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Location Canada, Labrador
Central coordinates 56o 31.75' West  53o 58.26' North
IBA criteria A4ii, A4iii
Area 24,000 ha
Altitude 0 - 50m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Bird Studies Canada/Nature Canada

Site description The Gannet Islands are a remote group of seven islands at the mouth of Sandwich Bay. The nearest point on the mainland is Cape North, approximately 17 km away. Six of the islands, the Gannet Clusters, are located in close proximity to one another. The seventh island, Outer Gannet, is located approximately seven km to the north. All of the islands are low lying and rocky. The vegetation is dominated by dwarf heath scrub with sedges, and grasses characteristic of the tundra may also be present.

Key Biodiversity The site hosts significant breeding populations of Razorbills, Atlantic Puffins and Common Murres. The largest Razorbill colony in eastern North America occurs here, with approximately 5,400 pairs being present (over 14% of the eastern North America population). Large populations of Atlantic Puffins (about 50,000 pairs - approximately 13% of the eastern North America population) and Common Murre (about 63,000 pairs - approximately 11% of the eastern North America population) are also present. There is some evidence that the populations of both Common and Thick-billed Murres have increased at the Gannet Islands. In the early 1950s, 11,650 pairs of Common Murres and 315 pairs of Thick-billed Murres were recorded. Other seabird species breeding on the islands include Thick-billed Murre, Black Guillemot, Northern Fulmar, Black-legged Kittiwake, Great Black-backed Gull and Leach?s Storm-Petrel. Northern Gannets, ironically, do not breed on Gannet Island; the islands were named after a British Admiralty survey ship - HMA Gannet.

The Gannet Islands support breeding populations of all the auk species occurring in eastern Canada, including the most southerly colony of a substantial number of Thick-billed Murres (964 pairs on the Gannet Clusters, and 441 pairs on Outer Gannet Island). Large flocks of molting Harlequin Ducks (70 to 150) from the eastern population (nationally endangered) are also present around the islands in summer.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Common Murre Uria aalge breeding  1983  63,087 breeding pairs  A4ii  Least Concern 
Razorbill Alca torda breeding  1983  5,400 breeding pairs  A4ii  Near Threatened 
Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica breeding  1983  49,705 breeding pairs  A4ii  Vulnerable 
A4iii Species group - seabirds breeding  1975-1983  50,000-99,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Gannet Islands Ecological Reserve 22,700 protected area contained by site 19,000  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Shrubland Scrub  -
Grassland Tundra  -
Coastline Sea cliffs and rocky shores  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research major

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Gannet Islands. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016

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