Kendall Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Kendall Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary: landscape
Photo: © Kim Jones. Kendall Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary: landscape.

Kendall Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located in the outer Mackenzie Delta. Tuktoyaktuk lies 120 km to the east, and Inuvik is 140 km to the south. The sanctuary includes over 600 square km bordering on the Beaufort Sea. Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service established the Kendall Island MBS in 1961 to provide long-term protection for the colony of Lesser Snow Geese.

Located in the active part of the Mackenzie Delta, the sanctuary is largely a mosaic of flat islands separated by meandering, shifting channels. The MBS lies within the Tuktoyaktuk Coastal Plain Ecoregion, which has very little relief and is characterized by low-lying muskeg that is underlaid by deltaic and alluvial silts and fine sands, 70-150 m thick. Average elevation is 15 m above sea level. Numerous lakes and ponds dot the landscape.

Water depth in the braided channels of the Mackenzie Delta is often less than 1 m, and mud flats are abundant at low tide. Water action on the coastline has caused extensive coastal erosion averaging 30-60 cm per year, although in some areas it has exceeded 4.6 m per year. The sanctuary lies north of the tree line; however, tall shrubs grow along the banks of some of the watercourses. The distribution of vegetation within the sanctuary reflects the influence of both physiographic and climatic factors. Areas of muskeg and wet meadow support buckbean, horsetail, sedges and other graminoids. Elevated areas support sedge and willow species. Islands with very low relief (< 30 cm above low-tide level) are generally unvegetated.

Much of the area is wet and swampy in the spring and early summer but becomes drier and firmer later in the season. Ice action in the river channels during spring break-up and the entrapment of silt have resulted in the formation of levees along the shores of the islands. The Beaufort Sea shoreline is shallow with shifting shoals, sandbars, beaches and spits. Although the tidal range is small, variations of up to 2 m occur as a result of winds and storms, causing a reverse flow of the small channels and considerable flooding inland.

Importance of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Kendall Island MBS has a variety of birdlife. Over 100 species, including many breeding species of shorebirds, songbirds and waterfowl, feed and nest in the sanctuary. An estimated 375 000 Lesser Snow Geese, 23 700 White-fronted Geese, 12 200 Black Brants, 1 100 Canada Geese and 3 400 Tundra Swans use the islands of the outer delta within the sanctuary and adjacent areas as staging grounds in the spring and fall. A Lesser Snow Goose colony ranging in size from 200 to 8 800 birds nests on several small islands in the northwest area of the sanctuary. Greater White-fronted Geese, Black Brants, Tundra Swans, Sandhill Cranes, dabbling ducks and sea ducks nest and moult throughout the area.

Hudsonian Godwits and Long-billed Dowitchers, two shorebirds of limited breeding distribution within Canada, nest in and around the sanctuary. Dowitchers also pass through the area during the fall migration. Thousands of other shorebirds nest and stage during migration throughout much of the Mackenzie Delta.

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 Kendall Island 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 Kendall Island 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 Kendall Island 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 Kendall Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
Long description for the Map

Map showing the location of Kendall Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary relative to the Northwest Territories and Mackenzie Bay. The map shows the boundaries of the sanctuary, which covers a portion of Mackenzie Bay 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. Kendall Island 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 Kendall Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Category Information
Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Northwest Territories
Latitude/longitude 69°20' N, 135°30' W
Size in hectares (ha) 61 241 ha
Date created (Gazetted) 1961
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category Ib - Wilderness Area
Additional designations Part of Mackenzie River Delta Important Bird Area
Main habitat type Tidal beaches and open water, tundra sedge lowland, freshwater lakes and ponds
Key bird species Lesser Snow Goose, White-fronted Goose, Canada Goose, Tundra Swan, Black Brant and Sandhill Crane
Other species

Birds: Long-billed Dowitcher

Mammals: Beluga Whale and Grizzly Bear

Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Prairie and Northern Region
Landowner Canadian Wildlife Service

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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