IBA Îles Sainte-Marie
La Romaine, Québec
Site Summary
QC065 Latitude
50.303° N
59.684° W
0 - 15 m
86.23 km²
coniferous forest (temperate), scrub/shrub, native grassland, salt marshes/brackish marshes, freshwater lake, open sea, coastal cliffs/rocky shores (marine), rocky flats & barrens
Land Use:
Nature conservation and research
Potential or ongoing Threats:
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Congregatory Species, Colonial Waterbirds/Seabird Concentrations, Nationally Significant: Congregatory Species
Conservation status: Migratory Bird Sanctuary (federal), Zone d'Intervention Prioritaire - Quebec (Priority Intervention Zone)
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Site Description
The Îles Sainte-Marie are located on the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, near the town of La Romaine. The site boundaries correspond to the Îles Sainte-Marie Migratory Bird Sanctuary. The area includes thirteen islands covered mostly by tundra and stunted conifers, and a marine area extending one kilometre around the archipelago. Rocky outcrops and several freshwater ponds are also part of the varied landscape. The shrub layer is represented by Balsam Fir, Black Spruce, Labrador Tea and Bog Myrtle. There are many species of ground layer plants, including arctic-alpine plants and lichens. On Île de l'Ouest, there is a lighthouse and two small residences which are occupied during the fishing season (April to December). The surrounding marine waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence are important feeding areas for many pelagic mammals, such as Blue, Fin, and Humpback whales, and Common Porpoise.
With 14 breeding species, this site is one of the richest bird colonies in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. All of the typical marine species of the gulf have colonized these islands at one time or another, except for Northern Gannet and Caspian Tern. Common Murre and Razorbill breed at the site in globally significant numbers. The numbers of Common Murres have been increasing since the 1970s, peaking at 25,308 birds in 1993, which is over 2% of the North American Atlantic population. Razorbill numbers have also been increasing recently, with 3,342 birds recorded in 1993, representing 4.5% of the North American population. Both of these species have been expanding since the creation of the sanctuary, which is noteworthy considering their limited breeding range in southern Québec.

Common Eiders (ssp. dresseri) nest in almost nationally significant numbers, with 599 and 628 pairs in 1988 and 1982, respectively. Almost 1% of the Atlantic Double-crested Cormorant population also nests here: in 1993, 740 pairs were surveyed. Their close relative, the Great Cormorant, nests in small numbers but they are nonetheless almost significant on a national basis: an average of 47 pairs for the last 4 surveys (1982 to 1994) was recorded.

Thick-billed Murres have not nested here since 1962, when there were two pairs, and the 1993 surveys showed no nests of Leach's Storm-Petrel (compared to 28 and 52 pairs in 1988 and 1982, respectively), suggesting that they too no longer breed at the site.

Other species, such as Black Guillemot, Red-throated Loon, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and Black-legged Kittiwake, nest on the islands, but in smaller numbers.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Common Eider 1978 SU 13,500
Dovekie 2012 FA 8
Great Black-backed Gull 1978 SU 1,500
Herring Gull 1978 SU 3,500
Razorbill 1977 - 2015 SU 1,180 - 16,547
Note: species shown in bold indicate that the maximum number exceeds at least one of the IBA thresholds (sub-regional, regional or global). The site may still not qualify for that level of IBA if the maximum number reflects an exceptional or historical occurrence.
Conservation Issues
In the past, egg-collecting, poaching, and disturbance of the nesting birds has been strongly associated with declines in the bird colonies. Although less a problem to the birds now than in the past, they are still concerns to look out for in the future. This site is included within Priority Intervention Zone #19.

The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Birds Canada and Nature Canada.
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