Ingonish, Nova Scotia
The coast of Cape Breton Island, in northeastern Nova Scotia, features many rocky capes, islands, points and bays. North Ingonish Bay is located on the eastern side of the northern horn of Cape Breton Island, just beyond the southeastern boundary of Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Ingonish Island, a 700 x 500 m partly wooded island, with 10 to 15 m cliffs on parts of its perimeter, lies one kilometre off the shore of the northern head of the Ingonish Bay. The rock of Ingonish Island is believed to be a geological outlier of the coast. With the exception of the landward side, there are many offshore rocks and reefs around the island. The climate of Ingonish Island is slightly cooler, snowier and windier in winter than most of Nova Scotia, but it differs little in the summer. The tidal range is 2 to 3 m.
The steep cliffs of Ingonish Island provide excellent nesting habitat for Great Cormorants. Ingonish is the only island suitable for nesting Great Cormorants for 50 km to the north and south. In 1992, 2.2% of the total North American Great Cormorant population nested on the cliffs of Ingonish Island. Surveys have been conducted on the Ingonish Island colony three times. In 1973, only 198 birds were counted. The numbers peaked at 502 in 1987, but they have decreased in recent years.
Although Great Cormorants often breed inland in Europe and Asia, they are strictly coastal breeders in North America. Cormorants prefer nest sites that are within commuting range of adequate food resources and safe from terrestrial predators. As a result, isolated islands and steep rocky cliffs that are within commuting range of adequate food resources, are favoured as nesting sites.
Cormorants have long had a bad reputation in North America. Due to persecution, in 1900 the Great Cormorant was thought to be extirpated from North America. But some remote colonies found refuge on Anticosti Island, Quebec and it is thought that in recent decades these birds increased in numbers and expanded their range southwards to re-colonize Maritime Canada. In many rural communities, cormorants are still often blamed for the declines in fish stocks. Additionally, many people dislike the white bird droppings that often cover the ground at breeding colonies; these often kill trees and much of the vegetation within the breeding colony. As a result of this negative image cormorant colonies are often raided, resulting in the destruction of many nests, and in some cases, the killing of dozens of birds.IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status