A pair of unusual birds had bills flapping all over Kugluktuk on Tuesday.

Some Kugluktuk residents out picking up litter spotted a pair of pelicans outside the community on Tuesday. The large birds were swimming in a pond not far from the fence surrounding the dump.
photo courtesy of Lashawna Taipana

Members of a community cleanup crew approximately three kilometres from town laid eyes on a couple of American white pelicans.

Lashawna Taipana managed to snap a few pictures of the grand specimens.

“A young boy spotted them just after 3 p.m. (Tuesday). He said, ‘Hooo, look at those big kugyuks (swans). So as we got closer to look, we all noticed they were not swans. We knew they were something else,” Taipana said.

While swans are common in Kugluktuk in the late spring and summer, pelicans definitely are not.

A website called eBird, where the public can submit observations of various species, shows the previous northernmost recorded sighting of American white pelicans in Canada occurred in Norman Wells, NWT.

Amanda Dumond, manager of the Kugluktuk Hunters and Trappers Organization, was fascinated by the curious presence of the birds, as were many residents.

“Everybody’s talking about it,” she said, chuckling. “It’s strange for them to be here.”

However, Dumond noted that some other birds and insects have shown up around Kugluktuk over the past few years that are also beyond their conventional range. One example would be the northern shrike, much smaller fowl than a pelican.

She added that a remarkable experience in 2019 should prepare her for almost any possibility when it comes to wildlife.

“You know, I told somebody this morning on the phone that after the shark last year, nothing could be surprising,” she said of a 1.8-metre salmon shark that John Kapakatoak pulled from his seal nets near Kugluktuk last September.

Summers can be warm in the Kitikmeot and Dumond said a hunter and elder she spoke to suggested that climate change is a major factor in the abnormal migratory patterns.

“He said animals are changing and we have to be prepared for that,” said Dumond.

According to Birds of the World, a resource available through Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, stray American white pelicans have been seen as far north as Alaska in the U.S.

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Derek Neary

Derek Neary has been reporting on developments in the North for 18 years. When he's not writing for Nunavut News, he's working on Northern News Services' special publications such as Opportunities North,...