40%), moss-peat-graminoid lowlands (38%), patterned ground and bare deposit uplands (17%), exposed rock and lichen-heath tundra highlands (5%)
Key bird species Lesser snow goose, Atlantic brant, cackling goose, common eider, king eider, long-tailed duck, tundra swan, Sabine’s gull, herring gull, white-rumped sandpiper, semipalmated plover, red phalarope, red-throated loon, pacific loon, arctic tern, parasitic jaeger, long-tailed jaeger, ruddy turnstone, northern pintail, black-bellied plover, red knot, and whimbrel
Other species Mammals: polar bear and beluga
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Polar bear and beluga
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Northern Region, in collaboration with the Irniurviit Co-Management Committee of Coral Harbour
Landowners Inuit-owned land and Crown land

Related links


Contact information

Environment and Climate Change Canada – Northern Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas and Stewardship
Eastern Arctic Unit
P.O. Box 1714
Iqaluit NU X0A 0H0

Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
Email: enviroinfo@ec.gc.ca

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