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Location Canada, Northwest Territories
Central coordinates 123o 30.13' West  72o 39.66' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii
Area 2,100,000 ha
Altitude 0 - 150m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Bird Studies Canada/Nature Canada

Site description Banks Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary is located in the western Arctic, on the southwestern side of Banks Island, bordering the Beaufort Sea. The terrain is composed of low rolling hills divided by a series of rivers flowing into the Beaufort Sea. Many of the main rivers flow through broad valleys of gravel, sand, and swampy tundra with shallow ponds, before broadening into deltas as they reach the coast. Most of these valleys are well-vegetated, with grassy marshes in the flatter regions, flowering plants on the drier slopes, and barren hilltops. Between December and July there is also an area of open water amidst the sea ice off the western coast of Banks Island.

Egg River enters the wide shallow braided channel of the Big River 30 km in from the coast. It is at this confluence where the largest Lesser Snow Goose breeding colony in the western Arctic can be found. The site is also important for Polar Bears, which concentrate their maternity dens along these coasts. In addition, many Arctic Fox den in this area, Muskoxen are numerous, and the major winter range of the Banks Island Peary Caribou occurs here.

Key Biodiversity The Snow Goose colony at Egg River, like most across the arctic, has more than doubled in size over the last decade or so. The most recent estimate, in 1995, shows that 479,500 geese nested in the vicinity of the Egg River, as compared to 196,500 in 1987 (in a 109 km2 area) and 165,000 in 1979 (in a 605 km2 area). The Egg River is the main breeding location of the Western Central Flyway population of Lesser Snow Goose (those that breed from Alaska to Banks Island), thus more than 95% of this population nest here. Also, this number is equivalent to about 10% of the global Snow Goose population.

As many as 3,000 Black Brant have nested in the deltas and small lakes along this coast (2% of this population), and thousands of Oldsquaw and King Eider also nest in the area. Although there are no data to confirm the population size, around 100,000 King Eiders may nest here (this would equal 5-10% of the national population). In spring, King and Common eiders use this site as a staging area. In addition, Sabines Gulls, Glaucous Gulls, and Red Phalaropes breed in large numbers, while Sandhill Cranes and Tundra Swans are also common.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Snow Goose Anser caerulescens breeding  1995  479,500 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds breeding  1995  100,000-499,999 individuals  poor  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Banks Island No.1 Migratory Bird Sanctuary 1,999,700 protected area contained by site 1,999,700  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Grassland Tundra  -
Wetlands (inland) Freshwater marshes/swamps; Rivers  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
hunting minor
not utilised major
other minor

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Banks Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife