Cap d'Espoir

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
The Cap d’ Espoir is situated at the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, on the Gulf of St Lawrence, 4 km east of the village of Ste-Thérèse-de-Gaspé, Québec. Cap d’Espoir is a rounded point composed of 15 m high cliffs which fall directly into sea. In some places gravel and rocky outcrops are uncovered at low tide. The top of the cape is dominated by a grassy slope, but there is also a small freshwater marsh, and some scrubby and wooded areas. Several houses are present along the road that leads to the lighthouse that is at the edge of the cliff. The marine waters are not deep in this area.

Key biodiversity
Marine birds in both the summer and winter constitute the main birds of interest at Cap d’Espoir. In winter, tens of thousands of Oldsqaw use the waters off the Cape; in 1992 a high of over 60,000 was estimated. This represents about 2% of the North American population of the species. Also present in winter is a significant portion of the eastern population of Barrow’s Goldeneye – in 1985, 57 birds or about 2% of this population were seen. A few of the nationally endangered Harlequin Duck (eastern population) are seen here in the same season.

In the summer, the cliffs hold seven species of cliff-nesting seabirds: Double-crested Cormorants, Great Cormorants (a new nester), Great Black-backed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Black Guillemots and Razorbills. Most numerous are the Black-legged Kittiwake. In 1989, the year of the most recent survey, 4492 pairs of kittiwake occupied the cliffs of Cap d’ Espoir, representing about 2% of the western Atlantic population. If a five-year average of the most recent counts is calculated (in this case including surveys as early as 1974), then the average of 2249 pairs represents just under 1% of the, generally increasing, western Atlantic population.

In spring migration, up to 5000 Common Murres have been seen, as have hundreds of scoters (all three species) and eiders which flock together off the point. The site is also frequented regularly by individual Peregrine Falcons and Short-eared Owls in the spring. Both species are listed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, as threatened and vulnerable respectively.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
If more houses are built on top of the Cap d’ Espoir, in addition to the one house currently present, the risk of disturbance to the colonies will increase, especially as the site is already visited by ecotourists in summer.

This site is part of the Baie des Chaleurs “Zone d’ Intervention Prioritaire” (Priority Intervention Area), and World Wildlife Fund and the UQCN (Quebec Union for the Conservation of Nature) recognised that this site had conservation interest by designating it a Natural Site Without Legal Status.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Cap d'Espoir. Downloaded from on 02/04/2023.