Haley Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Haley Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located on the southwestern coast of Nova Scotia. It offers an ideal habitat for resting and breeding waterfowl.

Importance of the sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife

Located approximately midway between Port L’Hebert Harbour and the Sable River estuary in Shelburne County, Nova Scotia, Haley Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary is an important area for many species of birds especially Canada goose and American black duck. In the early fall, these two species flock to Haley Lake from the surrounding saltwater harbours and estuaries, particularly when the tide is high and the other feeding sites are covered in water. In fact, Haley Lake has, for a number of years, been one of the main freshwater lakes in the area used by these birds. Records indicate that, at any given time during the fall, up to 1000 birds can be spotted on the lake depending on the tide and weather conditions.

Besides feeding, this area is greatly used by waterfowl for resting (loafing) and preening. In fact, these birds spend most of their time on the rock ledges in the lake and on the granite boulders along the shores engaged in these two behaviours. The lake also provides waterfowl with fresh water as well as gravel, which many birds swallow to aid in digesting tough foods.

This sanctuary also supports a small colony of great blue herons, which nest on two of the rocky ledges within Haley Lake. This colony has nested in the area since 1944 and is of particular note as these birds are the only known ground-nesting herons in the Maritimes.

Did you know?

Great blue herons nest mainly in tall trees, but they will sometimes decide to nest on the ground or in bushes. Male herons will collect most of the nesting material (sticks, thick grasses, etc.) and present them to the female who will weave them into a nest, which she will then line with twigs, mosses and other softer materials. When finished, the nest of a great blue heron can reach 4 feet across and 3.5 feet deep.

Great Blue Heron
Great blue heron


As the land in southern Nova Scotia is mostly granite-based, the lakes in this area are typically shallow and rocky; Haley Lake is no exception. This 100-hectare lake encompasses a number of prominent rock outcroppings surrounded by gravel bars. The water within the lake itself has a low nutrient content, as does the substrate within the lake, which means that the plant life in Haley Lake is sparse and scattered. The shorelines of the lake are made up of large granite boulders surrounded by thick shrub growth of sweet gale and speckled alder. The lands on both the eastern and western edges of the lake are steep and wooded.

Haley Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary: landscape

Map of the area

Map of Haley Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary
  • Long description

    Map showing the location of the Haley Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) in relation to Nova Scotia, Timber Island Brook, Haley Lake Brook and Haley Lake. The map shows the boundaries of the refuge, which contains Haley Lake and a very small parcel of surrounding land. The MBS is located south of Highway 103. The scale of the map is in kilometers. Permanent waters, intertidal areas, roads and highways are shown on the map. An insert on the map shows the location of the shelter in Canada.

Access to the sanctuary

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, such as Haley Lake, 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. Access to each migratory bird sanctuary varies by site and is at the discretion of the landowner and land manager. 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 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 Haley Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Haley Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Nova Scotia
Latitude/longitude 43°50' N, 65°00' W
Size 100 hectares
Date created (Gazetted) 1980
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category Strict Nature Reserve
Additional designations Part of Nova Scotia South Shore (Port Joli Sector) Important Bird Area
Main habitat type Open water (99.5%), rocky ledges (0.5%)
Key bird species American black duck, Canada goose and great blue heron
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Atlantic Region
Landowner Province of Nova Scotia

Related links

Haley Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary on Google Maps (Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information that can help locate the migratory bird sanctuary and does not represent the official map or site name)

Contact information

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Atlantic Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas Program
17 Waterfowl Lane
Sackville NB E4L 1G6

Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
Email: ec.enviroinfo.ec@canada.ca

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