Mistaken Point is located near the southeastern corner of the Avalon Peninsula in southern Newfoundland. It is seven km to the southwest of Cape Race, with the town of Long Beach being situated at the northeastern boundary of the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve. The 295 ha reserve was established in 1983, mainly to protect rare fossils. The IBA also includes coastline and offshore waters from Cape Race in the east to Drook, 20 km to the west.
The Cape Race Christmas Bird Count includes the Mistaken Point Area. For over twenty years, these counts have consistently recorded over 1% of the estimated North American Purple Sandpiper population (primarily in the Mistaken Point area). Some of the more recent winter counts include 223 Purple Sandpipers in 1994, 129 in 1996, and 150 in 1997. In April of 1983, 115 Purple Sandpipers were found in a short stretch of beach (approximately 4 km in length) between Long Beach and Mistaken Point, suggesting that relatively large numbers may use this site during migration as well.
In the past, particularly during winters of heavy ice, Common Eiders have been found at this site in large numbers. In 1987, a tight flock of 12,000 eiders was recorded at the leading edge of the pack ice, which happened to be adjacent to Long Beach. This represented about 4% of the estimated northeast Canada (ssp. borealis) population for this species. However, in recent years (1994 1998), the total number of eiders observed in this area has been between 184 and 688. It is still possible that Common Eiders are found in significant numbers at this site, since coverage of the areas that the ducks frequent is poor. This is especially true later in the winter (after the Christmas Bird Counts) as locations in northern Newfoundland begin to freeze, and larger numbers of eiders move south.
Of additional ornithological interest is the regular presence of Ruddy Turnstones (4 to 6 birds) that over-winter at this site. This species generally winters much farther south.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
As with other coastal sites, the Mistaken Point area is susceptible to oil spills. Due to the sites location at the southeastern tip of Newfoundland this is of especial concern as shipping traffic is relatively heavy with freighters and other ships entering the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Not only are catastrophic spills of concern: chronic spills as result of on-going ship maintenance can also have severe environmental impacts.