Sainte-Marie Islands Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Sainte-Marie Islands Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is southeast to Chevery, in Québec. Many seabirds use the refuge to nest.

Importance of the sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife

The Sainte-Marie Islands Migratory Bird Sanctuary is located in the Côte-Nord region, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, approximately 20 kilometers from the village of Harrington Harbour. Established in 1925 to protect common eider and other seabird colonies during nesting season, this sanctuary is one of the richest nesting sites in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Of all of the sanctuaries that exist in the Côte-Nord region, it is in this one that seabirds are the most abundant and diversified.

Common Murre on water
Common Murre. Photo: Jean-François Rail.

Fourteen species of birds breed within this protected area. The most notable of which are colonial nesting species such as the common eider, common murre, Atlantic puffin and razorbill. The islands in this sanctuary also support large populations of the following:

  • ring-billed gull
  • great black-backed gull
  • great cormorant
  • double-crested cormorant
  • black guillemot
  • red-throated loon
  • black-legged kittiwake

Though seabirds are numerous in Sainte-Marie Islands MBS, other birds also use this site including several songbirds (passerines) including the savannah sparrow, white-throated sparrow, American pipit and horned lark. The islands' shorelines also attract shorebirds, such as the semipalmated plover.

Did you know?

The common eider is the largest duck in the Northern Hemisphere. You will not hear any stereotypical “quacking” noises from this duck however, as the eider’s most frequent noise is a strange cooing. 


This 3,980 hectare sanctuary covers thirteen islands including the archipelagos of Îles Sainte-Marie, Îles Cliff and Îles aux Perroquets (formerly Îles Boat), as well as all islets, rocks and waters within a one kilometre radius surrounding these archipelagos. This sanctuary comprises rocky outcrops and a large number of freshwater ponds, each no more than 75 metres in diameter.

Habitat of Saint-Marie Island
Sainte-Marie Islands. Photo: Richard Cotter.

With respect to topography, the islands are very similar with their northeastern sides that gently slope towards the sea, while their southwestern sides are much steeper and punctuated by ridges and ledges. Being continually windswept, the area's low-lying vegetation features predominantly arctic-alpine species typically found in tundra landscapes, such as moss campion, loose-flowered sedge and knotweed. The plant life on the islands includes stunted shrubs, such as balsam fir and black spruce as well as a variety of lichens and approximately 100 other plant species.

Map of the area

See long description below
Map of Sainte-Marie Islands MBS
Long description

Map showing the boundaries of the Sainte-Marie Islands Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) in relation to Québec, covering portions of the Sainte-Marie Archipelago, including Îles aux Perroquets, Iles Cliff, Iles Washtamaska and Îles Sainte-Marie and surrounding waters. The MBS is located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The scale of the map is in kilometers. Permanent waters are shown on the map. An inset shows the location of the sanctuary in Canada. 

Access to the sanctuary

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, such as Sainte-Marie Islands, 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 ensure that you are aware of how, as a visitor, you can help preserve this sanctuary and, before accessing the site, please read the restrictions, including those on firearms and hunting, that are in place to protect 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 Sainte-Marie Islands Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Sainte-Marie Islands Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Table summary
Catergory Information

Protected Area designation

Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Province or territory



50° 18' 02" N 59° 39' 34" W


3,980 hectares

Date created (Gazetted)


International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category

Strict Nature Reserve (Ia)

Additional designations

Îles Sainte-Marie Important Bird Area

Main habitat type

Rocky outcrops, freshwater ponds and tundra

Key bird species

Other species




  • Balsam fir
  • black spruce
  • labrador tea
  • sweet gale
  • lichens
  • sea lymegrass

Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA)


Management agency

Canadian Wildlife Service, Quebec Region

Related links

Sainte-Marie Islands 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 QC  G1J 0C3

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

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