East coast: potential high-density areas for seabirds

Maps of potential high-density areas for some seabirds on Canada’s east coast.

Warning

The maps provided on this page show areas where seabirds are likely to occur in higher numbers. This information can help you plan your activities to reduce the risk of harming seabirds, such as avoiding these areas. There may be other areas where seabirds congregate that may not have been surveyed or detected.

The dates representing the breeding and non-breeding seasons were chosen for the purposes of data analysis only. Actual breeding times may vary from year to year, and birds sometimes nest outside these dates. Seabird densities also vary within the breeding and non-breeding time periods used in the data analysis.

It is your responsibility to understand the methods used in the analysis, evaluate risks and determine the measures required to avoid harming seabirds.

Atlantic Puffins, Common Murres and Razorbills

During the breeding season (April 1 to August 31), densities of Atlantic Puffins, Common Murres and Razorbills are highest.

You are more likely to encounter these species (map 1):

  • off the southern coast of Labrador
  • the Grand Banks
  • the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence
  • the coast of Newfoundland

During the non-breeding season (September 1 to March 31), densities of Atlantic Puffins, Common Murres and Razorbills are lower.

You are more likely to encounter these species (map 1):

  • in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
  • on the Grand Banks
Maps of Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, and Common Murre potential densities on the east coast of Canada. See detailed description in text above.
Map 1. Densities of Atlantic Puffins, Common Murres and Razorbills in eastern Canada during the breeding season (left) and the non-breeding season (right). Survey transects were conducted during the period of 2006 to 2013. Observations of Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, and Common Murres were combined to identify potential high-density areas.

 

In eastern Canada, major colonies of Atlantic Puffins are located in:

  • Witless Bay Ecological Reserve (Newfoundland)
  • Baccalieu Island Ecological Reserve (Newfoundland)
  • Gannet Islands Ecological Reserve (Labrador)

Major colonies of Common Murres along the coasts of eastern Canada are located:

  • on Funk Island, a seabird ecological reserve located off the northeast coast of Newfoundland
  • in the Witless Bay Islands Seabird Ecological Reserve (Newfoundland)
  • in the Gannet Islands Seabird Ecological Reserve (Labrador)

Large numbers of Razorbills are found along the coasts of Labrador and the Gulf and Estuary of the St. Lawrence River.

Dovekies and Thick-billed Murres

During the breeding season (April 1 to August 31), you are more likely to encounter Dovekies and Thick-billed Murres (map 2):

  • off the Grand Banks
  • off the Scotian shelf
  • out at sea northeast of Newfoundland

During the non-breeding season (September 1 to March 31), you are more likely to encounter Dovekies and Thick-billed Murres (map 2):

  • in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
  • the Bay of Fundy
  • east of Cape Breton Island
  • on the Grand Banks
  • off the northern coast of Newfoundland
  • out at sea east of Newfoundland
Maps of Dovekie and Thick-billed Murre potential densities on the east coast of Canada. See detailed description in text above.
Map 2. Densities of Dovekie and Thick-billed Murres in eastern Canada during the breeding season (left) and the non-breeding season (right). Survey transects were conducted during the period of 2006 to 2013. Observations of Dovekies and Thick-billed Murres were combined to identify potential high-density areas.

 

Dovekies and Thick-billed Murres breed mostly in the Arctic, where they are among the most abundant seabirds.

Most Dovekies breed in Greenland; fewer than 500 pairs breed in the Canadian Arctic.

The Canadian population estimate of Thick-billed Murres is over 3 million birds. However, in eastern Canada there are approximately 10,000 pairs which breed in a few colonies along the coasts of Labrador, Newfoundland, and southern Quebec.

Black-legged Kittiwake

During the breeding season (April 1 to July 31), you are more likely to encounter Black-legged Kittiwakes (map 3):

  • along the southeast coast of Newfoundland
  • south of the Grand Banks
  • out at sea northeast of Newfoundland

During the non-breeding season (August 1 to March 31), Black-legged Kittiwakes are abundant throughout the survey area. You are more likely to encounter this species (map 3):

  • on the Grand Banks
  • south of Newfoundland
  • in the St. Lawrence estuary
  • on the southern coast of Labrador
  • out at sea east of Newfoundland
Maps of Black-legged Kittiwake potential densities on the east coast of Canada. See detailed description in text above.
Map 3. Densities of Black-legged Kittiwakes in eastern Canada during the breeding season (left) and the non-breeding season (right). Survey transects were conducted during the period of 2006 to 2013.

 

In eastern Canada, there is an estimated 110,000 breeding pairs of Black-legged Kittiwakes.

They are almost entirely found in Newfoundland and Quebec, in nearly equal proportions.

The largest colonies are found:

  •  in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (Gaspé Peninsula, Magdalen Islands and Anticosti Island)
  • along the coasts of southeastern Newfoundland (Avalon Peninsula)

Gulls

During the breeding season (April 1 to July 31), you are more likely to encounter Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls and and other large gulls (map 4):

  • near the coast of New England
  • around Sable Island
  • southeast of the Grand Banks

During the non-breeding season (August 1 to March 31), you are more likely to encounter Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls and and other large gulls (map 4):

  • in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
  • off the coast of New England
  • out at sea east of Newfoundland
Maps of gulls potential densities on the east coast of Canada. See detailed description in text above.
Map 4. Densities of gulls in eastern Canada during the breeding season (left) and the non-breeding season (right). Survey transects were conducted during the period of 2006 to 2013. Observations of Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls and unidentified gulls were combined to identify potential high-density areas.

 

In summer, large gull species are common along the entire marine coast of eastern Canada, as far north as Labrador.

The estimated number of breeding pairs is over 85,000 Herring Gulls and around 35,000 Great Black-backed Gulls.

Most colonies are small and distributed fairly evenly along the coasts. However, the Herring Gull colony at Kent Island (Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick) is larger as there are close to 6,000 pairs.

Northern Fulmar

During the breeding season (April 1 to September 30), you are more likely to encounter Northern Fulmars (map 5):

  • in the northwest of the survey area
  • off the Grand Banks toward the sea

During the non-breeding season (October 1 to March 31), distribution is similar to the breeding season. You are more likely to encounter Northern Fulmars (map 5):

  • out at sea east of Newfoundland
  • in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
Maps of Northern Fulmar potential densities on the east coast of Canada. See detailed description in text above.
Map 5. Densities of Northern Fulmars in eastern Canada during the breeding season (left) and the non-breeding season (right). Survey transects were conducted during the period of 2006 to 2013.

 

Less than 150 pairs of Northern Fulmars breed in eastern Canada, at these locations:

  • the Gannet Islands Ecological Reserve (Labrador)
  • the Funk, Baccalieu Island and Witless Bay Islands Ecological Reserves (Newfoundland)

The rest of the North American population (over 2 million breeders) is found in Alaska (80%) and in the Canadian Arctic (20%).

Shearwaters

During the non-breeding season (June 1 to October 31), densities of Cory’s Shearwater, Great Shearwater and Sooty Shearwater are highest.

You are more likely to encounter these species (map 6):

  • away from the coast at the eastern edge of the survey area
  • off the coast of New England
  • on the Grand Banks
  • south of the Grand Banks

From November 1 to May 31, which is the breeding season in the southern hemisphere, you are more likely to encounter these species (map 6):

  • in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
  • south of the Grand Banks
Maps of shearwaters potential densities on the east coast of Canada. See detailed description in text above.
Map 6. Densities of shearwaters in eastern Canada during the non-breeding season (left) and the breeding season (right). Survey transects were conducted during the period of 2006 to 2013. Observations of Cory’s Shearwater, Great Shearwater and Sooty Shearwater were combined to identify potential high-density areas.

 

The Manx Shearwater is the only shearwater that breeds in eastern Canada. Less than 20 pairs currently breed at Middle Lawn Island, Newfoundland.

Other species of shearwater which nest outside of North America use marine areas in eastern Canada.

Northern Gannets

During the breeding season (April 1 to October 31), you are more likely to encounter Northern Gannets (map 7):

  • in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

During the non-breeding season (November 1 to March 31), you are more likely to encounter Northern Gannets (map 7):

  • in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence
  • in the Bay of Fundy
  • at the southern edge of the survey area
Maps of Northern Gannet potential densities on the east coast of Canada. See detailed description in text above.
Map 7. Densities of Northern Gannets in eastern Canada during the breeding season (left) and the non-breeding season (right). Survey transects were conducted during the period of 2006 to 2013.

 

Northern Gannets nest in 6 colonies:

  • in the Gulf of St. Lawrence: Bird Rocks, Anticosti and Bonaventure Island (with one of the largest colonies in the world, almost 60,000 pairs)
  • in Newfoundland: Cape St. Mary’s, Funk Island and Baccalieu Island Ecological Reserves

Methods

We provide maps of potential high-density areas for seabirds taken as fisheries bycatch in eastern Canada. These areas were identified by analyzing data from the Eastern Canada Seabirds at Sea Program.

Note that all the data were collected through opportunistic surveys, (that is, observers went aboard ocean-going vessels when opportunities for doing so were available). Consequently, the survey effort is not evenly distributed. There may be other areas than shown on the maps provided here where seabirds congregate that may not have been surveyed or detected.

Atlas of Seabirds in Eastern Canada

We provide maps and datasets representing seabirds at-sea densities in eastern Canada. You can download these data on the Open Government portal.

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