The Watchers

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description (baseline)
The Watchers are located on the Great Lakes in the southeastern corner of Georgian Bay, Lake Huron. They consist of two islands, North and South Watcher, which are located at the mouth of Severn Sound, about five to seven km northwest of Giants Tomb Island. South Watcher is a small, slightly elevated cobblestone shoal with very limited shrubby vegetation. North Watcher is comprised of a low-lying limestone outcrop with several tall trees, and a well-developed shrub understory. Cormorants have killed most of the limited vegetation on South Watcher Island.

Key biodiversity
The Watchers support a significant concentration of nesting Caspian Terns. In all, 785 pairs were recorded in 1989: 747 nests on South Watcher, and 38 nests on North Watcher. The colony was re-censused in 1998, with 571 nests being recorded on South Watcher, and none on North Watcher. The average of 678 nests represents about 2% of the North American Caspian Tern population. During both the 1989-1990 survey, and the 1998 survey, the Caspian Tern colony on South Watcher was the largest recorded in the Canadian portion of the Great Lakes. Caspian Terns were designated by COSEWIC as nationally vulnerable in the late 1970s, but since their populations have increased during 1980s and 1990s, leading to the delisting of the species by COSEWIC in 1999.In addition to Caspian Terns, nationally significant numbers of Ring-billed Gulls nest on the islands with almost 8,000 pairs being recorded in 1989. This represents just over 1% of the estimated national population. Other colonial waterbirds nesting on the islands include Double-crested Cormorants of the interior population, with an average of about 1428 pairs in the early to mid 1990s and Herring, Gulls with 116 pairs in 1989.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
The Watchers are owned by the Ontario Provincial government. Due to their small size, and inaccessible location it is unlikely that they will ever be seriously considered for development. However, disturbance of the colonies by recreational boaters and other curious visitors is a concern during the breeding season (a squatters cabin has been built on North Watcher). The of colonial waterbird population on the Watchers is monitored by the Canadian Wildlife Service along with other collaborators that include the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and field naturalist groups.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: The Watchers. Downloaded from on 29/05/2023.