Grates Point is located in eastern Newfoundland, about 60km northwest of St. John's, at the northern tip of the Bay de Verde Peninsula. This peninsula separates Trinity Bay to the west, from Conception Bay to the east. The village of Grates Cove is just to the south of Grates Point. The coastline is rugged with 100m high rocky headlands; no islands are located off this section of coast, with it being completely exposed to the open North Atlantic ocean. The Baccalieu Island IBA is located about 5 10 km to the east of the point. Ice conditions vary from year to year, but the Labrador Current and northerly winds usually carry pack ice as far south as Grates Point in late winter (February April).
The Canadian Wildlife Service conducted a survey of wintering Common Eiders on the east coast of Newfoundland in late winter, 1995. The survey revealed 12,000 Common Eiders in the Grates Point to Baccalieu Island area. This represents as much as 4.2% of the estimated Common Eider population for the borealis ssp.. However, 1995 was a heavy ice year and numbers of eiders may have been higher than during most winters, when typically, an average of at least 2,800 eiders is observed at this site. Although most of the wintering eiders are from the northern population it is likely that some of the birds among the congregations are from the resident dresseri ssp.
Other seabirds that frequent this site throughout the year include Dovekie, Thick-billed Murre, and Black-legged Kittiwake. Northern Gannet and Atlantic Puffin are found in this area between April and October.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
At some wintering areas, eiders have been hunted in excess of the legal limit. Grates Point is relatively accessible, and the wintering concentrations of eiders could be poached in a similar manner. The Baccalieu Island Ecological Reserve, however, includes a one km marine boundary which provides a refuge from hunting pressures.
Newfoundland lies along the route of a major shipping route that links Europe to North America. Chronic oil pollution from ships illegally cleaning tanks at sea is a widespread problem throughout the offshore and coastal waters. For the most part, offshore species such as Thick-billed Murre and Dovekie are effected by this activity. However, it is likely that small numbers of eiders are affected as well.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Grates Point. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 18/08/2022.