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Margaree Island (NS058)


Margaree Island (NS058)

Dunvegan, Nova Scotia

Latitude 46.360°N
Longitude 61.261°W
Altitude 0 - 50m
Area 8.13km²

Site Description

Located just 4 km off the western coast of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Margaree is a small island that is best described as a "whale back" of red sandstone. The island is also known as Sea Wolf Island. It is bordered on all sides by rocky cliffs, the tops of which are vegetated with stunted forest and open herbaceous cover.


The cliffs of Margaree Island are used as nest sites by Great Cormorants. This species North American range is restricted to the northeast, with greater than 70% of the birds breeding in Nova Scotia. In 1992, approximately 2.1% (266 birds) of the estimated North American population was breeding on the cliffs of Margaree Island. Although this colony is currently less than half the size of the 1987 colony (596 birds), it is greater than it was in the period between of 1965 to the late 1980s (average size was 160 birds). A handful of Razorbills also breed on Margaree 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

Cormorants have long had a bad reputation in North America. Due to persecution, in 1900 the Great Cormorant was thought to be extirpated from North America. But some remote colonies found refuge on Anticosti Island, Quebec and it is thought that in recent decades these birds increased in numbers and expanded their range southwards to re-colonize Maritime Canada. In many rural communities, cormorants are still often blamed for the declines in fish stocks. Additionally, many people dislike the white bird droppings that often cover the ground at breeding colonies; these often kill trees and much of the vegetation within the breeding colony. As a result of this negative image cormorant colonies are often raided, resulting in the destruction of many nests, and in some cases, the killing of dozens of birds.

Formerly known as Sea Wolf Island, Margaree Island is a National Wildlife Area (NWA) and is managed by the Canadian Wildlife Service who survey it every three years. The main purpose of NWAs is to conserve habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife, especially endangered species.

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