IBA Cape Searle
Baffin Island, Nunavut
Site Summary
NU003 Latitude
67.221° N
62.488° W
0 - 450 m
53.68 km²
coastal cliffs/rocky shores (marine)
Land Use:
Not Utilized (Natural Area)
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Disturbance, Oil slicks
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Congregatory Species
Conservation status:
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Site Description
Cape Searle is located on the northeastern tip of Qaqaluit, a small island off the eastern coast of Baffin Island. The Cape is comprised of two huge outcrops that rise to over 430 m above the sea. The cliffs are rugged with numerous jagged pinnacles and crevices; flatter sections are covered with tundra vegetation. Harp seals and walruses frequent the area and Polar Bears are occasionally present. The bears probably use the seaward tips of the peninsulas for maternity dens.
The two rock towers of Cape Searle support the largest Northern Fulmar colony in Canada. First found in the 1940's, this colony was last visited in 1981. The cliffs at the cape support approximately 100,000 pairs of nesting fulmars. This represents about 1% of the global population and 33% of the Canadian population of Northern Fulmar. Glaucous Gulls and Black Guillemots are also reported to nest in the area in small numbers.

Fulmars arrive at the colonies by mid-April and leave by early October. While at the colonies they forage within an 80 km radius of the site. The birds nest at all heights on the cliffs, with the greatest density occurring near the top. Nests are also located on grassy flat areas of the summit.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Northern Fulmar 1973 SU 200,000
Note: species shown in bold indicate that the maximum number exceeds at least one of the IBA thresholds (sub-regional, regional or global). The site may still not qualify for that level of IBA if the maximum number reflects an exceptional or historical occurrence.
Conservation Issues
Like other seabirds, nesting fulmars are sensitive to disturbance at the colony and pollution of their feeding area. Due to the isolated location of the colony, human disturbance is minimal, but local people visit the colony and cruise ship tourism along the Baffin coast is increasing. Potential pollution of feeding areas is also a concern (especially oil pollution). The Davis Strait has the potential to become a marine shipping route and an area of oil exploration and development.

Cape Searle has been identified as a significant site under the International Biological Programme (IBP), and is recognized as a Key Terrestrial Bird Habitat Site by the CWS. A proposal to designated Cape Searle as a Bird Sanctuary was put forth by CWS in the mid-1970's. Consultations have been held over the years with the nearby community of Broughton Island, but they have not indicated clear support for the Bird Sanctuary designation. The proposal is presently on hold. The site is located on private land owned by the Inuit of the new territory of Nunavut.

The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Bird Studies Canada and Nature Canada.
   © Bird Studies Canada