Saint-Augustin Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Saint-Augustin Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located on Ile de la Grande Passe coast. It provides an important habitat for seabirds to nest.

Importance of the sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife

The Saint-Augustin Migratory Bird Sanctuary lies along the southern shore of Île de la Grande Passe in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, south of the community of Saint-Augustin on the Lower North Shore. This sanctuary was established in 1925 in order to protect the many seabirds that use it as a nesting site.

Seven key species of birds can be found within the boundaries of this protected area:

  • herring gull
  • common eider
  • black guillemot
  • great black-backed gull
  • ring-billed gull
  • common tern
  • arctic tern

The most abundant of these birds is the herring gull, which, despite a population boom from 1925 to 1988 (from 50 birds to 6200 birds), was recorded to number 1783 birds in 2010 after a population decline.

Image of a Herring Gull perched on a rock
Herring Gull. Photo: Benoît Audet

The population of the common eider has fluctuated at this site: the population went from 200 individuals in 1925 to 1500 in 1940, then dropped to a mere 12 birds in 1998. By 2015 this number increased and 192 common eider were recorded within the sanctuary. The black guillemot maximum population recorded within this site was in 1950 (182 individuals) then dropped rapidly. Only six or fewer individuals where counted since 2005 in the refuge.

The great black-backed gull population has also undergone significant changes and while this bird was plentiful in 1940, with up to 900 birds recorded, subsequent surveys have revealed population estimates ranging from 40 to 320 individuals. ring-billed gull population numbers are even more variable. During some years, this species is completely absent from the site, while in other years its numbers fluctuate between several dozen to several hundred birds, with a maximum of 1300 birds recorded in 1960. In 2015, only 178 Ring-billed gulls were recorded in the sanctuary.

Image of Arctic Tern perched on a rock
Arctic Tern

Common and arctic terns often nest in the site. Over 600 individuals were counted in the latest survey. Historically the red-throated loon also nested within this protected area and up to 22 of these birds were detected in both 1940 and 1960. Although a nest was found in 2015, the last detection of this species recorded in the Saint-Augustin Migratory Bird Sanctuary was in 1982.

Did you know?

The great black-backed gull is the largest gull in the world. The chicks of this species remain in the nesting territory with their parents until they are about 7 weeks old at which point they are ready to learn how to fly. Even then, the young gulls keep coming back for several weeks to rest and be fed by their parents.


Spanning nearly 13 kilometers, this 5369-hectare protected area encompasses several dozen islands (excluding Île Kennedy), islets and rocks as well as all of the waters within its boundaries. The landscape within the sanctuary is primarily composed of a coastal marine zone and rocky outcrops as is typical of the majority of the sanctuaries on the North Shore. Approximately 20% of the site is covered in scrubland and herbaceous meadows in which the predominant plants are American sea rocket, American beachgrass and sea lyme-grass, along with seabeach sandwort, Kentucky bluegrass, fowl meadow grass, Canada bluegrass, Baltic rush (littoralis variety) and western dock.

Map of the area

Map of Saint-Augustin MBS
Map of Saint-Augustin MBS
Long description

Map showing the location of the Saint-Augustin Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) in relation to Québec, Grande Passe Island, Augustin Harbour, Grande Passe and Saint-Lawrence Gulf. The map shows the boundaries of the refuge which enclose parts of the Grande Passe Island and variety of islands, islet and rocks, as well as the surrounding waters, but excluding the Kennedy Island. The scale of the map is in kilometers. Permanent waters, intertidal water and roads are shown on the map. An inset show the location of the refuge in Canada.

Access to the sanctuary

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, such as Saint-Augustin, are established across the country to protect migratory birds during critical periods of their migration. Whether these areas are used for feeding, resting or nesting, they play an important role in the survival of many species. Please ensure that you are aware of how, as a visitor, you can help protect this sanctuary and, before accessing the site, please read the restrictions, including those on firearms and hunting, that are in place to conserve the wildlife that call it home. It is also important to remember that pets are not welcome 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 Saint-Augustin Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Saint-Augustin Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Table summary
Protected area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Quebec
Latitude/longitude 51° 08' 00" N 58° 28' 00" W
Size 5369 hectares
Date created (Gazetted) 1925
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management category Strict Nature Reserve (Ia)
Additional designations Important Bird Area
Main habitat type Water and rocky outcrops, scrubland and herbaceous meadow
Key bird species Herring gullcommon tern and arctic tern
Other species Birds: Great black-backed gullring-billed gullblack guillemot and common eider.

Plants: American sea rocket, American beachgrass, Baltic rush
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Quebec Region

Related links

Saint-Augustin Migratory Bird Sanctuary on Google Maps (Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information and does not represent the official map or site name.)

Contact information

Environment and Climate Change Canada – Quebec Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas Unit
801-1550, avenue d'Estimauville
Québec, Quebec
G1J 0C3

Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)

Page details

Date modified: