Cape St. Francis is located at the northern tip of the most easterly peninsula of insular Newfoundland. Pouch Cove is located 5 km south of the cape and the city of St. John's, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, is located 25km farther south. The cape is a rocky promontory that juts northward into the North Atlantic Ocean. Conception Bay opens to the west and there are many offshore rocks within 2 km of the coast. The waters that surround these small rocks and shoals are favoured by wintering eiders and Purple Sandpipers forage along the shoreline. During most winters, there is sea ice at Cape St. Francis for at least a month and in some years it may persist for three months or more.
Prior to the northward migration, large flocks of Common Eiders, as large as 5,000 birds (about 1.7% of the northern (borealis) population) congregate in the waters off Cape St. Francis. This cape has long been known by hunters and birdwatchers as a good location to consistently find eiders in winter. However, during the winters of 1996 to 1999, the numbers of eiders were considerably lower, as they were in most locations in Newfoundland during that time frame.
In addition to eiders, Purple Sandpipers occur along the Cape St. Francis shoreline. Since these birds forage along the rocks adjacent to the crashing surf, it is difficult to obtain estimates even with powerful spotting scopes.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Unlike many of the other eider wintering grounds in Newfoundland, the Cape St. Francis area is relatively inaccessible to hunters. They must either wait on the point for the birds to fly by or hunt from boat, but the waters around the cape are often too rough, and thus there is little chance of over-harvesting or poaching.
The shipping traffic into St. John's harbour is relatively heavy throughout the year. This increases the threat of oil spills.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Cape St. Francis. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 09/08/2022.