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Country Island Complex (NS028)


Country Island Complex (NS028)

Country Harbour/Tor Bay, Nova Scotia

Latitude 45.158°N
Longitude 61.452°W
Altitude 0 - 10m
Area 16.35km²

Site Description

The Country Island Complex is located off the southeast (Atlantic Ocean) coast of Nova Scotia, in the vicinity of Country Harbour and Tor Bay. In recent years, Country Island has supported the largest number of nesting Roseate Terns. It is largely treeless and approximately 800m by 500m in diameter. Goose Island, which is larger (4 km²) and forested, is located about 2 km to the northwest. Several buildings are present on the island (not permanently inhabited) along with an automated lighthouse. Additional sites within the complex where Roseate Terns have nested include an unnamed island off Charlos Cove, a peninsula at Fisherman's Harbour, Inner West Bird Island, and three sites in Tor Bay (Cooks, Dorts, and Hog Islands).


Roseate Terns (identified as nationally Threatened by COSEWIC) have been recorded nesting on Country Island since the late 1980s. In 1987, 1995, and 1996 an average of 30 - 35 pairs of Roseate Terns were recorded. In 1996, 45 pairs (about 37.5% of the estimated national population) were estimated among approximately 330 Arctic Terns and 130 Common Terns. During that year, however, exceptionally high predation by gulls, crows and ravens resulted in almost complete breeding failure. In 1997, only one pair of Roseate Terns attempted to nest on the island and the number of Common and Arctic Terns decreased by half. In 1998 only three pairs of Roseate Terns nested on the island, although one pair abandoned their nest early in incubation. The number of Arctic and Common Terns nesting in 1998 increased to near 1996 levels.

In 1997, surveys of adjacent islands (within 100 km) located a total of 17 pairs of Roseate Terns at three sites: an unamed island off Charlos Cove, a peninsula at Fisherman's Harbour and Inner West Bird Island. In 1998, Roseate terns were located at the Fisherman's Harbour colony and on Dorts Island in Tor Bay, but were absent from Charlos Cove, and Inner West Bird Island. During surveys completed in 1987, Roseate Terns were suspected of nesting at one of the Bird Islands, and at two sites in Tor Bay (Cooks Island and Hog Island). This suggests that the "Country Island Complex” has been in existence for some time.

In addition to the nesting terns, over 50,000 pairs of Leach's Storm-Petrels were estimated on Country Island in 1998. This represents about 2% of the estimated western Atlantic population. Until 1997, about 90 pairs of Herring Gulls and 20 pairs of Great Black-backed Gulls also nested on the island; nesting by these gull species is now actively discouraged as part of a Tern Restoration Plan (see below).

Conservation Issues

Predation by gulls and corvids, appears to be the most significant threat affecting the nesting terns, and in 1997 it led to a partial abandonment of the colony. In recognition of this event, and the on-going threat posed by predation, the Canadian Wildlife Service, in conjunction with the Canadian Roseate Tern Recovery Team, the Canadian Coast Guard, and the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, developed a Tern Restoration Plan for Country Island. A program of non-lethal gull control was implemented by disrupting the early breeding season of both Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls. American Crow and Common Raven nests were removed as well. Country Island is currently owned by the Canadian Coast Guard (Department of Fisheries and Oceans). Environment Canada is considering Country Island as a potential Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status
Roseate Tern
Number Year Season