IBA Big Glace Bay Lake
Glace Bay, Nova Scotia
Site Summary
NS007 Latitude
46.170° N
59.938° W
0 - 3 m
16.19 km²
mud or sand flats (saline), inlets/coastal features (marine)
Land Use:
Nature conservation and research, Tourism/recreation, Urban/industrial/transport
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Disturbance, Industrial pollution, Recreation/tourism
IBA Criteria: Continentally Significant: Congregatory Species
Conservation status: Migratory Bird Sanctuary (federal)
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Site Description
Big Glace Bay Lake is located on the northeast shore of Cape Breton Island, in eastern Nova Scotia, immediately adjoining the eastern border of the town of Glace Bay. The lake is actually a coastal lagoon enclosed by a barrier beach, with one tidal opening at the northeastern end. The barrier beach is comprised of gravel and sand, and sparse vegetation. More than half of the lagoon area is exposed at low tide as mud and sand flats or intertidal beds of eel grass. Industrial plants (thermal power, former heavy water) adjoin the western side of the lagoon. The shores of the lagoon are low-lying, although low cliffs fringe the seacoast to the east and west. In the winter, the sea usually remains open, except when winds press sea ice onshore in the spring. The tidal range at this site is 2 to 3 m.
Canada Geese from the Newfoundland and Labrador breeding population are found at Big Glace Bay Lake in significant numbers during the spring and fall migrations as well as in smaller numbers during the winter. A total of 1,500 birds, representing about 1.3% of the estimated population, are regularly observed at this site during spring migration.

Goose surveys at this site are sporadic, often not specifying which of several nearby areas (Lingan Bay, Big Glace Bay Lake, Morien Bay, Mira Bay) were used on each date, but continentally significant numbers are certainly found here. Maximum counts during spring have reached totals of 6,000 birds.

Although this site is regularly used by ducks, shorebirds and terns, high concentrations of these birds have not been recorded here. Willets and American Black Ducks frequent the salt marsh, and Piping Plovers have been recorded on the beach.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Black-headed Gull 1998 - 1999 FA 5 - 12
Black-headed Gull 1999 - 2000 WI 6 - 10
Piping Plover 2018 - 2020 FA 4
Piping Plover 2019 SP 4
Piping Plover 2016 - 2019 SU 4 - 7
Note: species shown in bold indicate that the maximum number exceeds at least one of the IBA thresholds (sub-regional, regional or global). The site may still not qualify for that level of IBA if the maximum number reflects an exceptional or historical occurrence.
Conservation Issues
This site includes one of only a handful of sand beaches adjacent to the Glace Bay/Sydney area, which is the second largest urban area (125,000 pop.) in Nova Scotia. A private road on the east side of the beach means that motor vehicles can continue to access the beach, despite attempts by the landowner to gate the road.

The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Birds Canada and Nature Canada.
   © Birds Canada