Machias Seal Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Machias Seal Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located in southwestern New Brunswick in the Bay of Fundy.

Importance of the sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife

Machias Seal Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary is a tiny, treeless oceanic island rising barely 9 metres above sea level. It is located 20 kilometres off the southwestern tip of Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy. Many seabirds nest here.

Atlantic Puffins
Machias Seal Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Atlantic puffins. Photo: C. Buhariwalla

This small island is one of the most important seabird nesting colonies in the Gulf of Maine. At one time the most numerous birds on the island were arctic and common terns. However, the number of birds nesting here has declined due to, among other factors, the reduced availability of food around the island.

Machias Seal Island is also the home to one of the most southerly colonies of the atlantic puffin (well over 1000 pairs), whose breeding range extends north all the way to Greenland. The other member of the auk family that nests on Machias Seal Island is the razorbill. It is larger than the atlantic puffin, with immaculate black and white plumage and a distinctive white ring around its bill. Approximately 100 pairs of razorbill nest on the island. The leach’s storm petrel also breeds on this island although visitors rarely see this bird as it spends most of its time foraging at sea or hiding in its nesting burrows.

Did you know?

A pair of breeding razorbills will only produce a single egg each year. Once the puffling is about 18 – 20 days old, its father will accompany it on its first adventure at sea.

Machias Seal Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Razorbill. Photo: C. Buhariwalla

In addition to these seabirds, a few land birds, including the savannah sparrow, spotted sandpiper, tree swallow and barn swallow, nest on Machias Seal Island. With well over 100 species spotted, the list of migratory birds and incidental visitors found in this sanctuary is extremely impressive and includes several uncommon and rare species.


This small, teardrop-shaped island is roughly 550 metres long and 250 metres wide with lush green meadow covering the higher areas and providing a striking contrast to the rocky, wave-battered shores. Machias Seal Island once posed a serious hazard to ships until a permanent lighthouse was built in 1832; this manned lighthouse is still in operation today.

Map of the area

Map of Machias Seal Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Planning your visit

Each year over 1200 naturalists and photographers visit the sanctuary to see the impressive display of birds on the island. Entry to Machias Seal Island MBS is via two permitted tour operators, SeaWatch Tours and Bold Coast Charter Company.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is the land administrator at Machias Seal Island MBS and permission to visit the MBS at any time of the year, must be sought from the administrator. In addition, to protect migratory birds, entry into the sanctuary is forbidden during the nesting season (June and July). Anyone wishing to enter during this time may only do so via the existing tour operators permitted access to the island.

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. 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 Machias Seal Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Machias Seal Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Protected Area designation
Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory
New Brunswick
Latitude and longitude
44°30' N, 67°06' W
10 hectares
Date created (Gazetted)
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management category
Natural Monument or Feature
Additional designations
Part of Machias Seal Island Important Bird Area, International Biological Program Site, Proposed Provincial Ecological Reserve
Main habitat type
Developed land (4%), vegetated area (50%) and exposed rocks (46%)
Key bird species
Arctic terncommon ternatlantic puffinrazorbillleach's storm petrelsavannah sparrowspotted sandpipertree swallow and barn swallow
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA)
Management agency
Canadian Wildlife Service, Atlantic Region
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Related links

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)

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