Port L'Hebert Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Port-L'Hebert 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

Port L’Hebert Migratory Bird Sanctuary is located in a shallow coastal inlet on the southeast shore of Nova Scotia. Two other Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, Port Joli and Sable River, are situated near Port L’Hebert and, together, these three sanctuaries support over 4000 to 5000 Canada geese each year. Along with these nearby protected areas, the Port L’Hebert Sanctuary supports over 40% of the wintering Canada geese in the Atlantic Provinces. These numbers are greatly weather dependent as, during mild winters, these birds will often spend time in other waters that would normally be frozen during colder winters. Geese tend to arrive in the Port L’Hebert sanctuary in late September and remain until mid-March, with peak numbers occurring in late October to early November. Occasionally, during particularly cold winters, the waters in the sanctuary’s inlet will freeze, causing the waterfowl using it to move to the nearby Sable River sanctuary.
Canada Geese
Port L’Hebert Migratory Bird Sanctuary, wintering Canada Geese. Photo: Colin MacKinnon


The Port L’Hebert Migratory Bird Sanctuary is also an important resting, feeding and wintering area for American black ducks. Migrating birds of this species begin to gather in the sanctuary as early as late August with numbers exceeding 1000 birds in late January to early February. Significant numbers of these migrants remain until early April. Other dabbling ducks (ducks that feed near the surface of the water) that can be found in the sanctuary, though in smaller numbers, include green-winged teal and northern pintail, which use the sanctuary during early fall.  Diving ducks (ducks that dive below the surface of the water to feed) can also be seen in the sanctuary including common goldeneye, bufflehead, scaups, scoters and mergansers. These birds arrive in late fall and several hundred tend to remain throughout the winter.

wintering American Black Ducks
Group of wintering American Black Ducks at Port L’Hebert Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Photo: Colin MacKinnon


The Port L’Hebert inlet measures one to two kilometres wide at its mouth, two kilometres wide at its most inland section and approximately 12 kilometres in length. The Port L’Hebert Migratory Bird Sanctuary does not cover this entire area; it covers a 350-hectare section of the northeastern extremity of the inlet. The tides in this area cause the water level to shift 1.2 to 2.4 metres, which exposes large areas of eelgrass flats and marine algae at low tide. Deeper channels intersect and meander through these flats.

Marine invertebrates are common throughout the inlet and include moon-shell, dog whelk, macoma and periwinkle. Two small brooks, Mitchell Brook and Granite Village Brook, flow into the sanctuary and, while most of the shoreline is rocky, there is a small section of salt marsh at the mouth of Mitchell Brook. The dry land around the water is covered in forests consisting of spruce, fir, red maple and white birch with scattered mature white pines.

Did you know?

Adjacent to Port L’Hebert Migratory Bird Sanctuary, are the 71 hectares of land that make up the Port L’Hebert Provincial Park. This outdoor recreation park features a 2.1-kilometre loop trail and is located off of highway 103 near Port Joli.

Map of the area

Map of Port L'Hebert Migratory Bird Sanctuary
  • Long description

    Map showing the location of the Port-L'Hébert Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) in relation to Nova Scotia, Port L'Hébert and Port Joli. The map shows the boundaries of the refuge, which contains part of Port L'Hébert and runs along the northeast shore of this body of water. 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 Port L’Hebert, 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 Port L’Hebert Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Port L’Hebert Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Nova Scotia
Latitude/longitude 43°52' N, 64°58' W
Size 350 hectares
Date created (Gazetted) 1941
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 Shallow coastal water (89%), channels and deeper areas (10%), wooded island (1%)
Key bird species Canada goose, American black duck, green-winged teal, northern pintail, common goldeneye, bufflehead, scoters, mergansers and greater scaup
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Atlantic Region
Landowners Province of Nova Scotia and private

Related links

Port L’Hebert 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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