Chantry Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Chantry Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located near Southampton, Ontario. It offers seagulls, waterfowls and waders birds a place to nest.

Importance of the sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife

The Chantry Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary, located in Lake Huron, about 1 km offshore from the town of Southampton, Ontario, was originally established to protect its gull and heron colonies. Chantry Island is also a designated Important Bird Area (IBA) and supports a nationally significant numbers of colonial waders such as great egret and black-crowned night-heron.

At the time of establishment, herring gulls were likely the most common nesting bird on the island. Since then however, as is the case in most of the Great Lakes, the ring-billed gull population has increased substantially and its population size has surpassed that of the herring gull. The most recent survey on the island found 201 herring gull nests, 40 great egret nests, 6 great blue heron nests and 1000 double-crested cormorant nests. The numbers of ring-billed gull nests were not counted but it was noted that these birds were present in high numbers. Waterfowl also nest in the sanctuary and, along with migrating shorebirds, they can most often be found in the wet meadows, shallow ponds and bays on the west side of the island.

Great egret
Great egret on Chantry Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Photo: Julie S. Pollock


While Chantry Island itself is approximately 19 hectares in size, the Chantry Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary covers a much larger area as it extends 183 metres offshore from the island’s normal high-water mark. At this distance from shore the water depth is approximately 20 metres. The most noticeable features on this island are the lighthouse, the several small stands of trees and the beach ridges.

Did you know?

The great egret hunt in classic heron fashion, standing immobile or wading through wetlands to capture fish with a deadly jab of their yellow bill. Following its near elimination due to hunting at the turn of the 20th century, legal protection of the Great Egret allowed its recovery and ongoing expansion.

A main beach ridge runs the north-south length of the island on its east side. This ridge is approximately 3 metres high and is separated from the water by a 7-metre wide cobblestone beach. Smaller ridges have formed perpendicular to this main ridge and run westward. The vegetation on the long, main beach ridge is dense and includes black willow, poplar, basswood, maple, choke cherry, red elderberry and red-osier dogwood. The low ridges that run east-west are sparsely treed and to the west of the lighthouse, where the land is slightly lower than the beach ridge, there is a dense growth of white ash along with some red oak and a nearby white cedar/tamarack complex.

The western side of the island is flat with several rocky bays and ponds that transition into wet meadow and which appear to be regularly flooded. The wet meadow, composed of sedges and grasses, slopes gently to the east where it merges with the treed area. The area directly around the lighthouse and two old, associated stone buildings are covered in dense growths of lilacs.

Map of the area

Map of Chantry Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Planning your visit

Come and visit enchanting Chantry Island to experience a small piece of history, walk a beautiful landscape and see some of the resident and visiting birds. The Marine Heritage Society is a not-for-profit group that runs tours to the island that will allow you to explore the restored Light Keepers cottage and climb the more than 100 narrow steps that lead to the top of the lighthouse where a beautiful view awaits.

Did you know?

The first light used in the Chantry Island Lighthouse was a fixed light that was fueled by sperm whale oil. In the present-day, a solar powered flashing light warns vessels to steer clear.

Chantry Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary: landscape. Photo: Doug Sweiger

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, such as Chantry Island, 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. Please note that access to Chantry Island is limited during the breeding season and that other access prohibitions may be imposed by the landowners. 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. 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 Chantry Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Chantry Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Ontario
Latitude/longitude 44°29' N, 81°24' W
Size 63 hectares
Date created (Gazetted) 1957
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management category Strict Nature Reserve
Additional designations Chantry Island Important Bird Area
Main habitat type Beach, woodland (hardwood, some cedar), open ponds and bays, wet meadow, open lake
Key bird species Herring gull, ring-billed gull, black-crowned night-heron, great blue heron, double-crested cormorant and great egret
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Ontario Region
Landowners Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Province of Ontario, and Municipality of Saugeen Shores

Related links

Contact information

Environment and Climate Change Canada – Ontario Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Ecosystem Conservation
4905 Dufferin Street
Toronto ON M3H 5T4

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

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