Rideau River Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Rideau Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located near Merrickville, Ontario. It offers many waterfowl species a secure location to feed and rest.

Importance of the sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife

The Rideau River Migratory Bird Sanctuary, beginning in the village of Merrickville, Ontario, extends 5.6 kilometres southwest along the banks of the Rideau River. This sanctuary is a wonderful feeding and resting area for waterfowl due to an abundance of aquatic plants that provide ample food and shelter.

On any given day during the fall migration, up to 1000 Canada geese can be spotted making use of the sanctuary along with up to 1000 ducks.

Mallard in flight

The majority of the ducks found in the sanctuary are dabbling ducks (ducks that feed near the surface of the water) such as mallard, American black duck and blue-winged teal, however some diving ducks (ducks that dive below the surface of the water to feed), like the ring-necked duck, also show up in the sanctuary.  This sanctuary provides undisturbed staging areas for waterfowl on the Rideau River during the hunting season.

Ring-necked Duck
Ring-necked duck

Did you know?

The Rideau River Migratory Bird Sanctuary offers favorable habitat for wintering ring-necked duck who prefer shallow wetlands fringed with emergent, submergent or floating vegetation like bulrush, pondweed and pond lily. The marshes in this sanctuary are composed of cattails, wild rice, emergent, floating and submerged vegetation which provide suitable staging areas for waterfowl.


The waterway in the sanctuary is managed by the Parks Canada Agency and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, while the lands around it are either privately or publicly owned.

Starting from Merrickville, the first 2.4 kilometres of the sanctuary, along either side of the river, includes extensive marshes composed of cattails, wild rice and broadleaf emergent aquatic plants as well as floating and submerged vegetation. Progressing inland from the marshes, the landscape transitions to swamps where the ground is covered in moss and sedge as well as alder and tamarack. Further inland, as the soil becomes dryer, eastern white cedars grow in dense stands. The remaining 3.2 kilometres of the river within the sanctuary are open with few underwater aquatic plants. Scattered clumps of vegetation emerge above the water close to the shores, which are dry and extensively developed as cottage and residential areas. The rest of the terrestrial portion of the sanctuary is composed of privately owned farmlands and woodlots of sugar maple, basswood and elm.

Map of the area

Map of Rideau River Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Long description

Map showing the Rideau Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) in relation to Ontario, Merrickville, Kilmarnock and Rideau River. The map shows the boundaries of the  refuge, which follow Rideau River and extends inland from the two shores. The MBS is located west of highway 43 and 15's junction and north-west from highway 16. The scale of the map is in kilometers. Permanent waters, roads and highways are shown on the map. An inset on the map shows the location of the shelter in Canada.

Planning your visit

Whether you’re looking to go for a paddle on the open water or a scenic drive down one of the many roads that wind along the river, the Rideau River has much to offer. Don’t forget to visit one of the many locks along its length; most of which are equipped with washrooms and overnight mooring as well as picnic facilities with tables, benches and barbecue grills. While you’re passing through, make sure that you take a few minutes to appreciate the wildlife that both lives and visits the area.

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, such as Rideau River, 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. 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 Rideau River Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Rideau River Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Summary table
Category Information
Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Ontario
Latitude/longitude 44°54' N, 75°52' W
Size 800 hectares
Date created (Gazetted) 1957
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management category N/A
Additional designations
Main habitat type Marsh, swamp, upland forest, crop and hay land, open water
Key bird species Canada goosemallardAmerican black duckblue-winged teal and ring-necked duck
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Ontario Region
Landowners Corporation of the Village of Merrickville, Parks Canada Agency, Province of Ontario and private

Related links

Contact information

Environment and Climate Change Canada – Ontario Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Ecosystem Conservation
4905 Dufferin Street
Toronto ON M3H 5T4

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

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