Gros-Mécatina Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Gros Mécatina Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) includes several islands and surrounding waters near Gros Mécatina Island, in Québec. Many seabirds use the territory to nest.

Importance of the sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife

The Gros Mécatina Migratory Bird Sanctuary, located on the northern shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, east of the village of La Tabatière, was established in 1996 to protect essential colonial seabird nesting sites.

In the past, thousands of common murres nested on the islands which are now part of this protected area. Sadly the combination of illegal hunting and repeated egg collection has greatly reduced these numbers and, in 1999 following the first survey since the creation of this sanctuary, only 13 common murres were recorded through all of the islands in the sanctuary. Since then, the total of observed nesting auk (or alcid), including the common murres, is between 500 and 650.

In addition to common mure, other species of alcidae and gulls form small colonies from several dozen to several hundred birds throughout the sanctuary’s islands. These include:

  • Atlantic puffin
  • black guillemot
  • razorbill
  • herring gull
  • great black-backed gull
  • black-legged kittiwake
  • great cormorant
  • double-crested cormorant
Black guillemot
Black guillemot. Photo: BenoÎt Audet

Common terns and arctic terns can also be observed within the sanctuary, and their numbers fluctuate greatly. For example, 1800 terns were observed in 2005, whereas no tern was observed in 2015.

Did you know?

The average lifespan of a razorbill is 13 years; however a chick that was tagged on the island of Bardsey in North Wales in 1967 was spotted in a bird survey completed in 2008. That means that this razorbill was 41 years old.


This 2168 hectare sanctuary in the Gros Mécatina archipelago is separated into three zones, the first of which contains two islands collectively called Îles aux Marmettes as well as two reefs known as Rochers aux Marmettes. The other two zones encompass Île Plate and Île aux Trois Collines respectively. In each of these zones, the coastal waters within one kilometre of the islands, islets and reefs are also included in the sanctuary.

One of the two Îles aux Marmettes in the Gros-Mécatina MBS. Photo: Patrick Labonté

While a portion of the terrestrial area within the sanctuary is almost entirely rocky terrain, the remainder of the sanctuary is covered in vegetation. The most abundant plants growing here are whortleberry and cloudberry, also known as salmonberry or yellowberry, as well as a variety of mosses and lichens that grow in abundance on the hilltops.

Map of the area

Map of Gros-Mécatina MBS
  • Long description

    Map showing the Gros Mécatina Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) in relation to Québec, La Tabatière, Ile aux trois collines, Ile du Gros Mécatina, Ile aux Marmettes, Rochers aux Marmettes, Ile Plate and the Saint-Lawrence Golfe. The MBS is located east of highway 138. The map shows the boundaries of the refuge, which enclose Ile aux Marmettes, Rochers aux Marmettes, Ile aux Trois Colines, Ile plate and part of the surrounding waters. Scale of the map is in kilometers. The permanent waters, intertidal zone, roads and highways are shown on the map. An inset shows the location of the refuge in Canada.

Access to the sanctuary

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, such as Gros-Mécatina, 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, that 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 Gros-Mécatina Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Gros-Mécatina Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Quebec
Latitude/longitude 50° 42' 30" N 58° 53' 02" W ; 50° 45' 15" N 58° 45' 22" W ; 50° 50' 17" N ; 58° 43' 46" W
Size 2168 hectares
Date created (Gazetted) 1996
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management category Strict Nature Reserve (Ia)
Additional designations None
Main habitat type Rocky outcrops and tundra landscape
Key bird species Black guillemot, razorbill, Atlantic puffin, great black-backed gull, herring gull, common murre, great cormorant, common tern and arctic tern
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Other species Plants: whortleberry and cloudberry
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Quebec Region

Related links

Gros-Mécatina Migratory Bird Sanctuary on Google Maps (Please note that the Google map 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)

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