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Île Bicquette (QC045)


Île Bicquette (QC045)

Rimouski, Québec

Latitude 48.415°N
Longitude 68.890°W
Altitude 0 - 10m
Area 4.73km²

Site Description

Île Bicquette is located along the south shore of the St. Lawrence estuary in Quebec, 7.7 km off Cap-à-l'Orignal (a spit of land that extends from Le Bic Provincial Park). The larger Île du Bic island lies one kilometre to the southeast. Île Bicquette is composed of shale, and is surrounded by two little grassy islets and several rocky reefs. A large lighthouse, surrounded by the keeper's residence, is located on the western part of the main island. Approximately 75% of the island is covered by forests, with the dominant tree species being Balsam Fir. The forests have been described as dense and “over-mature” with little sign of regeneration in the sapling layer.


Île Bicquette supports the largest colony of Common Eiders in Canada. A peak count of 14,925 pairs was recorded in 1992, while the average for all five years (1991 to 1995) was 10,811 pairs. It was estimated that this colony represents about 5% of the North American population, and as much as 12.5% of the estimated Atlantic North American (ssp. dresseri) population. The average density of Common Eider nests on this island is exceedingly high at 813 nests per hectare. In 2013, the breeding population of Common Eiders was estimated at 6372 pairs, which is the lowest historical count in 50 years. However, it may be an exceptional situation since previous years results were in line with the data collected in the '90s. An aerial survey of water birds conducted in the St. Lawrence River in 1995 recorded 6242 Common Eiders in the waters between Saint-Fabien and Pointe-au-Père. The vast majority of these birds were within 100 meters of Île Bicquette and were clearly birds from this colony. The island also supports a small heronry. The helicopter survey carried out in 2012 recorded 15 nests used by Great Blue Herons and it was estimated that ten Black-crowned Night Herons were probably nesting on the island. Other regular nesting species include Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Double-crested Cormorant, and Black-legged Kittiwake whose population decline is being caused by predation.

Conservation Issues

Île Bicquette is part of the Îles de l'estuarie National Wildlife Area, and as such, the eider colony is managed and monitored yearly. Provision has been made for an annual eider down harvest, which occurs each year at the end of May or the beginning of June, late in the incubation period..

A critical threat to the Common Eider colony, however, is the decline of the Balsam Fir forests, which provide cover for the nesting birds. Currently, there is very little regeneration occurring within the forest. Numerous reasons have been suggested for this occurrence: trampling of young seedlings by the dense concentrations of nesting eiders; nitrogen saturation by an accumulation of eider feces (the soils on Île Bicquette have nitrogen concentrations that are higher than at any other forested site in Québec where tests have been completed); browsing of the seedlings by snowshoe hare; and/or deficient production of seeds by aged Balsam Fir. Silvicultural recommendations to enhance regeneration have been proposed to the National Wildlife Area managers. Finally, predation by Red Foxes can affect the colony.

Fish Habitat

The landscape of the are is made out of Spartina marsh, eelgrass beds, rocky shores and gravel or pebbles beaches. Some rivers are hosting rainbow smelt spawning runs (the south shore population of the St. Lawrence middle estuary). At the beginning of the summer, it is possbile to observe capelin rolling on the beaches during spawning. The downstream migration of American eel toward their breeding sites in the Atlantic, which takes place in the fall, allows the capture of migraing adults using fishing weirs. Two other species commercially exploited are also roaming in the open waters of the estuary: the Atlantic sturgeon and Atlantic herring.

Loss of fish habitat remains a major problem in the region. The dikes, for example, reduce the number of spawning habitats, while agricultural along the coast, the residential development and the presence of resorts together with coastal erosion are resulting in the destruction of several riparian ecosystems.

Major species present:
American eel
American shad
Atlantic herring
Atlantic sturgeon
Rainbow smelt (population of south shore of the St. Lawrence middle estuary)


The islands of the region are made out of schist and quartzite. Despite the harshness of the environment and climate, a surprising flora manages to grow there. In herbaceous areas, the fireweed and grasses, such as Small reed dominate. Small groves of wild rose, raspberry and Gooseberry ornament the landscape. Areas sheltered are colonized by spruces, which form small woodlands. In area swept by the tides, algae colonize the bedrock while the shallow areas are occupied by eelgrass.

The geographical barrier created by the St. Lawrence river provides the IBA a kind of natural protection, a protection often enhanced by legal protection. However, water pollution and the risks of oil spills remain a source of concern for the protection of the flora and fauna of this area.

Major species present :
Marine eelgrass
Small reed / reed grass
Wild rose

IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status
Common Eider
Number Year Season
19,608 - 25,5461995Summer
18,600 - 24,3541993Summer
18,084 - 19,1201991Summer
21,440 - 28,1021990Summer
17,626 - 17,8601984Summer
13,752 - 13,9421976Summer
14,486 - 14,8001972Summer
Herring Gull
Number Year Season