Terns have long narrow wings, forked tails, and a pointed bill. The Arctic tern is grey and white with a black cap and red bill. Though it is primarily a sea bird, it moves inland during the breeding season and will nest almost anywhere in the Northwest Territories near open water. Terns are skillful and agile fliers, earning their living by diving in search of small fish. They migrate huge distances, leaving breeding grounds in the north to fly to the Antarctic Ocean where they winter. When daylight hours decrease, the terns start their return journey up the Atlantic and Pacific coasts following the sun as it returns north.
These small, active black, white and grey forest birds breed and sometimes winter in the southern and western portions of the NWT. For protection from the cold, they roost in dense evergreens, fluffing their feathers for better insulation. They travel in small flocks through the forest, checking bark and pinecones for insects and larvae. If food is plentiful, Chickadees hoard it, tucking morsels away in tree bark until they're needed. A Chickadee pair builds its nest in a tree-hole, hatching 6 to 8 eggs after about two weeks, in early spring. The young are kept warm by the female until they can fly, after 16-17 days.
A compact, active black and white duck, bufflehead breed in the upper Mackenzie Valley near small woodland ponds. They feed by diving for insect larvae and aquatic plants. The female lays her eggs in a tree cavity. Incubation lasts about 30 days, and hatching occurs in mid to late June. The ducklings remain in the nest 24-36 hours, then are led to the nearest water by the female. In cold, wet weather, she broods them carefully. Only about half the young survive to fly, at 7-8 weeks.
The characteristic V formations of these hardy birds are signs of spring and fall in Canada. The Canada goose has a black head, black neck and white cheek patch. They arrive at muskeg or tundra ponds before spring break-up and will to sit out periods of severe weather. Late blizzards may force the advance flocks to retreat several times before they settle. The female incubates 5-7 eggs for 28 days while the male stands guard. Soon after the young are hatched, the family walks for long distances while the adults moult and re-grow their feathers. They feed on sedges and grasses, then in late summer, fly to more favourable feeding grounds, to fatten up for the fall flight south.
This ruddy-headed, white-backed duck has a breeding range that extends down the Mackenzie Valley to the Delta and the Anderson River. They're divers, feeding on aquatic plants, mollusks and insects. Strong flyers, they form V-shaped patterns in migration, and are capable of great speed. On land, their heavy bodies and short legs make them clumsy. Pairs form in late winter or during spring migration.
The Common Eider found along the coast of the Beaufort Sea in summer migrates to the Pacific in winter. These gregarious sea-ducks appear on offshore Arctic breeding islands as soon as shore-fast ice starts to melt. They feed on mussels, clams, scallops and sea-urchins. Eiders are the largest ducks in the northern hemisphere; males have showy black and white plumage, while the females show barred camouflage, grey or brown. Their down is collected from nests without harm to the birds, for use as insulating material.
This woodpecker is found the forests of the upper Mackenzie Valley, west of Great Slave Lake to just south of Great Bear. It has a white belly, spotted back, and a red patch on the crown of its head. Adult birds dig into tree-trunks for insects and to excavate sleeping and nesting holes. The male and female take turns warming their 4-5 eggs all day; at night, the male remains on the eggs alone while the female sleeps elsewhere. The nestlings are fed until they are 17 or 18 days old. By the time they're four weeks old, they're as big as their parents and can fend for themselves.
The famous "Whiskey-jack" of the Boreal forest nests in spruce trees, and is fearlessly inquisitive around humans. It is resident year-round as far north as the treeline, but may travel great distances during winter in search of food. A bird much respected by the Dene, the Gray Jay mates for life and is a clever scavenger.
Great Horned Owl
A night-hunting predator, the Great Horned Owl has enormous yellow eyes set in a broad face, prominent "horns" or ear flaps, a curved beak and claws, and long fluffy feathers. Great Horned Owls inhabit most forested regions of the Northwest Territories; they're often barred dark over white instead of grey-brown. The female birds are larger than the males, with wingspans of up to 1.2 metres.
The gyrfalcon is the largest and most magnificent of all falcons. It has two colour phases. The white phase birds are primarily white with dark spots and bars on the back and wings. The dark phase birds show shades of grey or brown. The gyrfalcon is primarily an Arctic species, remaining in the north year-round. It nests above the treeline on the mainland and on all the Arctic islands. It frequents open country near cliffs or mountains, both inland and on rocky coasts.
Its full, black ruff, ochre ear-tufts, and chestnut-coloured neck and flanks are very distinctive in summer, when the Horned Grebe nests in rushes near northern ponds and small lakes. Grebes are wonderful divers, collecting small fish as food. Pairs perform a spectacular mating dance across calm surface waters, and their downy chicks begin to swim with their parents by July.
Lesser Snow Goose
Each spring, lines of white geese with black-tipped wings fly the Mackenzie Valley to Arctic nesting grounds. Lesser Snow Geese, unlike most other waterfowl, usually nest close to each other in large colonies, with densities of up to 2000 pairs per square kilometre. In autumn, Lesser Snow Geese form staging flocks in the Mackenzie River Delta and along the north coast of the Yukon. They fly up the Mackenzie River, through Alberta and western Saskatchewan and on to central California or the interior of Mexico.
Four Loon species are found in Canada's Northwest Territories. All have striking high-contrast plumage, especially the tundra-nesting Red-throated Loon, with its grey head and red throat patch. The familiar black and white Common Loon is famous for its yodeling calls. Loons arrive on Arctic and subarctic lakes in pairs. They're clumsy on land, and nest very near the water. The young appear a month later, and sometimes ride on their parents' backs. Loons deep-dive expertly for food (mostly small fish and minnows). When taking off or landing, they flap their wings and run across the water's surface. The Common Loon is found throughout the mainland during the summer. Both the Yellow-billed and Arctic Loon can be spotted above the treeline during the summer, while the Red-throated Loon is found along the Arctic coast.
This powerful raptor hunts fish along the shorelines of the NWT's large lakes and rivers, below the treeline. Its favourite northern catches are sucker, pike, and pickerel. The Osprey hovers at a height of 10 to 30 m, then dives with its wings half closed and talons stretched forward, hitting the water in a great spray. It brings prey to its nest - a large, permanent structure of dried branches, stakes, rope, strips of old cloth, plastic, and even caribou antlers.
Renowned for its speed, grace, and beauty, the Peregrine thrives in remote tundra environments. This is one of the swiftest birds in the world, able to pursue its prey in high-speed aerial chases of up to 100 km/hr. Peregrines prey on birds as large as ducks and ptarmigan. The falcon swoops down on its prey at high speed and kills it in midair using bill and talons, or stuns it with a blow and kills it on the ground. Peregrine falcons breed on high rocky cliff ledges usually near the sea or a body of water.
Two species of ptarmigan are found in the Northwest Territories. In winter, both are white and have black tail feathers. In summer, they are brown and have white wings and breast. The willow ptarmigan is a little larger and has a heavier bill. In summer, the willow ptarmigan is reddish, while the rock ptarmigan is paler and yellowish in colour. In winter, rock ptarmigan males have a black line through the eye. Both are found on the mainland, but the rock ptarmigan is also found on the Arctic islands. In the winter, the willow ptarmigan seeks sheltered areas, while the hardier rock ptarmigan does not.
Ravens stay in the North year-round, live everywhere from the 60th Parallel north to the Arctic Islands, and are readily visible in towns and villages except when nesting. They are large black birds with a thick bill, a shaggy ruff at the throat, and a wedge-shaped tail. In flight, they alternately flap and soar like a hawk. Ravens apparently enjoy the city for amenities like fast food outlets and full garbage cans. With equal ease, they dig through dumpsters, steal dinner from dog-bowls and lurk around a wolf-kill in the bush. Scientists rate ravens at the top of the bird-list when it comes to intelligence, and northern Aboriginal people would agree. Raven, as trickster and shape-changer, appears in native stories far more often than any other creature
Breeding as far north as Bathurst Inlet and southern Victoria Island, Mergansers are fish-eating ducks distinguished by the shaggy crests at the backs of their heads. Arriving in the north by late May, they lay 7-12 eggs in nests hidden near lakes. The chicks appear in July, and by September the Mergansers are headed back south to Mexico and Baja California.
The rufous-breasted male Robin is a harbinger of spring in most of Canada, and the communities of the Northwest Territories are no exception. Robins nest as far north as the Beaufort coast. The female makes the cup-like nest from mud and sticks, and lays a clutch of two to five eggs, which she incubates for about 12 days while the male stands guard and occasionally sits on the nest. The featherless chicks are fed constantly (about 100 meals a day) until they're fledged.
The rough-legged hawk is the only Arctic hawk whose legs are completely feathered to the base of the toes. It has a broad tail and wings, and overhead, can be identified by its distinctive black wrist patches. It is most often seen high in the air, soaring in wide circles.
The Sandhill crane's loud, trumpeting call can be heard for kilometres. Not as big as whooping cranes, but impressive all the same, these cranes are about a metre tall, with a wingspread twice that. In flight, they can be identified by their outstretched neck, long trailing legs, and characteristic wing stroke (a quick jerk or flap of the wings upward). Adults are ash-coloured with a bare red patch on the forehead and crown. The voice is a deep incessant kr-r-r-oo, which sounds a bit like a piece of machinery in need of oil. They nest on dry tundra ridges near water, as far north as Banks Island. The adults perform an intricate, jumping and bowing mating dance on their long, slender legs. Both adults take part in incubating the eggs (usually two) and tending the downy red young; they appear to mate for life. In September, the cranes begin to fly up the Mackenzie Valley on their way to wintering grounds in the southern U.S., Mexico and Cuba.
This is a small shorebird that breeds in late May along the western Arctic coast and on the Arctic islands. It flies thousands of kilometres from South America in great flocks of 100,000 or more. The male makes a nest by scraping a depression in the ground, where the female lays her four speckled eggs in mid to late June. Both adults incubate the eggs for about 19 days. Many eggs are lost to predators. The chicks walk at hatching-time, and feed themselves, pecking the mud for insects. They can fly in about two weeks; by this time, their parents have already begun the fall migration south. The chicks apparently find their way to the wintering grounds by instinct.
The short-eared owl is a medium-sized owl with a brown back, and buff-yellow head and breast, streaked with brown. Its ear-tufts are small and not usually visible. Unlike most owls, it is active throughout the day, cruising low over open country, seeking out voles and lemmings. Short-eared owls are common during the breeding season in areas such as tundra, marshes, grasslands, and low scrub country. They breed throughout the mainland.
The snow goose has two colour phases, white and blue. In the white form, adults are white with black wingtips. In the blue form, they are dark grey with a white head. Snow geese breed above the treeline in a variety of locations across the Arctic.
The snowy owl is one of our most spectacular year-round residents. The heaviest North American owl, the snowy stands almost half a meter tall, with a wingspan of almost 1.5 m. The female is larger and heavier than the male (average weight of 2.3 kg versus 1.8 kg).The feathers are sometimes pure white, but are often barred and spotted with dark brown, particularly on the female. The face and throat are white and the beak is almost hidden by facial feathers. As an adaptation to its Arctic environment, the snowy owl has completely feathered legs and toes. Although owls are generally nocturnal, the snowy owl must hunt in broad daylight during the Arctic summer. Snowy owls breed above the treeline, and on the Arctic islands.
The tundra swan is one of the largest birds in the arctic. It has a wingspan of over 2 metres and a weight of 5-8 kg. It is completely white, with the exception of a slight rusty stain on the head and neck of some birds. The bill is black with bare skin extending back to the eye and sometimes a yellow or orange spot in front of the eye. It has black legs. Tundra swans generally arrive by mid May. They breed on the mainland above the treeline, as well as on some of the Arctic islands. This large white bird is the most common of Canada's three swan species. Pairs appear to bond for life, and they're solitary nesters, defending an area of Arctic tundra up to 2 sq km in size. They begin to nest in late May or early June before the snow is off the tundra, while many of the lakes are still frozen.
Among the very largest North American birds, White Pelicans are easily identified by their long, flattened yellow bills and enormous gular pouches which have a capacity of several litres. Their NWT colony, safely distant from predators amid the roaring Slave River Rapids, is the northernmost in the world. They arrive here from Mexico each summer, flying in long lines, with ponderous wingbeats followed by long sails. They feed on fish, swallowed immediately or carried in their pouches to fledglings on their island nesting-ground.
The adult whooper is the tallest North American bird. An endangered species, it nests exclusively in Wood Buffalo National Park, migrating north from Texas. This imposing white bird's name is derived from its frequent, bugling call, which carries over several kilometres. The protection of its remote, marshy nesting grounds in Wood Buffalo has undoubtedly saved it from extinction.
Guided bird watching tours on the Great Slave Lake, one of the largest lakes in the world. You will have an opportunity to see bald eagles, caspian and arctic terns, gulls, waterfowl, “peeps” and more, nesting on the many islands dotting the watery entrance to Yellowknife. Your tour is topped...
Parks Canada, Western Arctic, protects several sites in the Western Arctic in the Northwest Territories. All are co-managed through land claim organizations. Aulavik National Park, Tuktut Nogait National Park, and the Pingo Canadian Landmark are managed in cooperation with the Inuvialuit. Saoyú and AEehdacho National Historic Site is managed...
Don’t forget your cameras; there is an abundance of wildlife and flora to photograph. Bear, wolf, moose, eagles, owls, muskrats, otters, loons, upland and migratory birds all make their home around the region.
Spectacular photography opportunities for wood bison, the largest land mammal in North America. Stay at a trappers cabin west of Great Slave Lake in the Boreal forest. Have nightly bonfires and cook outs. Possibly see woodland caribou, black bears, wolves, porcupines and sandhill cranes.
Escape to an Arctic Oasis. One of Travel and Leisure's "World's 25 Top Ecolodges" and recipient of Nunavut Tourism's 2004 Award of Excellence. Remote wilderness lodge. Superb tundra scenery, wildlife, wildflowers, history, Inuit culture. Daily interpretive programs with professional naturalist, Arctic experts and Inuit partners/guides. For...
Comfortable lodge about 20 minutes by floatplane from Yellowknife. Accommodates 12 in 6 rooms with private baths, lounge. Nature hikes include a variety of birds, animals and plants of the boreal forest. Canoeing affords the opportunity to see and photograph wildlife up close and personal. Fishing for lake trout, Arctic...
Located on the west shore of Great Slave Lake in the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary, this is the ideal place for wildlife viewing. Depending on the season, bird-watchers will see the Common Raven, Bald Eagles, geese, rare Trumpeter Swans, numerous species of ducks, Sharped-tailed Grouse, Spruce Grouse and Ruffled...
At Peterson's you have the opportunity to observe and photograph migratory birds including tundra swans, arctic terns and peregrine falcons during our annual Arctic Photography Adventure Workshop. Other migratory wildlife including barrenground caribou and grizzly bears are also commonly sighted during this time. As well, you will be able...
Visit the unique barrengrounds and explore to discover a multitude of birds. Located at the headwater for the Thelon river system, Lynx lake offers an incredible backdrop for those seeking a special remote birding experience. Fully guided and self guided adventures await. Inclusive packages from Fort Smith or Yellowknife.
Our canoe routes pass through the nesting grounds of an impressive mixture of boreal and tundra birds, including a number of species that have expanded their breeding ranges northward in recent years into the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary. To date, we have recorded 104 bird species in this sanctuary and have...
Explore the opportunities we have available to experience the north's wildlife. Do-it-yourself camp packages at one of five remote camps or guided programs at either of our Northwest Territories or Nunavut's premier eco-lodges - Treeline and Bathurst Inlet Lodges. Prices can range from $2000 to $5000...
At Obstruction Rapids in the central Barrenlands north of Yellowknife, and in camps on the Coppermine River system. Barrenlands Photography: Wildlife of the Barrenlands, including migrating caribou. Fishing. August to October. All inclusive, from Yellowknife. Permanent buildings and dining room, accommodate 30.
Caribou migrations, peregrine falcon nests, cliff swallow colonies, possible arctic wolves, tundra grizzly bears and muskox are part of an adventure at Warburton Bay Lodge. Catch and release lake trout and grayling fly fishing. Join us for a spectacular Arctic adventure at Warburton. Week long packages from Yellowknife $1995.
Delivering memorable experiences to northern adventurers for over 30 years. Northern lights, light hiking, wildlife viewing and birdwatching, flora, fauna, photography, native cultures, adventure! Great Slave Lake / Northwest Passage. View our web site for dates, rates and full itineraries.
Boat Tours from Fort Resolution into the wildlife rich Slave River Delta. Taltson Bay area boat tours, Slave River boat tour, sightseeing. Birdwatching in major waterfowl nesting/staging area, Slave River, Simpson Islands.
Tuktut Nogait Guided Hike - Looking for solitude? Remote wilderness? Traveled by less than 25 hikers in a season? Tuktut Nogait offers unprecedented opportunities for backcountry enthusiasts to experience the arctic. The expansive, open landscape is ideal for hiking and wildlife viewing. Tuktut Nogait consists largely of vast expanses of tundra,...
Remote naturalist's lodge snuggled in the Mackenzie Mountains, in the largest mountain wilderness in North America. Offering a true artist's or author's retreat with hiking, guided mountain biking tours along the Canol Trail, photography, history, many new experiences to discover.
Birding the High Arctic and Northwest Territories: King Eiders, Pacific Loons, Snowy to Great Gray Owls, Long-tailed Jaegers, Sabine's Gulls and more. Includes wildlife viewing, birding, aboriginal history and culture. Tour covers a diversity of northern landscapes including the Arctic tundra and northern Boreal forest. Package includes: accommodation,...