IBA Foxe Basin Islands
Foxe Basin, Nunavut
Site Summary
NU011 Latitude
67.866° N
75.672° W
0 m
15,791.87 km²
tundra, sedge/grass meadows, mud or sand flats (saline), coastal sand dunes & beaches
Land Use:
Not Utilized (Natural Area)
Potential or ongoing Threats:
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Congregatory Species, Waterfowl Concentrations, Colonial Waterbirds/Seabird Concentrations, Shorebird Concentrations, Continentally Significant: Congregatory Species
Conservation status:
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Site Description
The Foxe Basin Islands site consists of Prince Charles Island, Air Force Island, and Foley Island. These islands are located in the east-central Foxe Basin, immediately south of central Baffin Island. Their coasts have extensive intertidal mud flats with gently sloping, well-vegetated shorelines. The inland areas, particularly on Prince Charles and Air Force Islands, have low topographic relief and are dotted with small lakes and ponds. A series of beach ridges are also present on the northwest coast of Prince Charles Island. The vegetation on the islands is characterized by rich sedge-grass communities.
Globally significant populations of at least nine bird species are present on the Foxe Basin Islands. These species include: Snow Goose (just over 1% of the estimated mid-continent population); Brant (over 15% of the estimated Atlantic (ssp. hrota) population); Sabines Gull (the estimate of 36,053 +/- 5,758 is the largest known concentration in the world the total population for this species is unknown); Semipalmated Sandpiper (approaching 1% of the estimated population); Black-bellied Plover (as much as 9% of the estimated North American population); American Golden-Plover (greater than 2% of the estimated world population); Ruddy Turnstone (as much as 13.8% of the North American estimated population); Red Phalarope (as much as 28% of the estimated world population); and White-rumped Sandpiper (the estimate of 126,162 pairs +/- 34,725, is the largest known breeding concentration in the world, and is perhaps half of the global population of this species). Note that geese numbers include young of the year.

The Foxe Basin Islands have been recognized as a significant nesting area for Atlantic Brant since the first detailed surveys of the Prince Charles and Air Force Island coasts were completed in 1979. Subsequent surveys in the early 1980s also documented large numbers of Sabines Gulls. The magnitude of the nesting shorebird populations was not recognized, however, until detailed remote sensing studies were completed in the late 1980s. Studies to confirm these estimates are currently on-going, with the preliminary results suggesting estimates of the same magnitude for a number of shorebird species.

In 1996 and 1997, 26 bird species were confirmed as breeders on the islands, with another 16 being present but not confirmed as nesting. Nesting King Eiders, Common Eiders, Oldsquaws and Herring Gulls were common along the coast and on inland pools.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
American Golden-Plover 1995 SU 3,452
Black-bellied Plover 1995 SU 7,062
Brant 1996 SU 19,809
Red Phalarope 1995 SU 283,198
Ruddy Turnstone 1995 SU 23,442
Sabine's Gull 1995 SU 36,053
Semipalmated Sandpiper 1995 SU 19,012
Snow Goose 1996 SU 59,822
Waterbirds 1996 SU 59,822
White-rumped Sandpiper 1995 SU 252,324
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
This site is listed as a Key Migratory Bird Habitat Site in Nunavut, and is considered by the CWS to be a priority for studies to determine whether it merits conservation area status. At this time, there are no conservation issues associated with these islands. Generally, however, nesting and moulting birds are sensitive to disturbance. Pollution of surrounding marine areas would be detrimental to local bird populations as well.

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