“Birders from just about any part of the U.S. and southern Canada (not to mention other parts of the world) would be drooling to see the cool birds that are routinely seen in and around Yellowknife in migration.”

Dr. Jeff Wells, June 2014, Ornithologist, Borealis Songbird Initiative


Yellowknife sits on the northern shore of Great Slave Lake and the big lake is important for birds. Thousands of gulls, terns, ducks, shorebirds and songbirds nest on its islands, in its marshes and along its shoreline. Many more stop in and around Yellowknife during migration.

Niven Lake, a small lake a five minute walk from downtown Yellowknife is a favourite resting stop for migrating birds after the long flight across Great Slave Lake. In May, dozens of species stop here, attracted by its early ice free surface and nutrient-rich waters.

Birders have catalogued over 200 species in and around Yellowknife ranging from the rare Whistling Swan and White-rumped Sandpiper to the common Yellow Warbler or Spotted Sandpiper. The migrating birds start arriving in late April, but most set down in May - some to rest before proceeding further north, some to stay for the summer.

In winter only the hardiest stay behind to weather the cold, and the most easily spotted species are the Raven, the Willow Ptarmigan and the Hoary Redpoll.

Birders can easily walk to some prime Yellowknife bird watching areas. Several operators offer birding tours, some around Yellowknife and some on Great Slave Lake, where bald eagles build nests in scraggly spruce trees on windswept islands.

Check operators offering bird watching experiences.

Things to Do in Yellowknife

Bluefish Services offers guided fishing trips and naturalist tours on Great Slave Lake. We have been in business for 25 years making us the one of the most experienced tour operators in the Northwest...

North Star Adventures is a 100% Aboriginal owned, local tour company. We grew up in Yellowknife, we know Yellowknife! We are happy to share our Aboriginal culture. We offer Aboriginal Cultural Tours...