IBA Cape St. Mary's
Point Lance, Newfoundland
Site Summary
NF001 Latitude
46.813° N
54.209° W
0 - 130 m
329.39 km²
cliffs/rocky shores (inland), rocky flats & barrens
Land Use:
Nature conservation and research, Tourism/recreation
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Disturbance, Fisheries, Other increased mortality, Oil slicks
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Congregatory Species, Colonial Waterbirds/Seabird Concentrations, Continentally Significant: Congregatory Species, Nationally Significant: Threatened Species
Conservation status: Ecological Reserve (provincial), IBA Conservation Plan written/being written
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Site Description
Cape St. Marys is located on the southwestern tip of the Avalon Peninsula at the entrance to Placentia Bay. The cliffs along the mainland rise to approximately 130 m above sea level, with grassy barrens being present on top. An isolated sea stack (Bird Rock) is located offshore. Colonial seabirds nest along approximately 4 km of mainland cliff and on the isolated stack. The site extends east and southwards out of the ecological reserve to include : Bull Island Point, the small islets of Bull, Cow and Calf islets, St. Marys Keys (Cays), and Lance Point.
Cape St. Marys supports a large colony of breeding seabirds. In all, over 30,000 breeding pairs are present. Common Murres and Black-legged Kittiwakes are the most abundant with their populations being conservatively estimated in the late 1980s at approximately 10,000 pairs each. This represents approximately 2% of the eastern North America population of Common Murres and 4 to 5% of the western Atlantic breeding population of Black-legged Kittiwakes. A large population of Northern Gannets is also present with breeding populations being estimated in the late 1980s at 5,485 pairs. This represents approximately 2% of the global population and as much as 12% of the North American population. Other seabirds nesting at Cape St. Marys include Thick-billed Murres, Razorbills, Black Guillemots, Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls, Great Cormorants, and Double-crested Cormorants.

The Cape St. Marys area also supports large numbers of migrant seaducks (Oldsquaw, scoters, eiders), including large numbers of the eastern population of Harlequin Ducks (nationally endangered). About 30 to 40 birds are reported in some years. This may be greater than 1% of the eastern North America population of Harlequin Duck.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Black-headed Gull 1997 SP 4
Black-legged Kittiwake 2011 FA 40,000
Black-legged Kittiwake 1988 - 2015 SU 20,000 - 25,000
Dovekie 2006 - 2012 FA 10
Dovekie 1990 - 1997 WI 37 - 176
Harlequin Duck 2014 FA 106
Harlequin Duck 2005 - 2014 SP 96 - 110
Harlequin Duck 2014 - 2018 WI 120 - 145
Manx Shearwater 2001 SU 4
Northern Gannet 1999 - 2017 FA 1,500 - 40,000
Northern Gannet 2011 - 2017 SP 2,000 - 30,000
Northern Gannet 1988 - 2017 SU 1,200 - 30,000
Piping Plover 2002 FA 23
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 1983, the main breeding colony and some adjacent ocean at Cape St. Marys was established as a Provincial Ecological Reserve under the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Act. The reserve is a popular tourist attraction and draws many tens of thousands of visitors each summer. During the summer months, it is staffed by provincial naturalists.

Historically, gannet populations were severely reduced by direct human predation and more recently by the accumulation of toxic chemicals. Oil pollution, both chronic and catastrophic is also a concern, especially considering that the colony is located near a major shipping route from the Hibernia oilfields to refineries and oil storage facilities in Placenta Bay. There is also a high level of shipping traffic in the area, especially in winter.

A number of seabird studies and surveys have been conducted by researchers from Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Canadian Wildlife Service.

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