Sable River Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Canada Goos
Photo: © Canada Geese.

Sable River Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located on the Sable River estuary 1 km south of Highway 103 at the community of Sable River in Shelburne County, Nova Scotia. It has been part of the community since 1941. This 313-ha sanctuary includes the inner portion of the Sable River estuary, including all shoals, rocks and islets up to the mean high-tide mark on the adjoining upland. Scattered small salt marshes occur along both the east and west sides, and eelgrass dominates the shallow nearshore waters out to the much deeper mid-channel. The mid-channel area remains ice-free in all but the severest of winters, a feature that makes the site particularly attractive to the overwintering Canada Goose population.

Importance of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Because of hunting pressure, the Province of Nova Scotia, in association with local residents and landowners, established Port Joli estuary as a provincial sanctuary in 1915. This was soon followed by the establishment of provincial sanctuaries at Sable River and Port L'Hebert estuary in 1919. Sable River, Port Hebert and Port Joli were established as federal MBSs in 1941.

The Sable River MBS is used throughout the fall by several hundred Canada Geese and American Black Ducks along with smaller numbers of American Green-winged Teal and a variety of other waterfowl. During severe winters, however, most of the habitat at the nearby Port Joli and Port Hebert sanctuaries freezes over for a short period during mid- to late January. At that time, the overwintering Canada Goose population in the area moves to the Sable River section, which remains ice-free in the mid channel. Goose numbers during those periods can exceed 3000 birds.

Access and Activities

MBSs are established for the protection and conservation of migratory birds. Activities that could harm migratory birds, their nests or their eggs are prohibited.

MBSs can be and have been established on private, provincial, territorial and federally owned lands. Access to each MBS varies by site and is at the discretion of the landowner and land manager.

Where MBSs are located on federal land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the management and protection of migratory birds, nests, eggs and habitat. Where MBSs are located on provincial land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests, while the chief game officer of the province is responsible for the management of habitat. Where MBSs are located on private or municipal land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests. Habitat management is the responsibility of the landowner.

Public access to Sable River MBS is not restricted. The standard prohibitions under the Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations apply to this site: hunting migratory birds is prohibited, and no person shall disturb, destroy or take the nest of a migratory bird or have in his or her possession a live migratory bird, or a carcass, skin, nest or egg of a migratory bird, except under the authority of a permit issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada or unless authorized by the Regulations. Possession of firearms or other hunting appliances is prohibited. Dogs and cats must not be allowed to run at large.

For more information on entry, activities and permits in MBSs, please visit the Management and Activities section of the Migratory Bird Sanctuaries website. For more information on Environment and Climate Change Canada’s protected areas, please contact the regional office.

For greater certainty, nothing in this document shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for existing Aboriginal or treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Map of the Area

  • Map of Sable River Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Long description of the map

Map showing the location of Sable River Migratory Bird Sanctuary in relation to Nova Scotia and Sable River. The map shows the boundaries of the sanctuary, which covers a portion of the Sable River mostly following the shoreline. The scale of the map is in tenths of a kilometer.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Sable River MBS can also be viewed using Google Maps. Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information and does not represent the official map or site name.

Summary Table

Summary table for Sable River Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Category Information
Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Nova Scotia
Latitude/longitude 43°49' N, 65°03' W
Size in hectares (ha) 313 ha
Date created (Gazetted) 1941
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management category Ia - Strict Nature Reserve
Additional designations Part of Nova Scotia South Shore (Port Joli Sector) Important Bird Area
Main habitat type Open estuarine water (90%), rocky and wooded islands (1%), salt marshes (9%)
Key bird species Canada Goose, American Black Duck and American Green-winged Teal
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Atlantic Region
Landowners Province of Nova Scotia and private

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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