Port Joli Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) in Port-Joli 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

The Port Joli Migratory Bird Sanctuary, located in the southern coastal lowlands of Nova Scotia, is an important site for many species including Canada geese and American black duck. In conjunction with two other nearby migratory bird sanctuaries, Port L’Hebert and Sable River, Port Joli supports upwards of 4000 - 5000 Canada geese annually; a number that represents over 40% of the birds of this species that spend the winter in the Atlantic Provinces. These numbers are dependent on the weather, as these geese will spread out further in milder winters when the surrounding smaller bodies of water remain unfrozen.

American black ducks are present in large numbers in this sanctuary, sometimes exceeding 1000 birds, during the fall and winter months when they are attracted to the rich eelgrass beds. During fall migration, over 1000 American green-winged teal feed in the shallows of Port Joli Harbour by day; moving into nearby Louis Lake at night along with smaller numbers of northern pintail. In the late fall, several species of diving ducks (ducks that dive below the surface of the water to feed) including common goldeneye, bufflehead, scaups, scoters and mergansers arrive in the sanctuary and small numbers of them remain throughout the winter.

wintering American Black Ducks
Wintering American black ducks at Robertson Lake in Port Joli Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Photo: Colin MacKinnon


This sanctuary covers a 280-hectare area characterized by low hills and ridges with lakes, bogs and prominent coastal inlets. The Port Joli inlet is 10 kilometres in length and varies in width from one to four kilometres. The sanctuary is located at the most inland point of the inlet. As the waters within the sanctuary are extremely shallow and the tidal range varies between 1.2 to 2.4 metres, when the tide goes out, extensive areas of mud and sand flats are exposed. In certain areas there is also a small band of salt marsh between the mud flats and the rocky and boulder-strewn shorelines. Several small rocky islets and ledges can also be found within the sanctuary.

Landscape at Port Joli Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Photo: Andrew Macfarlane

Did you know?

The American black duck tend to return to the same marshes each fall, sometimes starving rather than migrating farther south, even if those marshes are frozen.

Map of the area

  • Long description

    Map showing the location of the Port-Joli Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) in relation to Nova Scotia, Port Joli and Port Joli. The map shows the boundaries of the refuge, which contains the northern part of Port Joli and the surrounding land border. 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 bird sanctuary

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, such as Port Joli, 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 Joli Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Port Joli Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Nova Scotia
Latitude/longitude 43°52' N, 64°55' W
Size 280 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 estuary and intertidal flats (80%), salt marsh (5%), mixed second-growth forest (15%)
Key bird species Canada goose, American black duck, green-winged teal, northern pintail, common goldeneye, bufflehead, greater scaup, scoters and mergansers
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Atlantic Region
Landowners Canadian Wildlife Service, Province of Nova Scotia and private

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)
Email: ec.enviroinfo.ec@canada.ca

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