Creswell Bay

Country/territory: Canada

IBA criteria met: A4i (2001)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 2,178 ha

Birds Canada / Nature Canada

Site description (2001 baseline)
Creswell Bay, Nunavut is a large almost semicircular bay on the eastern side of Somerset Island in the central Canadian arctic. This IBA site encompasses the bay, nearby Stanwell-Fletcher Lake, Union River, which connects the lake to the bay, and the lowlands adjacent to these waterbodies. The site also includes lowlands up to 20 kilometres inland along the Creswell River. The north shore of Creswell Bay is flat, and at low tides extensive mud flats are exposed. In contrast, the south shore is composed of small hills and ridges. The bedrock is generally limestone and much of the area north of the lake and bay is of thermokarst origin. Leads running parallel and perpendicular to the east coast of Somerset Island open up sometimes as early as January. Remains of five Thule encampments and two Dorset settlements have been found at this site.

Key biodiversity
The lowlands around Creswell Bay and Stanwell-Fletcher Lake support an abundant shorebird population. In 1975, about 15,400 shorebirds bred in the area. The most common species were White-rumped Sandpiper (5,750 birds, over 1% of the global population), Red Phalarope (3,550 birds, between 0.4 and 4 % of the global population), Black-bellied Plover (1,890 birds, or over 1% of the North American population), and Sanderling (1,820 birds). Note that the percentages are very approximate since the total populations of most shorebird are not precisely known. Other shorebird species that breed at the site are American Golden Plover, Ruddy Turnstone and Bairds Sandpiper. The Creswell River area is particularly good for breeding shorebirds. Later in the summer, local birds and shorebirds from elsewhere gather to feed on pelagic amphipods in the mudflats along the north shore of the bay. On August 21st, 1975, 12,000 shorebirds were counted.

In late summer large numbers of Greater Snow Goose and King Eider are also present. In 1974, 2,700 moulting geese were counted at this site. At the time, the Greater Snow Goose population was about 160,000, thus, about 2 % of this population moulted at Creswell Bay. Since then, the Greater Snow Goose population has quadrupled and it is unknown whether numbers of Snow Geese at Creswell Bay have also changed. Although less than a hundred pairs of King Eider nest at Creswell Bay, many thousands stage along the coast after the breeding season.

Other birds observed at this site include Oldsquaw (between 450 and 700 pairs in the 1970s), Northern Fulmar, Black-legged Kittiwake and Peregrine.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Creswell Bay. Downloaded from on 08/12/2023.