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The majority of photos used in this website were taken in June and July of 2007. We endeavour to replace and update photos as formations change, but cannot always do so. Note that the formations may have changed since these images were taken.

A Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Rochers-aux-Oiseaux are three rock islets located east of Île Brion at the northern edge of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine archipeligo. The rocks are about 30 kilometers off of Pointe de l'Est. The largest of these is the namesake rock, Rocher-aux-Oiseaux. Together the islets make up a migratory bird sanctuary administered by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, (Canadian Coast Guard). The total land mass of these rocks is just under 9 acres; including the surrounding waters the protected area covers about 1600 acres.

The rock tops are surrounded by cliffs that rise over 100 feet high. Some vegetation clings to the cliffs, and the tops are mostly covered with typical plants of the Magdalenes.

Approximately 12 species of birds nest on these rocks. Most notable are the Northern Gannet, the Razorbill and the Thick-billed Murre -- called "Guillemots" by the Madelinots . About a fourth of the Gulf of St. Lawrence gannet population live on Rochers-aux-Oiseaux. Also found on the islets are Leach's Storm-Petrel, the Herring Gull, the Great Black-backed Gull and the Atlantic Puffin among others.

Guillemots. Photo courtesy USGS.

There are no tourism facilities on the islets, and no provisions for private landings. The only way to see the sanctuary is to join a charter cruise such as an ornithological tour offered by Centre Nautique de l’Istorlet.

Other than the birds, the most interesting thing about Bird Rock is the decaying light station. Built with great difficulty in 1870, the lightkeepers assigned to Bird Rock invariably went insane, drifted to their deaths while seal hunting, contracted diseases from bird-fouled water supplies, or accidentally blew themselves up with a fog cannon. The Canadian government inexplicably assigned families to run the light station, which must've been a hardship beyond imagining. The practice of assigning families to keep the light ended in 1961, after a dozen people had perished in various accidents. Month long shifts were assigned until 1987, when the light was automated. Today the keeper's house and station are decaying and are currently an environmental clean up site.

In 1933, Maclean's magazine described Bird Rock this way:

It rises straight up on all sides...All around it are deep, jagged crevices made by the violence of the waves... It would be harder to find a lonelier, bleaker or more detestable spot...a repulsive blot on a majestic seascape.

Bird watchers, of course, find the rock to be a thrilling place to visit.