Baie de Gaspé

Country/territory: Canada

IBA Criteria met: A4i, A4iii (2008)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 27,000 ha

Protection status:

Birds Canada / Nature Canada

Site description
The Baie de Gaspé, at the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec, is about 35 km in length. The town of Gaspé is at the west end of the bay. Two sandspits cut across the bay including the 3 km long Sandy Beach Point. Included in the study site are the sandflats and cliffs near Douglastown, the cliffs between Bighead Cape, the open waters of the bay, the shores up to the high tide mark, and the estuaries and salt marshes where the St. Jean, York and Dartmouth rivers meet the bay. Vegetation is dominated by low marsh species and Eelgrass grows in grassy areas. Atlantic Salmon use the three rivers, while a few whale species-at-risk visit the bay at times. Florillon National Park lies on the northern border of this site.

Key biodiversity
The whole of the Baie de Gaspé provides excellent habitat year round for a variety of seaducks and other waterfowl. Aerial and ground surveys have been conducted here for the last 30 years along the shores of the bay. Due to the mostly ice-free water, Oldsquaw over-winter in high numbers, with peak concentrations occurring in December (16,800 maximum) and January (30,000). In spring, Brant are abundant - a maximum of 3,455 have been seen in May and 920 in April; the former number represents over 1% of the North American population. Barrow’s Goldeneye occur from October through May, sometimes in continentally significant numbers. A peak of 130 birds (4.3% of the Special Concern eastern North American population) has been recorded in the spring, and up to 25 have been seen in the fall. The nationally endangered Harlequin Duck is also present in significant numbers, with up to 14 (over 1% of the eastern North American population) being seen in spring migration. The last waterbird survey, conducted in the spring of 1998, recorded large numbers of scoters including 1,534 Surf, 669 Black, and 2,148 unidentified scoters. Since some of these unidentified scoters are doubtless Black Scoter, the site is probably continentally significant for northeastern Black Scoter.

Common Terns nest on the grassy area of the Sandy Beach sandspit. The colony consisted of about 1,000 birds or more between 1986 and 1990 (1 to 2% of the North American population), but since then the colony has declined considerably in size. In 1993 only 164 pairs were present, and throughout the remainder of the 1990s, about 100 or so pairs nested here.

There are several seabird colonies in the bay. Black Guillemots breed in scattered locations along the coast and total probably 700 pairs. The Great Blue Heron colony of 459 birds (1983) at Penouille comes close to meeting national congregatory criteria for wading birds. Black-crowned Night-Herons nest in two locations: Anse aux Sauvages (190 birds in 1984) and Jacques-Cartier Point. It is uncertain if the heron colonies are still as large as this, or even present. Four Double-crested Cormorant colonies are found at La Grande Anse, Jacques-Cartier Point, Haldimand Cape and Bois-Brûlé. The last survey in 1989 showed that a total of 626 pairs of cormorants were colonizing these sites. Also, Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls breed at Sandy Beach Point, near Douglastown, and other locations.

Short-eared Owl (nationally Special Concern) and Peregrine Falcon appear occasionally in spring migration. The regular presence of singing Yellow Rails (nationally Special Concern) in summer makes it very likely that the species breeds at the mouths of the Darmouth, York and St-Jean Rivers but confirmation is still needed; there could be up to 6 pairs present.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Baie de Gaspé. Downloaded from on 17/04/2021.