Shepherd Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) on Shepherd Island is located west of Belle Isle in Newfoundland and Labrador. It allows eiders to nest and raise their chicks.

Importance of the sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife

The Shepherd Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary, a rugged island with bedrock outcrops, located in the District of Strait of Belle Isle in Newfoundland and Labrador was established in 1991 to protect common eider in this important nesting area. Together with Île aux Canes Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Shepherd Island is one of the largest breeding sites for the common eider in insular Newfoundland.

Common eider are known to establish their nesting colonies in isolated locations, thus they generally nest on offshore islands, which greatly limits their distribution. Their preferred nesting sites are usually open locations or areas with low-growing vegetation. Sadly, over the past number of years, the population of common eider has decreased dramatically in this sanctuary dwindling from the 86 nesting pairs found here in 1988 to only 2 nesting pairs in 2001. This diminished number may be due to these birds preferring and moving to nearby Île aux Canes (Green Island), however in recent years, nesting eiders on both islands have been threatened by predators like fox and Polar Bear.

Common Eider
Common eider

Did you know?

The female common eider lines her nest with feathers plucked from her own breast. These feathers, called eiderdown, have a long history of being harvested and are prized as a warm filling for pillows, quilts, etc. The harvesting of eiderdown still occurs in some places, though on a smaller and more sustainable scale, as feathers are now gathered once the ducklings have left the nest.


This approximately 16-hectare protected area encompasses Shepherd Island. This land mass has steep, but not vertical shores that are frequently washed by the waves of the surrounding sea water. The vegetation on this island is patchy, consisting of mainly low-growing ericaceous plants (commonly known as the heath or heather family) that tolerate acidic soil, with lichen and moss, as well as limited areas of salt marsh cord grass and cow-parsnip.

Map of the area

Map of Shepherd Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary
  • Long description

    Map showing the location of the Shepherd Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) in relation to Newfoundland and Labrador, Bell Island and Labrador Sea. The map shows the boundaries of the refuge, in the form of a square enclosing the shepherd Island and part of surrounding waters of the Labrador sea. The scale of the map is in kilometers. Permanent waters are shown on the map. An inset on the map shows the location of the shelter in Canada.

Access to the sanctuary

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, such as Shepherd Island, 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 Shepherd Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Shepherd Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Newfoundland and Labrador
Latitude/longitude 50°44' N, 55°39'40” W
Size 16 hectares
Date created (Gazetted) 1991
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category Strict Nature Reserve (Ia)  
Additional designations Part of Bell Island South Coast Important Bird Area
Main habitat type Rugged island with bedrock outcrops and patchy vegetation; backshore areas are generally precipitous.
Key bird species Common eider
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Atlantic Region
Landowner Province of Newfoundland and Labrador

Related links

Shepherd Island 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)

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