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Portnova Islands (NS006)


Portnova Islands (NS006)

Louisbourg, Nova Scotia

Latitude 45.941°N
Longitude 59.790°W
Altitude 0 - 10m
Area 4.78km²

Site Description

Portnova Island is located about 13 km southeast of the town of Louisbourg, which is on the eastern coast of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The IBA also includes Chameau Rock, which is smaller and just a few kilometres north of Portnova, roughly midway to Cape Breton (the actual cape). This collection of islands, islets and reefs is rocky and treeless. They are ice-bound only in the spring when onshore winds blow ice flows in from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. These islands and islets experience typical damp and foggy Maritime weather with snow rarely lying on the ground for long. The tidal range is approximately 3 - 4 m.


The majority (> 70%) of the North American population of Great Cormorants is found in Nova Scotia. The most recent estimates suggest that there are a little over 6,000 birds in Canada, making the colony on Portnova Island (approximately 2.5% the North American population) highly significant. The results of earlier studies indicate that there were as many as 507 birds in 1971, but in 1992, there were only 310 on Portnova Island.

Although Great Cormorants often breed inland in Europe and Asia, they are strictly coastal breeders in North America. Cormorants prefer nest sites that are within commuting range of adequate food resources and safe from terrestrial predators. As a result, isolated islands, and steep rocky cliffs that are within commuting range of adequate food resources, are favoured as nesting sites.

Conservation Issues

The remoteness of Portnova Island, and the rough waters of the surrounding sea, make it very difficult for landing boats. As a result, the island receives only a few visitors and so the Great Cormorant colony is relatively undisturbed. However, the difficulties in accessing the island also prevent biologists from surveying the colony frequently.

IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status
Great Cormorant
Number Year Season