Boatswain Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Tidal marsh within Boatswain Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuary picture
Photo: Michel Robert © Environment and Climate Change Canada. Tidal marsh within Boatswain Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

The Boatswain Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located at the southeastern end of James Bay, approximately 35 km North of Waskaganish. The site encompasses part of the Boatswain Bay coast, including all islands, water, shallow banks and rocks within two miles of the high water line.

Established in 1941 to protect large concentrations of waterfowl and shorebirds, this 15 687 hectare sanctuary consists mostly of flat terrain dominated by tidal marshes and mud flats, up to several kilometres in width. The main vegetation of the MBS is sedge, followed by alder groves, white spruce forests and stands of black spruce and moss.

Importance of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Boatswain Bay MBS is an important nesting and staging area for numerous water birds during spring and fall migration. Species include Canada Geese, Lesser Snow Geese, Brants and Black Ducks, along with several species of scoters and scaups. Between the months of August and October, significant numbers of shorebirds flock to the sanctuary for feeding and staging. In fact, up to 10 000 shorebirds have been observed in the coastal areas of the sanctuary. Twenty six species of shorebirds, in particular White-Rumped Sandpipers and Hudsonian Godwits, have been recorded at the site. The Boatswain Bay MBS provides suitable habitats for Yellow Rails, Le Conte's Sparrows, Short-eared Owls, Nelson's Sparrows and Sandhill Cranes. The wide range of avian species that use the site, including species at risk, confirms the sanctuary's significance in this area.

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 The Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations apply to Boatswain Bay 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 or if the Regulations violate the rights of Aboriginals, as specified under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and the Eeyou Marine Region Land Claim Agreement. 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. Access restrictions issued under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and the Eeyou Marine Region Land Claim Agreement 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 Brador Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Long description of the map

Map showing the location of Boatswain Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuary relative to Quebec, Nunavut, Pointe Goyeau, Charlton Island, Carey Island, Danby Island, Tent Island, Boatswain Bay, Rupert Bay and James Bay. The map shows the boundaries of the sanctuary, which covers Boatswain Bay and a portion of the surrounding land. The scale of the map is in kilometers.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Boatswain Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuary 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 Boatswain Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Category Information
Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Quebec
Latitude/longitude 51° 50' N 78° 52' W
Size in hectares (ha) 15 687 ha
Date created (Gazetted) 1941
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category Ia - Strict Nature Reserve
Additional designations Brador Bay Important Bird Area
Main habitat type Salt marsh, mud flats, alder groves, stands of white
Key bird species Yellow Rail, Le Conte's Sparrow, Short-eared Owl, Nelson's Sparrow, Brant, Hudsonian Godwit, White-rumped Sandpiper and Sandhill Crane
Other species Plants: buckbean, sedge spp, white spruce and black spruce
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Short-eared Owl
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)
Email: ec.enviroinfo.ec@canada.ca
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