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Mingan Archipelago
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Mingan Archipelago

The Mingan Archipelago is located in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence off Quebec’s North Shore. These islands offer a unique spectacle of nature, with their diverse wildlife, both marine and terrestrial, as well as spectacular limestone monoliths shaped by the sea. The rocks forming these monoliths date back 450 million years. The region is of major archaeological significance, and visitors can discover abundant fossilized remains of prehistoric life. More than a thousand islands and islets make up the 152 kilometre long archipelago. These islands are famous for their seabird colonies and giant marine mammals, which can sometimes be seen from shore.

Long-established seabird colonies

During breeding season, the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve is home to some 35,000 pairs from 12 different seabird species. The most distinctive among these species is probably the Atlantic Puffin, nicknamed the “sea parrot”. With its clown-like appearance, this bird with a colourful bill prefers to nest on the smallest islands of the archipelago, thereby avoiding predators. Atlantic puffins are found on Île de la Maison and Île Calculot des Betchouanes. A smaller colony of Atlantic puffins is found on Île aux Perroquets. The birds arrive in the islands in spring around April, and remain until September. The French name, macareux moine, comes from the bird’s habit of joining its feet together when standing on the ground, recalling a monk in prayer.

The common eider is the most abundant species in the archipelago. In spring, these marine ducks congregate here to form enormous flocks floating on the water, which other species of ducks soon join. The male eider has black and white plumage, while the female is more discreetly coloured, helping camouflage her from predators while she incubates the eggs. The Mingan Archipelago is also home to razorbills, murres, terns, cormorants and great blue herons, among others.

Marine mammals in abundance

Numerous marine mammals make their homes in the waters of the archipelago, including three species of seals: the grey seal, the harbour seal and the harp seal. They are known locally as loups-marins (sea wolves), and the cries of these guardians of the archipelago can be heard echoing off the region’s steep cliffs.

Dolphins, porpoises and rorquals are found in great numbers in the archipelago and in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, drawn to these cold waters teeming with plankton and fish. Among the rorquals, it is mainly the smaller of these great whales that approach the shore, in pods of two to five individuals. The blue whale can be seen further offshore, along with the humpback whale and the fin whale, the acrobat of the seas. Since the late 1970s, biologist Richard Sears has been studying these ocean giants. He established the Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS) in order to identify and observe the whales of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, between the North Shore and the Gaspé Peninsula.

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