Mohawk Island National Wildlife Area

Mohawk Island National Wildlife Area (NWA) is a small, 1.3-hectare (ha), sparsely vegetated limestone outcrop located in eastern Lake Erie. It lies approximately 20 kilometers (km) to the southwest of Port Colborne, Ontario, near the mouth of the Grand River.


The island consists mainly of open limestone barrens with an elevated gravel bar along the eastern shoreline; it is greatly affected by the strong wind events that frequently overwash the entire island. The sparse vegetation is limited to thin soils found in small depressions and rock crevices. Mohawk Island was once named Gull Island because of the large numbers of gulls and terns that rested on the Island.

Image of a lighthouse on Mohawk Island
Lighthouse on Mohawk Island NWA

The NWA was established in 1978 to protect colonial nesting waterbirds. It is an important nesting site for several species of waterbirds, primarily:

  • herring gulls
  • ring-billed gulls
  • common terns
  • double-crested cormorants

The natural features of the island provide excellent loafing habitat as well as refuge from predators. It offers easy access to food supply, and having minimal human disturbance for the young nestlings. Populations of the colonial waterbirds at Mohawk Island NWA have been monitored since the 1970s. The waterbirds are also part of long-term toxicity monitoring studies undertaken by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The island provides a stopover site for many species of migratory birds, especially waterfowl and shorebirds during spring and fall migration. Waterfowl often seen in the area include species such as:

  • mallard
  • Canada goose
  • common goldeneye
  • scaup

Shorebirds such as sandpipers are also often present. They pass through and use the island for loafing and as a stopover site when crossing Lake Erie along the Mississippi and Atlantic flyways.

Image of two Tern chicks
Image of Common tern chicks

Although the surrounding area supports a wealth of bird species, there are very few other types of animals present on the island. The sparse terrestrial vegetation offers little cover or food for vertebrate residents. Eastern Garter Snakes live among the foundations of the lighthouse on the island; this is the only other wildlife species reported as surviving on the island. To date, no species at risk have been recorded on Mohawk Island NWA.

More information on Mohawk Island NWA is provided in summary table the below.


Under the Canada Wildlife Act, NWAs are protected and managed in accordance with the Wildlife Area Regulations. The primary purpose of NWAs is to protect and conserve wildlife and their habitat. For this purpose and according to the legislation, all activities in a NWA that could interfere with the conservation of wildlife can be prohibited. Consequently, most NWAs are not accessible to the public and all activities are prohibited. However, some activities may be authorized through public notice or the issuance of permits as long as they are consistent with the management plan goals for the NWA. For more information, consult the NWAs Management and Activities section.

Access to the Mohawk Island NWA is seasonally restricted. Public access is prohibited from April 1 to August 31 every year to protect migratory birds during nesting. Some activities may be permitted in accordance with the conservation objectives of the NWA management plan. Public notices listing the authorized activities are posted at access points. Public access for day use is allowed only between September 1 in any year and ending on March 31 in the following year (outside the breeding season of other species) for activities such as:

  • bird watching
  • viewing the lighthouse
  • swimming
  • recreational fishing (no lead sinkers) in accordance with the Ontario fishing regulations, which require possession of a recreational fishing license issued by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources

Activities that are prohibited at all times are:

  • overnight camping
  • open fires
  • hunting

Mohawk Island NWA is a well-known local landmark and the waters around the island are popular for recreational boating and fishing in the summer months. Permits must be obtained from the Canadian Wildlife Service and are required to:

  • conduct research
  • surveys
  • monitoring

More information on access and permitting for Mohawk Island NWA can be obtained by contacting the Environment and Climate Change Canada regional office.

Map of the area

Map of Mohawk Island NWA
Map of Mohawk Island NWA
Long description

Map of the area near Rock Point, Ontario, which extends into Lake Erie. The boundaries of the Mohawk Island NWA are indicated. The NWA is locate to the south of Mohawk Bay and to the south-east of Rock point. The scale on the map is in kms. Permanent water, roads and highways are all indicated on the map. A small inset national map situates the NWA in Canada.

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

Summary table

Summary table
Category Information
Protected Area designation NWA
Province/Territory Ontario
Latitude/Longitude Latitude 42°50'05"N / Longitude -79°31'22"W
Size 1.3 ha (dependent on Lake Erie water levels)
Reason for creation of protected area Island habitat is a significant geographic feature in eastern Lake Erie and an important nesting and loafing site for significant numbers and several species of colonial fish-eating waterbirds. Loafing and stopover area for waterfowl and shorebirds during spring and fall migration along the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways.
Date created (Gazetted) 1978
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category Strict Nature Reserve: (Ia)
Additional designations North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) Bird Conservation Area 13; within Mixedwood Plains Ecozone, Lake Erie Lowland Ecoregion.
Keystone or flagship species

Colonial waterbirds including:

Listed Species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None recorded
Main habitat type Lake Erie Lowland
Non-native and invasive species
Additional links


Amphibians and Reptiles:

Main threats and challenges
  • Increasing boat traffic near the island leading to increased wave action.
  • unauthorized public access
  • disturbance to nesting birds
Management agency Environment and Climate Change Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)
Public access and usage

Public access is prohibited between April 1 and August 31 except by CWS permit for research, monitoring and infrastructure maintenance. Public access to NWA for day use allowed only between September 1 and March 31 for:

  • bird watching
  • viewing the lighthouse
  • swimming
  • recreational fishing (no lead sinkers) in accordance with the Ontario fishing regulations, which require possession of a recreational fishing license issued by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources

Overnight camping and open fires are prohibited at all times.

Note: If there is a discrepancy between the information presented on this web page and any notice posted at the NWA site, the notice prevails as it is the legal instrument authorizing the activity.

Contact us

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Ontario Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas Program
4905 Dufferin Street
Toronto ON
M3H 5T4

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

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