Fisheries and Land Resources

Baccalieu Island Ecological Reserve

Black Legged Kittiwakes

Baccalieu Island is the largest protected seabird island in Newfoundland and Labrador. During the summer, it has more types of breeding seabirds than any other seabird colony in the province, and its 3,360,000-plus pairs of Leach's storm petrels make it the largest Leach's storm petrel colony in the world.

Located just off the northwestern tip of the Avalon Peninsula, near Bay de Verde, the reserve takes in the 5 km2 of the island itself and an extra kilometre of ocean around its coast, bringing the reserve size to 23 km2.

During the breeding season (April 1 to October 30), access to the seabird nesting areas is restricted to scientific researchers and people with valid access permits. Other parts of the island may be visited at any time without a permit. Note that boat landings at Ned Walsh's Cove and London Cove can be dangerous and should only be attempted by experienced boaters. The island is visible from shore, across Baccalieu Tickle, and from Red Head Cove. At the Bay de Verde Heritage House Museum, interpretive exhibits explain the natural and cultural history of Baccalieu Island and the region.

This island may host more breeding Leach's storm petrels than anywhere else in the world, but it is very hard to catch sight of these birds. During the day and when they are feeding, storm petrels are at sea. Only at night do Baccalieu's grassy slopes and inland forest teem with life, when millions of flying and singing petrels return to their underground nesting burrows using the protective cover of darkness.

Leach's Storm Petral

In addition to the millions of petrels, the Baccalieu Island Ecological Reserve is the second-largest puffin colony (after the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve) in North America. More than 75,000 pairs nest on Baccalieu's grassy slopes and surrounding rock scree. Black-legged kittiwakes, common and thick-billed murres, razorbills, and Northern fulmars are also present.

Written records of Baccalieu Island date back to the earliest days of European exploration of North America. The region played an important role in the fishery for more than four centuries.

This important seabird breeding site is located in the Eastern Hyper-oceanic Barrens Ecoregion PDF (862 KB). It was given provisional ecological reserve status in 1991, and became a designated Ecological Reserve in 1995.

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