Basque Islands and Michaud Point

Country/territory: Canada

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

Area: 1,200 ha

Birds Canada / Nature Canada

Site description (baseline)
The Basque Islands, a group of four low rocky islets (all < 1 ha) lie 1.5 to 3 km east of the southern tip of Point Michaud, which is on the southern coast of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The Basque Islands are rocky with thin and poor soils. Point Michaud is a rocky and partly wooded headland (1.3 x 0.6 km). It is connected to Cape Breton Island by a gravel barrier-beach (to the west) and a sand beach (to the east) impounding several ponds, of which the lowest is flooded by spring tides. This region experiences mild, damp and foggy weather. The tidal range is roughly 3 - 4 m.

In addition to providing nesting habitat for cormorants, Basque Island is an important haul-out and pupping area for Gray Seals.

Key biodiversity
Most of North America's Great Cormorants are found in Nova Scotia (>70%). It is thought that there are about 6,200 Great Cormorants in Canada. A count on the Basque Islands in the early 1980s estimated the population to be a little higher than 300. However, as the 1992 count suggests, the colony has since increased slightly to 454 birds, representing approximately 3.6% of the North American population.

Point Michaud is one of only three or four locations where a variety of shorebirds occur regularly on Cape Breton Island. Semipalmated, Spotted and Least Sandpipers, Willets, Common Snipe, have all been recorded here. Over 100 pairs of Common Eiders breed in the vicinity of Michaud Point (mouth of the Grand River) where dozens of Canada Geese and other waterfowl can be observed during spring and fall migrations.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Basque Islands and Michaud Point. Downloaded from on 07/06/2023.