Gannet Islands

Country/territory: Canada

IBA Criteria met: A4ii, A4iii (2008)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 24,000 ha

Birds Canada / Nature Canada

Site description
The Gannet Islands are a remote group of seven islands at the mouth of Sandwich Bay. The nearest point on the mainland is Cape North, approximately 17 km away. Six of the islands, the Gannet Clusters, are located in close proximity to one another. The seventh island, Outer Gannet, is located approximately seven km to the north. All of the islands are low lying and rocky. The vegetation is dominated by dwarf heath scrub with sedges, and grasses characteristic of the tundra may also be present.

Key biodiversity
The site hosts significant breeding populations of Razorbills, Atlantic Puffins and Common Murres. The largest Razorbill colony in eastern North America occurs here, with approximately 5,400 pairs being present (over 14% of the eastern North America population). Large populations of Atlantic Puffins (about 50,000 pairs - approximately 13% of the eastern North America population) and Common Murre (about 63,000 pairs - approximately 11% of the eastern North America population) are also present. There is some evidence that the populations of both Common and Thick-billed Murres have increased at the Gannet Islands. In the early 1950s, 11,650 pairs of Common Murres and 315 pairs of Thick-billed Murres were recorded. Other seabird species breeding on the islands include Thick-billed Murre, Black Guillemot, Northern Fulmar, Black-legged Kittiwake, Great Black-backed Gull and Leach?s Storm-Petrel. Northern Gannets, ironically, do not breed on Gannet Island; the islands were named after a British Admiralty survey ship - HMA Gannet.

The Gannet Islands support breeding populations of all the auk species occurring in eastern Canada, including the most southerly colony of a substantial number of Thick-billed Murres (964 pairs on the Gannet Clusters, and 441 pairs on Outer Gannet Island). Large flocks of molting Harlequin Ducks (70 to 150) from the eastern population (nationally endangered) are also present around the islands in summer.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Gannet Islands. Downloaded from on 26/03/2023.