Watshishou Migratory Bird Sanctuary is located approximately 40 km west of Natasquan, a town situated on the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Québec. It covers a 23.3 km long coastal area on the north shore of the Gulf St. Lawrence, and is located partially within Mingan National Park Reserve. About 90% of the sanctuary is marine, with the remainder consisting of rocky islets, islands, and outcrops along the shoreline. The distance that the sanctuary extends into the Gulf of St Lawrence varies depending upon the configuration of the shoreline; at the eastern end it extends as far as 4.5 km offshore, while at the western end it only extends 3 km offshore.
The Watshishou Migratory Bird Sanctuary supports large numbers of nesting Common Eiders. In 1993, the breeding population was estimated at 4,444 Common Eiders, which represents about 2.8% of the estimated Atlantic (ssp. dresseri) population. Using the same method as in 1993, the preliminary figure for 1998 is 4,744 individuals. This site was also surveyed in 1988, with a total of 2,074 eiders being recorded. Large flocks of wintering Common Eiders from the Labrador Coast and Ungava Bay populations also congregate at this site.
In addition to Common Eiders, the sanctuary also supports large numbers of nesting terns, gulls, and cormorants. The tern colonies, which contain both Arctic and Common Terns, have been monitored on a regular basis since the establishment of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary in 1925. Over the last 35 years, numbers have fluctuated considerably: 1500 birds in 1965, 350 birds in 1970, 680 birds in 1982, 890 birds in 1988, and 260 birds in 1993. Both Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls also nest on the island. Estimates of the Herring Gull population increased from 207 in 1988 to 964 in 1993, and estimates of the Great Black-backed Gull population remained relatively stable with 365 birds in 1988, and 338 birds in 1993. Populations of Double-crested Cormorants increased between 1988 and 1993 (282 to 714 birds), but in 2000 stabilized at 526 pairs. Other seabirds that have been recorded nesting on the island include Black Guillemot (15 birds in 1988, 13 birds in 1993) and Ring-billed Gull (18 birds in 1988). Harlequin Ducks (nationally endangered) are also regularly recorded at this site, and may breed in the adjacent rivers along the north shore.
During migration, several loon and duck species are also observed in the Watshishou Migratory Bird Sanctuary. These species include: Red-throated and Common Loons, American Black Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, and White-winged, Surf, and Black Scoters.
Although this Migratory Bird Sanctuary is well protected as a result of its location within a National Park, illegal poaching of both eggs and adult waterfowl is a constant threat. As with other coastal sites in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, there is the ever-present threat of oil spills. Such spills, either small-scale illegal discharges, or larger accidental spills, have the potential to kill large numbers of waterbirds and other marine life.IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status