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Location Canada, Nova Scotia
Central coordinates 60o 39.57' West  45o 34.86' North
IBA criteria A4i
Area 1,200 ha
Altitude 0 - 10m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Bird Studies Canada/Nature Canada

Site description The Basque Islands, a group of four low rocky islets (all < 1 ha) lie 1.5 to 3 km east of the southern tip of Point Michaud, which is on the southern coast of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The Basque Islands are rocky with thin and poor soils. Point Michaud is a rocky and partly wooded headland (1.3 x 0.6 km). It is connected to Cape Breton Island by a gravel barrier-beach (to the west) and a sand beach (to the east) impounding several ponds, of which the lowest is flooded by spring tides. This region experiences mild, damp and foggy weather. The tidal range is roughly 3 - 4 m.

In addition to providing nesting habitat for cormorants, Basque Island is an important haul-out and pupping area for Gray Seals.

Key Biodiversity Most of North America's Great Cormorants are found in Nova Scotia (>70%). It is thought that there are about 6,200 Great Cormorants in Canada. A count on the Basque Islands in the early 1980s estimated the population to be a little higher than 300. However, as the 1992 count suggests, the colony has since increased slightly to 454 birds, representing approximately 3.6% of the North American population.

Point Michaud is one of only three or four locations where a variety of shorebirds occur regularly on Cape Breton Island. Semipalmated, Spotted and Least Sandpipers, Willets, Common Snipe, have all been recorded here. Over 100 pairs of Common Eiders breed in the vicinity of Michaud Point (mouth of the Grand River) where dozens of Canada Geese and other waterfowl can be observed during spring and fall migrations.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo breeding  1992  454 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Point Michaud Protected Beach 120 protected area contained by site 120  
Point Michaud Sites of Ecological Interest 3 protected area contained by site 3  
Point Michaud Beach Operational Parks and Reserves 62 protected area contained by site 62  
Point Michaud Beach Provincial Park 61 protected area contained by site 0  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Temperate coniferous forest  -
Sea Sea inlets  -
Coastline Sea cliffs and rocky shores  -

Land use

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

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Basque Islands and Michaud Point. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife