The archipelago, isolated in the center of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, supports a wide variety of natural environments. Red sandstone cliffs, long sandy dunes, lagoons and lush green hills offer a variety of environments that support a rich diversity of avifauna. Birdwatchers will be delighted with the multitude of species found in the wetlands. Don't forget to bring along a bird-watching book, a map of the Islands and a pair of binoculars!
Over 300 species of birds have been inventoried on the archipelago, making it a perfect paradise for birders.
These birds have different statuses: nesting, migratory, residents, visiting and wintering species. Seabirds, shorebirds and waterfowl represent the majority of species that make up the avian fauna of the archipelago. One can also observe raptors and passerines.
Several specialized businesses offer packages and excursions for birders.
- Louiselle Hardy, Fatima
- Anthony Lambert, freelance travel journalist, United Kingdom
The best sites for bird-watching are generally the areas around marshes and ponds in tidal zones and dunes or on the islands and islets just off shore, and in the forest.
Here is a list of a few good places for bird watching:
- La Martinique, between Dune de l'Ouest (Chemin Coulombe in L'Étang-du-Nord) and La Martinique Beach (along Route 199)
- East Point National Wildlife Reserve on Échouerie and Marais salés trails
- The Île aux Goélands in L'Étang-du-Nord (Chemin Delaney)
- The Île Paquet, aka Île aux Cochons, near the Havre-aux-Maisons' marina
- The Île Rouge close to the bridge linking Cap aux Meules and Havre aux Maisons Islands
- Bird Rock, Brion Island and Entry Island cliffs
- Parc des Buck's trails to observe woodland birds
Dune ridges provide yet another environment and shelter a whole different selection of bird species. The beaches on Les Îles de la Madeleine are the nesting grounds for one of the endangered species, the Piping Plover, whose world population is declining at an alarming rate. In Québec, this species nests only in Les Îles de la Madeleine. This bird can be observed from the end of April to the middle of August.
It is well worth your while to visit the fresh-water ponds scattered over the Islands. They serve as staging areas for Brant, Greater Yellowlegs, Black-bellied Plovers and Lesser Golden Plovers. Ben's Pond (l'Étang à Ben in L'Étang-du-Nord) is also a favoured nesting site for many different birds. Numerous species of ducks can be observed there, as well as rails, herons, Pied-billed Grebes and Belted Kingfishers.
The Magdalen forest is dominated by balsam fir and white spruce, and the ornithologist will observe many species typical of this environment. The Blackpoll Warbler and Fox Sparrow are present in great numbers, sharing the forest with other species such as the Boreal Owl, the Northern Saw-whet Owl, the Winter Wren and the Boreal Chickadee. All these can be observed along paths winding through the different areas, like Parc des Buck and Bouillée de Bois.
The autumn migration period for shorebirds begins in mid-July. You might be lucky enough to spot one of the rarer species among the shorebirds feeding on the inter-tidal flats - a Gull-billed Tern, a Rufous-necked Stint or a Curlew Sandpiper. The best places for this type of observation are the lagoon at Havre-aux-Basques, the Barachois at Fatima and Sandy Hook. Some of the species of shorebirds commonly observed feeding in these areas are: the Lesser Yellowlegs, the Greater Yellowlegs, the Willet, the Whimbrel, the Hudsonian Godwit, the Short-billed Dowitcher, the Least Sandpiper, the Semipalmated Sandpiper, the White-rumped Sandpiper, the Dunlin, the Sanderling, the Pectoral Sandpiper, the Red Knot. This diversity can, in itself, present something of a challenge for birdwatchers.
The Îles de la Madeleine Ornithology Club (Club d'ornithologie des Îles de la Madeleine) organizes between 25 and 30 bird-watching activities at different times of the year and at various sites over its territory. Contact hem at: (418) 986-5772