A waterfall on the St George’s Society Cliffs.

We have an embarrassing richness of cliffs up here where I live. The landscape is dramatic to say the least.  We also have a richness of falcons. Within 4 kilometres of where I live there are two active aeries, a Gyrfalcon’s and a Peregrine Falcon’s. Extend that to thirty kilometres and you can add at least one more Peregrine aerie and another cliff nesting raptor, the Rough-legged Hawk.

One side of the cliffs lining the valley at Iqalulik
Some of our cliffs even come with non-avian apex predators

This weekend we camped some 75 kilometres south of here by snowmobile. Against a bright blue sky I watched another Peregrine hunting over the tundra where I’d been just watching Red-throated Loons, Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspurs and Rock Ptarmigan in their mad rush to breed in the short summer.  That Peregrine probably had an aerie in one of the two cliff lined valleys to either side of where we were.

Female Lapland Longspur at Siuraqtujuq

The point of this is not to brag that I get to watch some of the world’s most spectacular falcons in a jaw-dropping scenery instead of a high rise building. Oh, who am I kidding, that is exactly the point. However, in the context of this week, my point is that there is a lot of prime real estate up here for falcon aeries. A lot, and if you’re searching for falcons rather than just hoping to stumble upon them,  you need something to show you the way. That something is poop.

Both Gyrfalcons and Peregrines have a number of preferred perches on the cliffs around their aeries. And as they sit at these perches the accumulated poop whitewashes the rock, making a readily noticeable sign post that says “Here be raptors”.  Like a fresh coat of paint these poop stains stand out around active nests (the aerie is also whitewashed), and fade through the winter as the elements wear them away.

A poor, but illustrative photo, of a Gyrfalcon pair each on a poop stained perch
Strangely I don’t have photos of just the whitewash, but this is what you’re looking for, even without the falcon there

Visiting a new area I’ll spend time scanning the cliffs, looking for the tell tale sign, the poop stained rock jutting out of the cliff face. If I find one, chance are there will be several more close by, and in somewhere amongst those purchase will be an aerie, usually in a little cave in the wall.

The aerie is well marked as well

Oh sure, some times the birds will betray their presence with a call or you’ll catch them flying near the aerie, but if you want to increase your chances of finding aeries in the many cliffs up here, follow the poop.

“What? I’m trying to make it easier for you to find me.” Photo by Niore Iqalukjuak


Poop Week is a week of themed posts on 10,000 Birds that cover the intersection of poop and birding, a fertile precinct if there ever was one.  Rather than just discuss the horror of a pigeon dropping droppings on someone’s head we decided to really get down the nitty-gritty details of poop, to the point where it is squishing up between our toes.  Not only is Poop Week a fascinating way to spend seven days in June it is also a serious attempt to elevate the level of discourse in the bird blogosphere, which, as we all have no choice but to admit, is far too low.  Enjoy, and make sure to wipe up afterwards, would you?


Written by Clare K
Clare Kines is a retired Mountie and a failed businessman, which apparently qualifies him to be the Economic Development Officer for Arctic Bay Nunavut. Raised in Manitoba, Clare has lived in three provinces and two territories, managing to get kicked out of all them except this last one. So far. He has had a lifelong love of nature, never growing out a child’s curiosity. Given a Peterson’s guide by his grandfather, he made birds a big part of that love. He’s led tours to the high Arctic and Cuba, and writes probably the most northerly blog in the world, The House and other Arctic musings. He considers himself the luckiest man alive, having found great love twice in his life. His first wife, Janice, passed away in 1996. After moving north he met and fell for Leah. They have two fantastic children. He lives in an incredibly beautiful, magical part of the world - a place few people get to know.


  1. Seagullsteve June 25, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Epic pictures. Epic wildlife.

  2. Clare June 25, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Thanks Steve.

  3. Renato June 26, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Most incredible scenery of whitewash.. Amazing photos, thanks for sharing a tiny peace of your heaven.

  4. Clare June 26, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Thanks Renato. We’ll have to arrange for an exchange of beats sometime. You do a post from up here and I’ll do one from Ecuador.

  5. Ann Beebe June 28, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Clare, I would like to use your seventh photo above, the one with the falcon and massive amount of poop. I need to submit it today to the Jamestown (NY) Post Journal, for which I write a by-weekly column. Could you please get right back to me? Also, could I use your entire last name with the photo?

    I will email you the article.

    Thanks. Ann

  6. Clare and Grant-Broome Western Australia June 29, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    @ Clare-great post and photos as always!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.