Prince Leopold Island is located approximately 13 km off the northeastern tip of Somerset Island at the junction of Prince Regent Inlet and Barrow Strait. The perimeter of the island is characterized by vertical cliffs of sandstone and limestone that rise in elevation 245 to 265 m above sea level. Other topographic features include scree slopes, numerous ledges where the seabirds nest, and gravel spits. The vegetation is sparse and characterized by mosses, lichens, grasses, and a few dwarf shrubs. Several Inuit archaeological sites are located on the island.
Prince Leopold Island supports a major seabird colony that includes the second largest breeding congregation of Northern Fulmars in Canada. Approximately 20% of the Canadian Northern Fulmar population, as much as 11% of the western Atlantic Black-legged Kittiwake population, over 1% of the north Atlantic Thick-billed Murre population, and over 1% of the global Black Guillemot population are found at Prince Leopold Island. Combined the total number of pairs of seabirds at this colony is almost 200,000 pairs.
Other species known to breed on the island include Atlantic Brant, Common Raven, Common Eider, Parasitic Jaeger, Glaucous Gull, and Snow Bunting. The seabirds generally occupy the site from early May to the end of September.
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.
The entire island is included within the Prince Leopold Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary (federal crown land). It encompasses 311 km², which includes a 5 km marine buffer around the island.
Lancaster Sound is subject to a small amount of ship traffic (ore shipments, oil tankers, supply vessels, etc.), mostly during the open water season (August). Commercial shipping through Lancaster Sound could increase markedly depending on the development of mineral deposits in the NWT. Oil spills associated with shipping activities could endanger large numbers of seabirds and pollute their feeding areas.
The Sanctuary is visited annually by small numbers of ecotour groups who arrive by small plane or by ship to view the seabird colony.
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.