Bird Rocks Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Photo of Rocher aux Oiseaux
Photo: Jean-François Rail © Environment and Climate Change Canada. Rocher aux Oiseaux.

The Bird Rocks Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) lies in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, north of the Magdalen Islands archipelago. Located near Île Brion, approximately 30 km from Île de l'Est, the sanctuary is made up of three main rocks. The largest of the rocks, measuring 0.4 km in diameter, is Rocher aux Oiseaux, while the two smaller rocks are known as Rochers aux Margaulx. Waters within a 1 km radius surrounding the rocks are included in the sanctuary.

Established in 1919 to safeguard large colonies of seabirds, this 648 hectare protected area provides ideal nesting sites. The rocky terrestrial part of the sanctuary does not support substantial vegetation and the Rochers aux Margaulx, small and highly eroded, are entirely devoid of vegetation. Rocher aux Oiseaux is characterized by steep cliffs nearly 30 m in height, with very sparse vegetation covering 70% of its plateau. The vegetation in the MBS is limited to just under twenty species of herbaceous plants, among them Yarrow, Shepherd's-purse and Seaside Plantain. Several species of algae occur in the surrounding waters. Given that Rocher aux Oiseaux is the island in the Magdalen Islands archipelago that is closest to the Laurentian Channel, it was chosen in 1869 for the construction of a lighthouse and lightkeeper's outbuildings. Ever since the lighthouse was automated in 1987, the sole occupants of Rocher aux Oiseaux have been birds.

Importance of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Bird Rocks MBS is a key nesting site for more than a dozen seabirds of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This protected site represents one of the only locations in the Magdalen Islands archipelago where Northern Gannets, Common Murres and Thick-billed Murres regularly breed. Inventories from 2004 indicated that Northern Gannets were the most common species found in the sanctuary, with colonies of up to 47 000 birds. This assessment signifies that nearly a quarter of the Northern Gannet population of North America breeds within the MBS. The site supports the largest breeding colonies of Razorbills and Black-legged Kittiwakes of the Magdalen Islands archipelago, and a large colony of Thick-billed Murres can also be observed on the rocks. Several other species, including Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and a few Atlantic Puffins share this protected area during breeding season. The presence of large numbers of bird colonies makes this MBS a prime observation site for seabirds. Although now extinct, the Great Auk was once among the colonial species found in the sanctuary.

Access and Activities

MBSs are established for the protection and conservation of migratory birds. Activities that could harm migratory birds, their nests or their eggs are prohibited.

MBSs can be and have been established on private, provincial, territorial and federally owned lands. Access to each MBS varies by site and is at the discretion of the landowner and land manager.

Where MBSs are located on federal land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the management and protection of migratory birds, nests, eggs and habitat. Where MBSs are located on provincial land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests, while the chief game officer of the province is responsible for the management of habitat. Where MBSs are located on private or municipal land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests. Habitat management is the responsibility of the landowner.

The standard prohibitions under the Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations apply to Bird Rocks MBS: hunting migratory birds is prohibited, and no person shall disturb, destroy or take the nest of a migratory bird or have in his or her possession a live migratory bird, or a carcass, skin, nest or egg of a migratory bird, except under the authority of a permit issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada or unless specifically authorized by the Regulations. Possession of firearms or other hunting appliances is prohibited, and dogs and cats must not be allowed to run at large.

Access denial or restrictions imposed by the owners of land within the MBS may also apply.

For more information on entry, activities and permits in MBSs, please visit the Management and Activities section of the Migratory Bird Sanctuaries website. For more information on protected areas managed by Environment and Climate Change Canada in Quebec, please contact the regional office.

For greater certainty, nothing in this document shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for existing Aboriginal or treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Map of the Area

  • Map of Bird Rocks Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Long description for the Map

Map showing the location of Bird Rocks Migratory Bird Sanctuary relative to Quebec, Rocher aux Margaulx, Rocher aux Oiseaux and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The map shows the boundaries of the sanctuary, which covers Rocher aux Margaulx, Rocher aux Oiseaux and a portion of the surrounding waters. The scale of the map is in tenths of a kilometer.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Bird Rocks MBS can also be viewed using Google Maps. Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information and does not represent the official map or site name.

Summary table

Summary Table for Bird Rocks Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Category Information
Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Quebec
Latitude/longitude 47° 50' 34" N 61° 9' 8" W
Size in hectares 648 ha
Date created (Gazetted) 1919
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management category Ia - Strict Nature Reserve
Additional designations Bird Rocks Important Bird Area
Main habitat type Cliffs and herbaceous meadows
Key bird species Northern Gannet, Common Murre, Thick-billed Murre, Razorbill
Other species Birds: Black-legged Kittiwake, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Atlantic Puffin
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Quebec Region

Contact Information

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Quebec Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas Unit
801-1550, avenue d'Estimauville
9250 - 49th Street
Québec, Quebec G1J 0C3
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
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