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Location Canada, Newfoundland
Central coordinates 53o 28.15' West  49o 16.26' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii
Area 13,000 ha
Altitude 0 - 20m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Bird Studies Canada/Nature Canada

Site description There are two Cape Freels on insular Newfoundland: one on the southern Avalon Peninsula, and the other, which is the subject of this site summary, is at the northwest head of Bonavista Bay. Cape Freels is not an obvious cape, but a low corner of land where the coastline changes direction. Along this stretch of coastline, several small islands and numerous shoals extend 10 to 15 km to the south of the Cape, and 10 to 15 km out into the ocean. Within this area, the larger islands are the Turrs, the Cobblers, the Pinchards, Pouch, Flowers, Stevensons Islets, and the Cabot Islands. All of the islands are less than 10 ha in size.

Ice conditions can be heavy in the Cape Freels area from January to April. During such times, eiders may be concentrated in small areas of open water, with these lakes changing in size and location depending on winds and tides. The prevailing westerly winds in winter suggest that the islands and shoals along the north south shoreline are more likely to have open water leads during periods of heavy ice.

Key Biodiversity During aerial surveys completed by the Canadian Wildlife Service in 1995, the Cape Freels to Wadham Island coastline supported one of the largest concentrations of wintering eiders in Newfoundland. (Wadham Island is located about 40 km to the northwest.) A total of 25,000 birds was recorded, which may represent as much as 9% of the estimated northern (ssp. borealis) population. It is suspected that the eiders move about and share feeding areas within this entire area, with these movements often being controlled by local ice conditions.

In addition to the concentrations of Common Eiders around these islands during winter, concentrations of nesting seabirds are also present on some of the islands during the nesting season. Cabot Island, in particular, supports a small colony of nesting seabirds. In 1985, the species recorded were Common Murre (2,600 pairs), Razorbills (25 pairs), Atlantic Puffins (20 pairs), and about 250 pairs of Common / Arctic Terns.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Common Eider Somateria mollissima winter  1995  25,000 individuals  unknown  A4i  Near Threatened 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  20,000-49,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Sea Open sea  -
Coastline Sea cliffs and rocky shores  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
fisheries/aquaculture minor
hunting minor

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Cape Freels Coastline and Cabot Island. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016

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