Machias Seal Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Importance of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary | Access and Activities | Map of the Area | Summary Table | Related Links | Contact Information

Machias Seal Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Atlantic Puffins
Photo: © C. Buhariwalla. Machias Seal Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Atlantic Puffins.

Machias Seal Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is a tiny treeless oceanic island rising barely 9 m above sea level. It is located 20 km off the southwestern tip of Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy. The small, teardrop-shaped island is only about 550 m long by 250 m wide. It once posed a serious hazard to ships until a permanent lighthouse was built in 1832. The lighthouse is still in operation today. A lush green meadow covers the higher parts of the island and provides a striking contrast to the rocky, wave-battered shores.

Importance of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary

This small island is one of the most important seabird nesting colonies in the Gulf of Maine. At one time the most numerous birds on the island were Arctic and Common Terns. However, the number of birds nesting here has declined due to reduced availability of food around the island, among other factors.

Machias Seal Island is also the home to one of the most southerly colonies of the Atlantic Puffin (well over 1000 pairs), whose breeding range extends north all the way to Greenland. The other member of the Auk family that nests on Machias Seal Island is the Razorbill. It is larger than the Atlantic Puffin, with immaculate black and white plumage and a distinctive white ring around the bill. Approximately 100 pairs nest here. Although rarely seen by visitors because it forages at sea or hides in its nesting burrows, the Leach's Storm Petrel also breeds here.

In addition to the seabirds, a few land birds--including the Savannah Sparrow, Spotted Sandpiper, Tree Swallow and Barn Swallow--nest on Machias Seal Island. The list of migrants and incidental visitors is extremely impressive (to date well over 100), and includes several uncommon and rare species. Annually, over 1200 naturalists and photographers visit the sanctuary.

Access and Activities

MBSs are established for the protection and conservation of migratory birds. Activities that could harm migratory birds, their nests or their eggs are prohibited.

MBSs can be and have been established on private, provincial, territorial and federally owned lands. Access to each MBS varies by site and is at the discretion of the landowner and land manager.

Where MBSs are located on federal land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the management and protection of migratory birds, nests, eggs and habitat. Where MBSs are located on provincial land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests, while the chief game officer of the province is responsible for the management of habitat. Where MBSs are located on private or municipal land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests. Habitat management is the responsibility of the landowner.

Machias Seal Island is a working lighthouse station administered by the Canadian Coast Guard of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Public access to the MBS is not restricted except during the nesting season (June and July), when an entry permit is required. The standard prohibitions under the Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations apply to this site: hunting migratory birds is prohibited, and no person shall disturb, destroy or take the nest of a migratory bird or have in his or her possession a live migratory bird, or a carcass, skin, nest or egg of a migratory bird, except under the authority of a permit issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada or unless authorized by the Regulations. Possession of firearms or other hunting appliances is prohibited. Dogs and cats must not be allowed to run at large.

For more information on entry, activities and permits in MBSs, please visit the Management and Activities section of the Migratory Bird Sanctuaries website. For more information on Environment and Climate Change Canada’s protected areas, please contact the regional office.

Map of the Area

Long description of the map

Map showing the location of the Machias Seal Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary in relation to Machias Seal Island and the Bay of Fundy. The map shows the boundaries of the sanctuary, which covers Machias Seal Island as well as a portion of the surrounding waters in the Bay of Fundy. The scale of the map is in tenths of a kilometer.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Machias Seal Island MBS can also be viewed using Google Maps. Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information and does not represent the official map or site name.

Summary Table

Summary table for Machias Seal Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary
CategoryInformation
Protected Area designationMigratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territoryNew Brunswick
Latitude/longitude44°30' N, 67°06' W
Size in hectares (ha)1046 ha
Date created (Gazetted)1944
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management categoryIII - Natural Monument or Feature
Additional designations
Main habitat typeDeveloped land (4%), vegetated area (50%), exposed rocks (46%)
Key bird speciesArctic Tern, Common Tern, Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, Leach's Storm Petrel, Savannah Sparrow, Spotted Sandpiper, Tree Swallow and Barn Swallow
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA)None
Management agencyCanadian Wildlife Service, Atlantic Region
LandownerFisheries and Oceans Canada

Related Links

Video of Atlantic puffins at Machias Seal Island

Video of Atlantic puffins at Machias Seal Island MBS

Contact Information

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Atlantic Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas Program
17 Waterfowl Lane
Sackville NB E4L 1G6
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
Email: ec.enviroinfo.ec@canada.ca
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