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About the Cape

Ecological Reserve

Wild yet tranquil. Unspoiled yet accessible. Unstructured yet abundantly cultured. Rugged yet oh-so beautiful. Adventurous yet simple. Out on the south west edge of Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula, is a world-renowned seabird colony ensconced by the raging Atlantic ocean. A spectacular theatre of nature, ever-changing, ever-evolving. Just birds and sea and endless coastline. There’s a story that has to be told about the most dramatic and accessible seabird show on a rock, surrounded by rugged beauty, awe-inspiring coastline and rich Irish culture. It’s very wild, very beautiful and very real. Cape St. Mary’s is for the curious mind and adventuring spirit. A place to get out and roam and stay for awhile.

Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve is the most accessible seabird colony and 2nd largest gannetry in North America. It was established as an ecological reserve in 1983 because of its provincial, national, and international importance to breeding, migrating and overwintering birds. It is unique among other Newfoundland seabird colonies in that it contains the only major colony located on the mainland portion of the island. Breeding areas in all other seabird reserves are located on small offshore islands where visitation is restricted or difficult to achieve. Visitors at CSM, can drive to within 1.5 km of the main nesting area (Bird Rock) and walk to a viewpoint only 10-20 metres from the colony.

Beyond the gannets, the colony of seabirds (also known as a rookery) located at Bird Rock is full every summer with hordes of razorbills, common murres, black-legged kittiwakes, northern gannets, gulls, double-crested and great cormorants, scoters, long-tailed ducks, harlequins, dovekies, thick-billed murres, eiders and kittiwakes.

As an ecological reserve the area is governed by strict guidelines that are in place to protect the natural habitat and wildlife. Visitors are invited to explore the bird sanctuary and experience the breathtaking ocean vistas, in a tranquil and non-disruptive environment. The Reserve covers sixty-four square kilometers, 84% is marine and is administered and managed by Parks and Natural Areas Division, Department of Fisheries and Land Resources (the Canadian Wildlife Service has management responsibility for the seabirds within the Reserve under the Migratory Birds Act).

An interpretation Centre within the Reserve was opened in 1995 and provides displays, programs and activities relating to the birds and their environment.


Located just outside the Reserve boundary, between the reserve and ocean cliffs, is the St. Mary’s lighthouse. In September 2020 the lighthouse celebrated its 160th anniversary. To learn more about the Cape St. Mary’s Lighthouse and it’s rich history, click HERE

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