This bay is adjacent to the town of Baie-Comeau, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence lower esturary, Quebec. It includes the coast from Pointe Saint-Gilles to the marina, Baie des Écorces, Baie Comeau and part of Baie des Anglais. Access to the site is easily available on foot via the Parc des Pionniers. Most of the site is open water, with mud flats being uncovered at low tides. These mud flats vary from 500 m to 1,700 m wide depending on the tides. Baie Comeau, which is part of the larger Des Anglais Bay, is about 1 km wide at its opening and extends inland about half a kilometre. It is at most 110 m deep. The terrestrial portion of the site is near two large factories, and is part of the town of Baie-Comeau. The natural coastal zone was modified to allow the development of roads, a marina, and urban areas. There is little vegetation in the park area, and the original marshes were destroyed by the man-made developments. The bay is a major component of the downstream part of the Manicouagan River estuary, which has left 10 m of deltaic sand sediments at the bottom of the bay.
This site is part of the most important wintering area within eastern North America for the nationally Special Concern Barrow’s Goldeneye (eastern population). A large proportion of this population winter here and in other portions of ice-free water in the St. Lawrence River. For over a decade, rafts of over 400 individuals have been regularly observed in winter. A peak count of 1,020 birds were tallied in 1998, which represents just over about one-third of this eastern population. In three other years counts have also been high, with 900 birds in 1993 and 1,000 in 1989 and 1990. In other years, however, the counts can be less than 200, although these numbers are still continentally significant. The species is present from December to mid-April.
On the shore of the Comeau Bay there are breeding colonies of Ring-billed, Great Black-backed and Herring gulls. In 1997, all three gulls nested in their highest numbers, with 3,022, 26 and 355 pairs, respectively. Common Eiders nest in small numbers but can be quite numerous during fall migration. A total of 1,000 birds were recorded in the bay in 1985. Common Tern and Bonaparte’s Gull can be numerous during fall migration as well.
Three species of birds that are nationally at risk have been recorded during migration, although in low numbers and not annually: Harlequin Duck (endangered eastern population), Piping Plover (endangered) and Short-eared Owl (Special Concern). The Horned Grebe, which is provincially at risk, has also been recorded here, in the spring of 1989.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
The sediment quality of the bay is poor as it has elevated concentrations of PCBs, PAHs, phenols, mineral oils and greases; SPM and gaiacol have been detected in sediments and in biota. In the past, the aluminium production plant nearby was releasing PCBs into the larger Baie des Anglais and the Paper Company of Quebec and Ontario, Limited, produced effluents consisting of SPM and mineral oils and greases, which were released into the estuary via Comeau Brook.
The site is inside of the Priority Intervention Zones of Baie-Comeau (ZIP 18) and is subject to a wildlife management project (the bay of Comeau restoration) which includes development of habitat for birds other than Ring-billed Gulls. There has been a wildlife management project that included a Ring-billed Gull control program, which had the objective of chasing this species away from the Parc des Pionniers area.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Baie Comeau. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 15/08/2022.