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New England Seabirds

 Wilson's Storm-petrel  Dave Jones

Breeding Colonies

Machias Seal Island

Bonaventure Island

Cape St. Mary

Witless Bay

Bird Island



Breeding Colonies

Bonaventure Island


From Percé

on the Gaspé  Peninsula

Quebec Province Canada


Comments to webmaster

Gaspé Rock Canada  EB Tarry

Piercé  Sea Arch  EB Tarry

At the eastern tip of the Gaspé Peninsula is the small village of Percé. The village is named for its proximity to a large rock formation at the far end of which is a sea arch. Thus Percé or pierced rock.

 Bonaventure Island
Two miles from shore is the island of Bonaventure. The island is home to the second largest Northern Gannet breeding colony in the world. and since 1972 a provincial park .

The spectacular 250 foot nesting cliffs are best seen by taking a boat trip around the island. The cliffs are white with birds: Gannets, Kittiwakes, Gulls, Murres, Guillemots. Thousands and thousands of birds on the cliffs, flying in and out and on the water below the cliffs. After circling the island by boat, you land on the island and can walk across the island to see the Gannet colony.  The walk across the island to the Gannet colony is good for warblers and other land birds.

You havn't really seen a Gannet until you see the activity at a breeding colony. The scenery is magnificent and there are other activities such as fishing, whale watching and dining on French cuisine. This is a must see place for birders and one that can be enjoyed by non-birdering spouses and children. Certainly worth the long trip around the Gaspé although the Peninsula has some other spots well worth visiting for scenery and general birding

When To Visit
June - July are optimal, but the Gannets are around in August and even September.

Second Largest Gannet Colony in the World and Growing

Gannet colony on Bonaventure Islane EB Tarry

Each little white dot is a Gannet. Breeding birds tend to be in the center of the colony and immature birds hang out on the periphery. While the birds nest very closely together, they do defend the territory around the nest.

Gannet Colony on  Bonaventure Island EB Tarry

Visitors who walk across the island can get a close view of colony. Stand here for a long time and watch the behavior of the Gannets.

Gannet Chick in colony Bonaventure Island

A fluffy white chick with a black face and bill awaits feeding. One parent stays with the chick while the other is out searching for food

Watching the Gannet colony.

The picture on the left was taken from behind the fence. The webmaster made this trip in 1982 with her daughter Anne who was in high school at the time. The picture above shows Anne watching the Gannet colony from behind the fence. Shows how close you can get to the birds.

Update Visit 2008 by Sue McGrath Communicated by Email to Webmaster
Susan Sellers and I spent several days with Northern Gannets, they dressed in crisp, white wings trimmed in black and heads tinged with a yellow wash. They were diving at every vantage point on the Gaspe’ Peninsula in Quebec.

Northern Gannets are swift and powerful fliers. Their legs are short with large, webbed feet that make them awkward in landings and take-offs. We witnessed that less than graceful activity at the breeding colony on Bonaventure Island. We watched them glide for hours just above the breaking waves, rarely moving their wings. Their long wings have an angular look. The wing tips, head and tail make four points in flight. They are fascinating to observe because they hover momentarily prior to their vertical dives. These birds can sustain the force of the impact of their spectacular dives due to special adaptations and are designed to be superb divers. Their thick skull acts as a hard-hat, and it's the reinforced skull that cushions the impact. Air sacs [bubble-wrap like] are strategically located in the neck and shoulder areas; they are inflated during the plunge-dive. Lacking external nares limits the risk of intake of water during the dive. They also close their pale, blue-graybill very tightly so water doesn't enter their mouth. This streamlined, torpedo-like body is nearly resistance free.

From a good height, these birds glided above the swiftly moving water, and with their binocular vision, they spied the scaled and slippery prey in the turbulent water. Once they had visually located their next meal, they began the descent. With wings tucked and back extended, they entered the water. The head-first dives at amazing speed enthralled us. As they plunged into the water, these aerialists drew us in. They were under and then resurfaced. We were students of this vertical diver as we watched intently. The magnificent and dramatic sight of these accomplished fliers with hollow bones and air sacs continues to intrigue us. The wedge-shaped head and the bill which is stout at the base and narrows to the tip are almost arrow-like. Their wings and feet aid in pursuit of herring, mackerel, capelin and squid underwater.

While on Bonaventure Island, we watched these birds on their breeding ground. Their feet are totipalmate with all four toes united by webbing. We studied the pale, green lines along their legs and each of their toes. Both sexes look alike, lacking sexual dimorphism. Males and females share incubation of a lone, light, bluish white, kelp-stained egg with their feet since they lack brood patches. Year after year, they occupy the same nest as it becomes a heap of feathers, kelp, fish bones and droppings.
We spent hours with the birds, lured by their ice-blue eyes, their dives and their crisp plumage. We witnessed billing, copulation, allopreening, nest construction and nest material delivery.

Bonaventure Island ~ Northern Gannet Colony Data
We spent some time with some Canadian Wildlife Bird Surveyors and gleaned much from them. They were conducting surveys off the Perce’ area and shared the following with us:

1914 8,000
1938 14,000
1961 26,500
1966 42,000
1995 60,000
2004 106,000

These gentlemen told us that the next survey of Northern Gannets on Bonaventure Island is scheduled for 2009 at which point they expect it to be the largest and most easily accessible Northern Gannet colony in the world.
We took an early morning boat but there there are several trips daily. We circumnavigated the Bonaventure Island viewing the birds on the steep cliffs, landed and hiked to the colony. The hike is about 40-45 minutes on a well maintained trail. There are observation blinds at end of the trail and a fenced observation area which affords close observation of the Northern Gannet nesting site. We also had wonderful looks at Perce’ Rock.
We took the 97 passenger Captain Duval II operated by Les Bateliers de Perce’,
Inc. Phone: 1-877-782-2974
Tickets range from $17 - $20 Candian
We stayed at Le Pic de L’Aurore which has chalets, a small motel and one house they rent. We rented a a small chalet with a kitchenette, fireplace and was very affordable, clean and comfortable. We had wonderful views of whales, dolphins, Perce’ Rock and Bonaventure Island.
Le Pic de L’Aurore: phone: 1-866-882-2151

Sue McGrath
Observe ~ Appreciate ~ Identify
Newburyport Birders
Newburyport, MA 01950

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