As we drew closer to the island, a few birds here and there circled the sky, some diving into the ocean to capture fish. Eventually, these few birds became hundreds.
As our boat docked on the island, only a few birds remained to be seen. Welcome to Bonadventure Island. The island is a short hop away from Percé, Quebec. What makes this tiny island unique are the two hundred thousand birds that live here. Of these, a colony of 110,000 northern gannets attract visitors from around the world.
The island is home to Parc national de l’Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé, the largest migratory bird sanctuary in North America. The island itself is beautiful, with craggy cliffs and lush green hills. There are a few historic buildings to explore and two places to get refreshments The gannets are on the island, but you have to hike to reach them.
There are four different hiking trails that lead to the gannets nesting spot. We took the easiest of the trails, Les Colonies. I was incredibly excited to visit the most accessible colony of gannets in the world. The trail itself was easy, with a few inclines and raised platforms.
As we walked through the forest, the landscape eventually gave way to shorter trees and we could smell the birds before we saw them. Slowly, we started to hear bird calls. As we neared closer, I saw the white shapes of thousands of birds. It was unbelievable, and something that I had never seen before. Birds were everywhere.
They were on the beach nesting, arriving to greet their mates, and cawing loudly. A helpful Parks employee showed me how to spot the baby gannets. I was delighted to see at least 10 babies with their mothers. They were so cute! It was amazing how close we could get to them. You aren’t able to go on the beach, but the birds are right in front of you.
Are you as curious as me about these birds? Here are some facts that I learned during my visit.
When gannets are about to take off, they stretch their necks and points their bill towards the sky.
Each bird lays one egg in May. Both males and females take turns warming the egg. It takes 6 weeks for a baby to hatch, and they leave the nest at 3 months old.
Paired birds do a curious dance called fencing. They face each other and knock their bills together. Apparently this greeting calms the male down and strengthens their bond.
This entire experience is truly one not to be missed. To get to the island, take a Les Bateliers de Perce cruise. They are offered from May 15 to October 23 for cruises to Bonaventure Island and Percé Rock. Tickets are $38 for adults. Find out more about the amazing Gaspésie region here.