Watshishou migratory bird sanctuary

Photo of Watshishou Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Photo: Jean-François Rail © Environment and Climate Change Canada. Watshishou Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

The Watshishou Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located in Minganie, on the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, approximately 40 km west of Natashquan. It extends a little over 23 km along the coast and lies in part within the boundaries of the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve. It includes the Pontbriand, Jalobert and Pashashibou Bays, all islands, islets and emergent rocks in the sector, along with offshore waters within a few kilometres from the coast. In fact, the offshore waters make up nearly 90% of the sanctuary. Other than a few mosses and lichens, there are no particular plant communities in existence within the terrestrial portion of the site, which consists mainly of rocky outcrops.

This 10 673 hectare sanctuary was established in 1925 to protect an important nesting area for Common Eider and other seabird colonies.

Importance of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Watshishou MBS supports a large number of Common Eiders, the most populous species of the sanctuary. In 2010, its population was estimated at over 3000 breeding pairs. The population of this species has grown rapidly since the 1980s and there are more of these birds in the sanctuary today than when it was created.

The second most common species found in the MBS is the Double-crested Cormorant. The population of this species reached a record high of 944 pairs in 2010, a significant increase compared to the 1980s, when only 150 pairs were recorded.

The Herring Gull ranks third. During inventories carried out in 1993, 1998 and 2005, 830 to 965 of these birds were recorded. This species still had a population of nearly 600 in 2010. As for the Arctic and Common Terns, (other nesters in the sanctuary), their numbers vary greatly from year to year. The population reached numbers of 220 in 2010, whereas in 1998 only 38 individuals were observed. A record number of 1490 birds were recorded in 1965. Great Black-backed and Ring-billed Gulls also nest in the site.

Although smaller in numbers, Black Guillemots are among other species regularly seen in the MBS during breeding season. The endangered Harlequin Duck has regularly been sighted during breeding season, presumably nesting along the site's adjacent rivers, on the north shore. Canada's endangered Short-eared Owl is also believed to visit the sanctuary on occasion.

Some species of shorebirds (most commonly the Ruddy Turnstone) also use the site, especially during migration.

During migration season, the sanctuary is used by several species of loons and ducks, including Red-throated and Common Loons, American Black Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers, as well as White-winged, Surf and Black Scoters.In the winter, the sanctuary also supports a significant number of Common Eiders originating from the coasts of Labrador and Ungava Bay.

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.

The standard prohibitions under the Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations apply to Watshishou MBS: 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 specifically authorized by the Regulations. Possession of firearms or other hunting appliances is prohibited, and dogs and cats must not be allowed to run at large.

Access denial or restrictions imposed by the owners of land within the MBS may also apply.

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 protected areas managed by Environment and Climate Change Canada in Quebec, 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 Saint-Vallier Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Long description for the Map

Map showing the location of Watshishou Migratory Bird Sanctuary relative to Quebec and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The map shows the boundaries of the sanctuary, which roughly follow the shoreline and extend into the water. 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. Watshishou Migratory Bird Sanctuary 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 Trois-Saumons Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Category Information
Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Quebec
Latitude/longitude 50° 15' 00" N 62° 30' 00" W
Size in hectares (ha) 10,673 ha
Date created (Gazetted) 1925
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management category Ia - Strict Nature Reserve
Additional designations
Main habitat type Saline waters (90%) and rocky outcrops (10%)
Key bird species Common Eider
Other species Birds: Double-crested Cormorant, Herring Gull , Great Black-backed Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Black Guillemot, Common Loon, American Black Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, White-winged Scoter, Surf Scoter and Black Scoter, Semipalmated Sandpiper and Ruddy Turnstone
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Harlequin Duck, Short-eared owl
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Quebec Region

Contact Information

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Quebec Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas Unit
801-1550, avenue d'Estimauville
9250 - 49th Street
Québec, Quebec G1J 0C3
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
Email: ec.enviroinfo.ec@canada.ca
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