Bird Rock (Rocher-aux-Oiseaux), rises about thirty metres out of the Gulf of St. Lawrence 32 kilometres north of Grosse-Île, close to the Laurentian Channel. Even though the site is as inaccessible as a fortress, it has been protected since 1919 when it was declared a Migratory bird sanctuary. It is a real showplace for bird watching, and has many seabird colonies. Just behind it stands the smaller Rocher aux Margaulx (Gannet Rock), which was once an integral part of Bird Rock. On June 24, 1534 when Jacques Cartier passed by on his first voyage, he mentions three rocks (one has since disappeared). This is how he describes the site : And when we got underway the wind was from the north west, and we ran before it for fifteen leagues, then came to three islands, two of which were very small and steep as the ship's sides, so that it was impossible to climb them; between them there was a small monolith. The birds perching on these islands were as numerous as grass blades in a meadow; the largest island was covered with gannets, all white and larger than geese. On the other island there were also large numbers of these in one area, and other part was full of razorbills. Lower down there were many of the same razorbills and large Great Auks, just like those on the island mentioned above. We disembarked at the foot of the smallest and killed more than a thousand razorbills and Great Auks, and loaded them into our boats, as many as we wanted. We loaded up the boats in one hour and a half. We called these islands "iles de Margaulx" (Gannet Islands).
"Nowadays, a visit to the Rocher-aux-Oiseaux is a rare privilege to be granted only in the finest weather when tourist excursions are possible. The opportunity to sail a sun-warmed sea and admire this natural monument and its bird life provides one of life's precious and exceptional moments. But the fog soon ghosts in over this fantastic scene, veiling it once more in the mists of space and time. The curtain falls as a wind-blown cloud from the Gulf slides down to hide it from view. Even the rays of the setting sun cannot shed light on this mystery. The temperature drops abruptly. The Rock disappears, its memory only hazy dream."
- translation of an article by Yves Ouellet, Progrès, August 15, 2004 A56
Bird Rock (Le Rocher-aux-Oiseaux) lies 32 kilometres to the north-east of Grosse-Île and can only be reached by sea, which means that you need a windless day and a very calm sea to make the trip in a Zodiac. Several different operators run tours to Bird Rock to observe the seabird colonies, but it is impossible to land there. The length of the trip varies with weather conditions and the type of craft used. In general, it takes about 1 hour to get there with a Zodiac and about three hours in a fishing boat. Please ask at the Tourist Information Office for more information about the operators offering this excursion.
The second largest colony of gannets in North America is found here, with 7,500 nesting pairs. Gannets fly over the boat and dive into the sea for food. The closer you get to the Rock, the louder the racket gets, until the birds' cries become positively deafening. Even the tiniest cracks in the cliffs are occupied: Black legged Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla), Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus), Great Black-backed Gulls (Larus marinus), Razorbills (Alca torda), Common Murres (Uria aalge) and Thick-billed Murres (Uria lomvia) all share the same space.
Other pelagic birds can also be observed from the boat. We occasionally observe Storm Petrels (Oceanodroma leucorhoa), Wilson's Storm-petrels (Oceanites oceanicus), Northern Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) and several species of Shearwaters (Puffinus). Before it became extinct, the Great Auk was also a resident here.
Most people taking excursions of this kind leave from the wharf at Grosse-Île. To get there, you follow Route 199 as far as the village of Grosse-Île. Then you turn onto North Road and Shore Road to get to the port.
At the wharf, you are asked to park on the right side, close to the beach, and to be careful not to block access to the boat launching ramp.