IBA Nicolet et Baie-du-Fèbvre
Nicolet, Québec
Site Summary
QC112 Latitude
46.193° N
72.692° W
5 - 10 m
49.15 km²
mixed woods (temperate), rivers/streams, freshwater marsh, arable & cultivated lands, unknown
Land Use:
Agriculture, Nature conservation and research, Fisheries/aquaculture, Hunting, Military, Tourism/recreation, Urban/industrial/transport
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Agricultural pollution/pesticides, Disturbance, Dykes/dam/barrages, Industrial pollution, Oil slicks
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Congregatory Species, Waterfowl Concentrations
Conservation status: Migratory Bird Sanctuary (federal), Wildlife Area, Zone Inondable Désignée - Quebec (Periodically Flooded Field), Zone d'Intervention Prioritaire - Quebec (Priority Intervention Zone)
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Site Description
The Nicolet/Baie-du-Febvre site spreads out along the St. Lawrence River south shore, near the city of Nicolet, Québec. The site's limits are those of the Nicolet Migratory Bird Sanctuary, which stretches from Île Moras in the east, to Longue Pointe in the west. The area is about 2.5 km wide and is mostly flooded in spring. The habitat varies from cultivated fields that, as the lakeshore is approached, are gradually replaced by wetlands and marshes. The three islands within the site are covered with wooded swamps and forest. To the west, there is a sewage lagoon surrounded by a cattail marsh. There are several species of fish at risk that use the area for spawning or feeding, including American Eel and Pickerel.
The site's great waterfowl diversity is due to the size of the flooded plain near cultivated fields. This is the most important spring stopover area for migrating Canada Geese and dabblers in the St. Lawrence system. Globally significant numbers of Snow Geese stop here, with a maximum in 1998 of 500,000 birds: this is most of the total Greater Snow Goose population. Canada Geese also reach globally significant numbers, with a peak of 100,000 being recorded in the spring of 1998. In the 1997 spring migration, 3,000 American Black Ducks were recorded, which represents 1% of the entire world population. Also, approximately 2.5% of the North American population of Black Scoters were seen in the fall of 1985, with the sighting of a flock of 5,000 birds.

Many other species of waterfowl have been recorded, with maximum counts of 8,000 dabbling ducks, 4,500 Northern Pintail, 15,000 scaup (both Lesser and Greater) and over 5,000 Common Goldeneye. Breeding ducks include Wood Duck, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, and Green-winged and Blue-winged Teal. This site is one of Québec's few breeding areas for Redhead, Ruddy Duck and Wilson's Phalarope. There are about 100 Wilson's Phalaropes in the province, of which 30 or so are found in the study site in the breeding season. The only non-waterfowl species present in significant numbers is Black Tern. During the breeding season of 1997, a total of 1,000 birds were surveyed: this is perhaps 10% of the poorly known Canadian population. Other birds nesting in marsh with this species are American Bittern, Sora and Common Moorhen.

Three nationally threatened species are regularly seen here in low numbers: Short-eared Owl (vulnerable), Least Bittern (vulnerable; breeds), and Peregrine Falcon (threatened).

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Black Scoter 1985 FA 5,000
Canada Goose 1991 - 2017 SP 50,000 - 100,000
Canada Goose 1991 WI 50,000
Least Bittern 2011 - 2018 SP 13 - 28
Least Bittern 2004 - 2017 SU 12 - 17
Rusty Blackbird 1993 - 2017 FA 25 - 150
Rusty Blackbird 2003 - 2017 SP 25 - 50
Snow Goose 1987 - 2020 SP 60,000 - 800,000
Snow Goose 1991 WI 200,000
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
Water quality is a major issue for the conservation of the habitats and biodiversity of the Lac Saint-Pierre?s IBAs. Surface water quality tests often fail for metals such as lead, chromium, aluminium, copper, and iron. Sediments in the bottom of Lac St-Pierre are frequently over the PCBs and lead safety limits set for dredging operations. Extensive areas of the IBA are used for "profitable" monoculture farming. This type of agricultural activity is not compatible with the flood plains habitat representative of the IBA. Fertilizers and other chemicals used in monoculture have a major impact on the water quality. There has also been some evidence of contamination from pentachlorophenol, hexachlorocenzene, and DDT, but few studies have been done on the potential effects of bio-accumulation on birds. National Defence ballistic tests scare off birds and disturb the habitat although the full extent of the effect of the testing is not well known. Because the St. Lawrence River is a heavily traveled seaway, there is also a constant risk of oil spills. The site is part of the Lac Saint-Pierre Biosphere Reserve, as designated by UNESCO. It is also recognized as a wetland of international importance under the RAMSAR Convention. This site is designated a Migratory Bird Sanctuary and is included in the Lac Saint-Pierre Priority Intervention Zone. Different parts of the site benefit from diverse conservation designations: Wildlife Habitat - Aquatic Birds Concentration Area, No Hunting Zone, and Periodically Flooded Area. There are also projects, implemented by government and non-government organizations, for integrated management of the land to ensure profitable coexistence for wildlife and farmers. Ducks Unlimited together with the North American Waterfowl Management Plan purchased some of the land here. Ducks Unlimited has created a marsh and three staging areas. In 2013, the Comité ZIP du lac Saint-Pierre worked on two streams in the IBA (cleaning, revegetation, wildlife development, and replacement of culverts).
Fish Habitat
The Lake Saint-Pierre is essentially a widening of the St. Lawrence River that creates one of the largest wetland in Québec. Its archipelago and shores are covered by vegetation, including marshes, semi-aquatic plants, underwater plants and treed swamps visited by more than sixty species of fish. During spring floods, the floodplain became an important site for spawning and a nursery grounds for many species of fish, such the yellow perch and northern pike. Several fishes found in the lake and its tributaries are listed as endangered. This is the case of the copper redhorse, endangered specie endemic to Québec; the lake sturgeon is also considered as threatened in Québec; and the American eel, a species of least concern. The largest known population of bridle shiner, another species whose status is least concern, exploits the Lake Saint-Pierre.

The availability in habitats has decreased primarily because of wetlands draining to extend the surface available for agriculture and to control of the water levels. The shoreline is eroded by waves created by commercial shipping and pleasure crafts, while dredging of the channel alters the water flow and the structure of habitats. The implementation of an agricultural industry in the watershed, the presence of many industries upstream of Lake Saint-Pierre, the density of population and the presence of resorts are responsible for the degradation of water quality. The population of walleye, a fish very sensitive to pollution, appears to be declining in the past few years. This is also the case for the yellow perch, historically the most important commercial species in the lake.

Major species present:
American eel
Bridle shiner
Brown bullhead
Copper redhorse
Lake sturgeon
Northern pike
Yellow perch

Habitats in this area are characterized by high sedimentation. The contributions of many tributaries, such as Richelieu and Saint-François rivers, are largely responsible for the suspended material. This sedimentation promotes the formation of marshes and wet meadows. We found there vast submerged meadows dominated by Wild celery and Eurasian water-milfoil. Emergent marshes are colonized by bulrushes, arrowhead and cattails. Several duck species forage in these areas, including the scaup that is fond of Wild celery.

Shoreline erosion, whether due to natural factors (wind, cycles of freezing and thawing, no ice to protect the banks in spring) or human (waves caused by passing ships), threatens riparian habitats. Variations in the water level in the river corridor affect the ecology of plant and animal species that live there. A significant and prolonged decrease of immersion banks could affect flora by promoting the growth of plant species over land, nature and even shrubby tree. In addition, the spread of invasive species exerts considerable pressure on the native flora of these habitats.

Major species present :
Wild celery
Eurasian water-milfoil
Narrow leaf cattail
Broad-leafed cattail
Sessilefruit arrowhead
Broad-leafed arrowhead
American bulrush
Great bulrush

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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