Couvée Islands Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Photo Ring-billed Gulls
Photo: Benoît Audet © Environment and Climate Change Canada. Ring-billed Gulls.

The Couvée Islands Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located in the Montreal region, in the St. Lawrence Seaway at Brossard and Saint-Lambert. The MBS covers Île de la Couvée and the islets lying between the Champlain and Victoria bridges.

Established in 1986 to safeguard an important nesting site for Ring-billed Gulls, this protected site covers an area of 15 hectares. Being mainly barren land, the sanctuary's sparse vegetation consists largely of Black Mustard and a few trees, namely black Poplars. A few shrubs, such as Staghorn Sumac and Honeysuckle, cover two-thirds of the islet located to the west of Île de la Couvée.

Importance of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Couvée Islands MBS was once the preferred nesting site for a large colony of Ring-billed Gulls present in the Montreal region. In 1994, more than 30 000 pairs were recorded on Île de la Couvée. Just three years later, numbers had already dropped to 20 870 pairs. A survey conducted in 2006 identified only 9293 pairs and, since 2009, there have been no reports of Ring-billed Gulls nesting anywhere in the sanctuary. It is believed that predation by foxes is the most likely explanation for the site having been abandoned by the breeding population of this species. In the past, sightings of Common Terns have been reported in the area. Today, the site supports small numbers of Red-winged Blackbirds, Yellow Warblers, Savannah Sparrows and Song Sparrows.

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 Couvée Islands 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 Couvée Islands Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Long description of the map

Map showing the location of Couvée Islands Migratory Bird Sanctuary relative to Quebec, Montreal, Saint-Lambert, Pont Victoria, Île Notre-Dame, Île de la Couvée and Pont Champlain. The map shows the boundaries of the sanctuary, which is separated into 4 sections to cover the Couvée Islands. The scale of the map is in hundreds of meters.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Couvée Islands 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 Couvée Islands Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Category Information
Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Quebec
Latitude/longitude 45° 28' 28" N 73° 30' 19" W
Size in hectares (ha) 15 ha
Date created (Gazetted) 1986
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management category Ia - Strict Nature Reserve
Additional designations Couvée Islands 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

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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