Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary: landscape
Photo: © Great Blue Heron.

Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is situated 30 km north of Victoria, British Columbia, in a protected bay near the eastern tip of Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island. The area, along with numerous small islands and sheltered marine waters stretching between the southern tip of Vancouver Island and Comox, constitutes the habitat of the Gulf Islands Biotic Area. The shoreline within the MBS itself alternates between rocky outcrops and beaches of sand, gravel and silt. The adjacent upland is highly altered by residential development, but remnants of the climax vegetation of Garry oak and arbutus are evident. Portions of the sanctuary contain mud flats that are exposed at low tide and have a productive marine fauna and flora. Sea lettuce and eelgrass are also commonly found in the MBS.

Importance of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The sheltered waters of small bays and channels of the Gulf Islands are important as wintering habitat to thousands of aquatic migratory birds. Some localities where freshwater inflow creates brackish waters and estuarine environments are especially important due to their high biological productivity. These areas also become critical wintering habitat to large numbers of waterfowl when sudden changes in weather freeze inland bodies of water. Shoal Harbour is an important component of the coastal wintering habitat. Over 2400 birds of 51 species are estimated to depend on the MBS; the largest portion of these is made up of dabbling and diving ducks. Among the dabblers, regionally high concentrations of Green-winged Teal and American Wigeon use the sanctuary, and among diving ducks, Bufflehead are the most common. Horned Grebes also occur in large numbers in this region, and Great Blue Herons are year-round residents.

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 Shoal Harbour 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 showing the Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary boundaries
Long description for the Map

Map showing the location of Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary relative to British Columbia, Sidney, Coal Island and the Strait of Georgia. The map shows the boundaries of the sanctuary, which covers a portion of Shoal Harbour. The scale of the map is in hundreds of kilometers.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Shoal Harbour 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

Map showing Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Category Information
Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory British Columbia
Latitude/longitude 48°40' N, 123°24' W
Size in hectares (ha) 143 ha
Date created (Gazetted) 1931
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management category N/A
Additional designations None
Main habitat type Tidal mud flats (20%), shallow marine bay (80%)
Key bird species Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Bufflehead, Horned Grebe and Great Blue Heron
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Great Blue Heron
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Pacific and Yukon Region
Landowner Province of British Columbia

Contact Information

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Pacific and Yukon Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Ecosystem Conservation
5421 Robertson Road
Delta BC V4K 3N2
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
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