Foxe Basin Islands (NU011)
Foxe Basin, Nunavut
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.
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.
Potential or Ongoing Threats