Cape Parry is located at the northern end of the Parry Peninsula, Northwest Territories, which extends into Amundsen Gulf. The closest community is Paulatuk, approximately 100 kilometres to the south. The cape has three limestone outcrops that form coastal cliffs rising 20 metres above sea level. Beaches of sand and gravel form the coastline and many bays and small inlets exist. The peninsula is dotted with ponds and small lakes with sparse vegetation in between. The site also includes the waters off the cape. A rich marine environment is created by upwelling currents around the cape. A polynya produces open water in the ice near the cape and islands; it was more regular before 1970 but is still persistent enough to create open water in June. Bearded and Ringed Seals, Polar Bears, and White and Bowhead whales are found in offshore areas, particularly the open water maintained by the polynya north of the cape. Grizzly Bears can sometimes be seen on the mainland.
The only Thick-billed Murre colonies in the western Canadian Arctic are found at this site, utilizing the limestone cliffs. In 1979, the main colony consisted of 800 birds, with secondary colonies found at two other locations. Although not numerically significant, these colonies are noteworthy since the nearest colonies are at least 1,300 kilometres away to the west in Alaska or to the east on Prince Leopold Island. Cape Parry is the only location in Canada with a breeding colony of this Uria lomvia arra subspecies.
During spring migration, up to 20,000 King Eiders, Common Eiders and Oldsquaw can occasionally be found staging in offshore open water this number is globally significant for waterfowl.
Another species of alcid suspected of breeding on the cliffs of Cape Parry is the Black Guillemot. This is of note since the only other nesting site in the western Arctic for Black Guillemots is Herschel Island, Yukon Territory. Common Eiders also breed on the peninsula, while Glaucous Gulls are abundant and Yellow-billed Loons are common in spring.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
The nesting Thick-billed Murres are susceptible to disturbance while the staging seaducks could be adversely affected by pollution of their marine foraging areas. A North Warning System station located one kilometre from the site has a small personnel and probably causes little disturbance. The station (formerly a DEW station) used to bulldoze garbage over the cliff, which coincided with low murre numbers, but this is not longer occurring. Increasing exploration and production of hydrocarbon in the Beaufort Sea could result in increased disturbance and oil pollution in the future. A deep-draft harbour for over-wintering drillships is located at Wise Bay on the west side of the Parry Peninsula.
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Cape Parry. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 25/03/2023.