The Kugaluk, Moose and Smoke rivers drain into Liverpool Bay, a long bay that lies along the NWT mainland coast, about 100 km east of Tuktoyaktuk. An outpost camp is located at the mouth of the Kugaluk River. The IBA site covers about 40 km of the Kugaluk River, the lower 10 km of both the Moose and Smoke rivers and the upper reaches of Liverpool Bay. Two large islands in the bay, one of which is Campbell Island, are also included. The site is extremely flat and the vegetation is primarily sedge and grass, marsh and meadow. Shorelines are non-vegetated tidal sand flats. The tree line passes through this site, but a recent severe fire caused the tree line to recede 16 km south of its previous location, leaving only a few relic spruce near the Moose and Smoke rivers.
The Bluenose caribou herd passes through this area, and other mammals such as Grizzly Bear, Arctic Fox, Red Fox, Marten and Muskrat are common. Bearded Seals are regular in Liverpool Bay.
The marshes, flats and river deltas of the Kugaluk River site are very important moulting areas for Canada Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese and Tundra Swans, although the numbers of birds present is highly variable. Between 10,000 and 20,000 Canada Geese of the subspecies hutchinsii and parvipes moult here in July and August. At their maximum, these numbers translate to 2.6% of the current Canada Goose hutchinsii and parvipes populations. At the same time of year, between 7,000 and 15,000 Greater White-fronted Geese use the area for moulting. This is as much as 2% of the mid-continent population of Greater White-fronted Goose. Between 900 and 1,400 Tundra Swans also moult here, which is more than 1% of the eastern Tundra Swan population. Small numbers of swans, as well as Lesser Snow Goose and Brant breed in the Kugalak River.
In early June, three to four thousand Glaucous Gulls have been seen feeding on herring in patches of open water at the Moose and Smoke River deltas. This large number of gulls represents about 1% of this species global population.
Mid-summer brings considerable numbers of other waterbirds such as Red-throated Loon, Red-breasted and Common mergansers, scoter, scaup and Oldsquaw. Most of these species are moulting or feeding.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
The Kugaluk River IBA is within the much larger Reindeer Grazing Reserve and is also designated an International Biological Programme Site. The latter designation recognizes the importance of the area but does not give any protection.
Although there are no immediate threats to this important waterfowl moulting area, there is potential for disturbance in the future because of the presence of several oil exploration leases. Disturbance might also result if development on the Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula increases to the point that air traffic becomes a problem for geese, which are always vulnerable during moult.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Kugaluk River. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 04/10/2022.