Coburg Island, Nunavut
Coburg Island is located at the east end of Jones Sound, midway between Ellesmere and Devon Islands. The topography is quite rugged with much of the island being covered by an ice cap. Many prominent cliffs (150 to 300 m in elevation) are located along the coastline, especially at the southern end of the Island near Cambridge Point. A section of the North Water polynya (an area of open water surrounded by ice) is located immediately south of Coburg Island. The polynya is of critical importance to the nesting seabirds in that it provides a dependable area of open water for feeding during the early breeding season.
During the summer, walrus concentrate and haul out in the bays to the northeast and northwest of Cambridge Point. White whales, narwhals, and bowhead whales are also reported to be abundant. During the fall, winter, and spring the polyna supports several species of marine mammals (polar bears, seals, whales etc.).
Approximately 160,000 pairs of Thick-billed Murres were recorded at Cambridge Point during surveys completed in the 1970s. The colony was rephotographed in the 1990s and populations are stable. Approximately 1.5% of the global, 3.5% of the North Atlantic, and about 11% of the eastern Canada Thick-billed Murre population breed on these cliffs. Black-legged Kittiwakes are also abundant nesters with about 30,000 pairs being reported at the colony in the 1970s. This represents from about 11% to as much as 15% of the western Atlantic breeding population. In addition to Thick-billed Murres and Black-legged Kittiwakes, Glaucous Gulls and Black Guillemots also nest at the colony. During the spring, large numbers of King Eider, and some Oldsquaw stage in the bays along the south end of Coburg Island.
Princess Charlotte Monument (a small islet located about 17 km to the east of Cambridge Point, immediately off the Marina Peninsula) supports about 3,000 Northern Fulmars and smaller numbers of Black Guillemots (200) and Glaucous Gulls (20).
In the past, oil exploration has been proposed in western Baffin Bay. If conducted, such activities could result in disturbance to the birds and pollution of their feeding areas.
Previously, cruise ships have stopped at the breeding colony. Presently, however, cruise ships require a permit before they may enter the National Wildlife Area. Cruise ships are not permitted to land visitors on the island, except in the case of emergency, with the viewing of the birds being done from zodiacs.
Coburg Island was designated a National Wildlife Area in 1995. The area was also identified as a significant site under the International Biological Programme (IBP) and as a Key Migratory Bird Terrestrial Habitat site in the Northwest Territories.IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status