Îles de la Couvée Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Îles de la Couvée Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located along the St. Lawrence Seaway near Montreal, in Québec. It was originally created to protect an important nesting habitat for the ring-billed gull.

Importance of the sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife

The Îles de la Couvée Migratory Bird Sanctuary, located in the Montreal region, in the St. Lawrence Seaway at Brossard and Saint-Lambert, was established in 1986 to safeguard an important area for ring-billed gulls.

At the time, this island was the preferred nesting site for a large colony of this species. In 1994, over 30 000 pairs of ring-billed gulls were recorded, however, a mere three years later, this number had dropped to 20 870 pairs and by 2006, only 9293 pairs remained. This population continued to decline and since 2009, there have been no reported sightings of ring-billed gulls nesting anywhere in the sanctuary. It is believed that the breeding population of this gull species abandoned the site due to increased predation by foxes. Today, this site is known to support small numbers of red-winged blackbirds, yellow warblers, Savannah sparrows and song sparrows.

Photo of Ring-billed Gulls
Ring-billed gulls. Photo: Benoît Audet

Did you know?

Ring-billed gulls are a very familiar bird for most people. These birds are comfortable around humans and are often seen inland near freshwater or places where they can scavenge garbage. Each year, these birds return to the place where they were hatched to breed and lay their own eggs; often nesting within several meters of their previous nests.


This 15-hectare protected area covers Île de la Couvée as well as the islets lying between the Champlain and Victoria bridges. Being mainly barren land, the sanctuary's sparse vegetation consists largely of black mustard and a few trees, namely black poplars. Several shrubs, such as staghorn sumac and honeysuckle, are also present in the sanctuary and cover two-thirds of the islet located to the north-west of Île de la Couvée.

Map of the area

Map of Îles de la Couvée MBS
  • Long description

    Map showing the location of Îles de la Couvée Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) in relation to Québec, Montreal, Ile des Soeurs, Ils de la Couvée, Victoria bridge, Rive-Sud Canal and Saint-Lawrence River. The MBS is located north of highway 10, south of highway 112 and northeast of highway 15. The map shows the boundaries of the refuge, which is divided into four zones to cover Couvée Islands. The scale of the map is in kilometers. Permanent waters, roads and highways are shown on the map. An inset shows the location of the shelter in Canada.

Access to the sanctuary

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, such as Îles de la Couvée, are established across the country to protect migratory birds during critical periods of their migration. Whether these areas are used for feeding, resting or nesting, they play an important role in the survival of many species. 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 pets are not welcome 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 Îles de la Couvée Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Îles de la Couvée Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Québec
Latitude/longitude 45° 28' 28" N 73° 30' 19" W
Size 15 hectares
Date created (Gazetted) 1986
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management category Strict Nature Reserve (Ia)
Additional designations Île de la Couvée Important Bird Area
Main habitat type Herbaceous and shrub vegetation with some trees
Key bird species Ring-billed gull
Other species Birds: Red-winged blackbird, yellow warbler, song sparrow and savannah sparrow
Mammals: Red fox, groundhog and muskrat
Plants: Black mustard, black poplar, staghorn sumac, honeysuckle
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Quebec Region

Related links

Îles de la Couvée Migratory Bird Sanctuary on Google Maps (Please note that the Google maps is a complementary source of information 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)
Email: ec.enviroinfo.ec@canada.ca

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