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Location Canada, Ontario
Central coordinates 76o 43.19' West  44o 8.46' North
IBA criteria A4i
Area 11,000 ha
Altitude 174 - 184m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Bird Studies Canada/Nature Canada

Site description Amherst Island lies at the northeast corner of Lake Ontario between Wolfe Island, 18 km to the east, and the peninsula of Prince Edward County to the west. It is about 4 km southwest of Kingston, Ontario, and 2 km south of Bath. The oval-shaped and fairly flat island, is comprised of farmland interspersed with woodlots and areas of marsh. A network of gravel roads criss-crosses the island. Secluded bays with sand and gravel beaches are located along the shoreline, and there is a sandbar off the northeast corner of the island. The largest town, Stella, lies along the northern shoreline, opposite Millhaven on the mainland. The offshore lacustrine areas and the beaches and sandbars are favoured by staging waterfowl and shorebirds.

Key Biodiversity Significant spring congregations of Brant and Dunlin have been recorded on Amherst Island. In 1995, a peak of 5,000 Brant, representing about 4% of the estimated Atlantic Brant population, was recorded in the offshore waters at this site. Between 1994 and 1997 the average number of Brant staging at this site during the spring migration was 3,550, representing just over 1% of the North American population. In 1997, 1,000 Dunlin were recorded although representing less than 1% of the poorly known central Canadian breeding population (ssp. hudsonia), this number is still noteworthy.

Amherst Island has gained international recognition for concentrations of wintering hawks and owls that are often present. Up to 10 species of owls have been recorded during a single winter. Some peak numbers include: 34 Great Gray Owls (February 1979), 27 Great Gray Owls (March 1996), 3 Boreal Owls (November 1996), 21 Snowy Owls (1980s), 50 Long-eared Owls (1979) and 86 Rough-legged Hawks (1985). In the 1970s and 1980s over 70 Short-eared Owls were seen in many winters. This nationally vulnerable species has also bred on Amherst Island in July 1973, 30 individuals were counted. Their current breeding status is not known.

Other notable bird sightings include: 3000 Double-crested Cormorants (September 1992); and 15,000 Tree Swallows (August 1993). A singing Henslows Sparrow (nationally endangered) was reported, but not confirmed during the breeding season in the 1980s at the western end of the island. In 1976, a Barn Owl (eastern population, nationally endangered) nest was found on Amherst Island that contained 5 eggs.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Brent Goose Branta bernicla passage  1997  4,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Temperate mixed woods  10%
Shrubland Scrub  10%
Wetlands (inland) Freshwater lakes and pools; Freshwater marshes/swamps  -
Artificial - terrestrial Arable land; Improved pasture land; Perennial crops, orchards, groves; Urban and industrial areas; Urban parks and gardens  70%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture major
nature conservation and research minor
rangeland/pastureland major
tourism/recreation major

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Amherst Island. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016

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