Bird Rocks Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Bird Rocks Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located in the Saint-Lawrence Golfe, north of Iles-de-la-Madeleine, in Québec. It is an important habitat for seabirds.

Importance of the sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife

The Bird Rocks Migratory Bird Sanctuary lies in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 30 km north of the Magdalen Islands archipelago. This 648-hectare sanctuary was established in 1919 in order to safeguard the colonies of seabirds that reproduce on it. This sanctuary is one of the only locations in Quebec where northern gannets and thick-billed murres nest regularly.

The northern gannets is the most commonly found species estimated between 45 000 and 60 000 birds since 2009. The northern gannets nesting in the Bird Rocks sanctuary represent nearly a quarter of the population of this species breeding within North America.

Northern gannet. Photo: Jean-François Rail

Did you know?

From the air, the northern gannet can dive into the water to depths as impressive as 22 meters. The bird then uses both its feet and its wings to propel itself towards its small fish prey.

Large colonies of common murres, razorbills and black-legged kittiwakes in Magdalen Islands archipelago can be found within this protected area along with small colony of thick-billed murres also gather on the sanctuary’s rockier areas. Several other species, including herring gull, great black-backed gull and a small number of Atlantic puffin share this protected area during the breeding season. The now extinct great auk also used to be among the colonial birds found within this sanctuary.


Located near Île Brion, the land within the sanctuary is composed of one large rock and two smaller rocks that jut from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The largest, Bird Rocks , measures approximately 300 metres in length and is characterized by steep cliffs nearly 30 metres in height. Rochers aux Margaulx is composed of two smaller, highly eroded rocky projections. Bird Rocks is the island nearest to the Laurentian Channel within the Magdalen Islands archipelago. As such, a lighthouse and a lightkeeper's outbuildings were constructed on the island in 1869. This lighthouse was updated to be fully automated in 1987; since this time, the sole occupants of Bird Rocks have been birds.

Bird Rocks  Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Photo: Jean-François Rail

The vegetation on Bird Rocks is limited to herbaceous plants with fewer than 20 species such as common yarrow, shepherd's-purse and seaside plantain. No vegetation grows on Rochers aux Margaulx.

The waters within a one kilometre radius around Bird Rocks and Rochers aux Margaulx are included in the sanctuary’s boundaries

Map of the area

Map of Bird Rocks MBS
Long description

Map showing the location of the Bird Rocks Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) in relation to Québec, Margaulx Rocks, Bird Rocks and Saint-Lawrence Gulf. The map shows the boundaries of the refuge, which enclose the Margaulx Rocks, the Bird Rocks and part of the surrounding waters. The scale of the map is in kilometers. Permanent waters are shown on the map. An inset shows the location of the refuge in Canada.

Access to the sanctuary

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, such as Bird Rocks, are established across the country to protect migratory birds during critical periods of their life cycle. Whether these areas are used for feeding, resting or nesting, they play an important role in the survival of many species. Access to each migratory bird sanctuary varies by site and is at the discretion of the landowner and land manager. Please ensure that you are aware of how you can help protect this sanctuary and please read the restrictions, including those on firearms and hunting, which are in place to conserve the wildlife that call it home. It is also important to remember that dogs and cats must not be allowed to run at large inside Migratory Bird Sanctuaries.

If you would like further information on what is permitted in Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, please visit the Management and Activities section of the website. For more information on Bird Rocks Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Bird Rocks Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Table summary
Protected area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Quebec
Latitude/longitude 47° 50' 34" N 61° 9' 8" W
Size 648 hectares
Date created (Gazetted) 1919
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management category Strict Nature Reserve (Ia)
Additional designations Les rochers aux Oiseaux Important Bird Area
Main habitat type Cliffs and herbaceous meadows
Key bird species Northern gannetcommon murre, thick-billed murrerazorbill
Other species Birds: Black-legged kittiwakeherring gullgreat black-backed gullAtlantic puffin
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Quebec Region

Related links

Bird Rocks Migratory Bird Sanctuary on Google Maps (Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information that can help locate the migratory bird sanctuary and does not represent the official map or site name.)

Contact information

Environment and Climate Change Canada – Quebec Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas Unit
801-1550, avenue d'Estimauville
Québec, Quebec
G1J 0C3

Toll-Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)

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