Witless Bay Islands

Country/territory: Canada

IBA Criteria met: A4i, A4ii, A4iii (2008)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 6,300 ha

Birds Canada / Nature Canada

Site description
The Witless Bay Islands are located 4 km off the east coast of the Avalon Peninsula, approximately 35 km south of St. John?s, Newfoundland. The site consists of four small islands: Green, Great, Gull, and Pee Pee. All are rocky, with low cliffs and steep, grassy slopes. The two larger islands, Great and Gull, also support coniferous forest communities.

Key biodiversity
The Witless Bay Islands support a globally significant colony of breeding seabirds. Great Island, in particular supports the largest colony of Atlantic Puffins in eastern North America. A breeding population of more than 216,000 breeding pairs (some on Gull island as well) was estimated in 1994. This represents approximately 3.6% of the global population and possibly as much as 57% of the eastern North America population.

Also present on the Witless Bay Islands are impressive numbers of Leach?s Storm-Petrels, Common Murres, Black-legged Kittiwakes and Herring Gulls. Nearly 780,000 pairs of Leach?s Storm Petrels have been recorded in the area (the majority breeding on Great and Gull Islands). This estimate represents approximately 9.5% of the global and 16% of the western Atlantic population. Approximately 77,500 pairs of Common Murres have also been reported (almost 2% of the Atlantic and over 13% of the eastern North American breeding population). Black-legged Kittiwakes also breed on the islands. Approximately 43,500 pairs have been estimated, which represents as much as 16 to 22% of the western Atlantic breeding population. Approximately 7,000 pairs of Herring Gulls (approximately 5% of the eastern North America population) have also been recorded. Other species of seabirds nesting on these islands include Great Black-backed Gulls, Black Guillemots, Thick-billed Murres, Razorbills, and Northern Fulmars. The marine areas surrounding the islands are also important for migrating sea ducks such as White-winged and Surf Scoter, Oldsquaws, and Common Eiders.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Witless Bay Islands. Downloaded from on 01/04/2023.