Skip to main content

7 Birds to Discover on Cape Breton Island

Story by: Adam Hill

Birding can provide an escape, the thrill of ‘hunting’ and a chance to see some of nature’s most impressive species. It’s fair to say we can all use an escape right now, so let me take you on a quick tour of what birding on Cape Breton Island can help you check off your life list.

1. Atlantic Puffins

No trip to Cape Breton is complete without seeing one of these little guys! Puffins have always been associated with coastal life. Birders flock to coastal islands to catch a glimpse of these colourful ‘clowns of the sea’. The best time to see these birds is from mid-June to mid-August while they’re nesting on the Bird Islands. Cape Breton offers two tours to the Bird Islands, Donelda’s Puffin Tours and Bird Island Boat Tours. These tours will help you check so many birds off your life list, birds like; razorbills, black legged kittewakes, guillemots, bald eagles and of course the puffins!

2. Bald Eagles

It’s hard to travel around Cape Breton without seeing at least one Bald Eagle soaring through the skies.  Bald Eagles are coastal birds and can often be found perched in trees overlooking the water. If you’re lucky you may even see one of their huge nests! Did you know a group of 36 eaglets from Cape Breton were relocated to the northeast U.S. in an effort to repopulate the region? This effort has seen these 36 eagles spawn more than 500 eagles in the northeast U.S.

3. Osprey

The provincial bird of Nova Scotia, the Osprey can be found scanning waterways looking for their next meal. If you ever get to see these large birds of prey fishing, you’re in for a treat.

 4. Piping Plover

Cape Breton is home to a few nesting sites of the endangered Piping Plover. If you’re seeking to view this bird please be sure to bring your spotting scope, binoculars or super-telephoto lens so that you can see these rare birds safely from a distance.

5. Barred Owl

There’s something special about seeing an owl, isn’t there? Anytime you’re out in the woods it’s a safe bet to assume that an owl’s within eyesight but they’re so well camouflaged they’re almost impossible to see unless they move or hoot. Cape Breton is home to a number of owl species, the great horned owl, the tiny saw whet, the rare and seasonal snowy owl and short eared owl and of course the barred owl.

6. Northern Gannet

Northern gannets are great divers and can be seen where ever there’s fish running. I’ve been lucky to see these birds diving in Englishtown, from the Skyline Trail, the Bird Islands, Money Point, and Corneybrook Campground. Gannets will fly above the water and then dive deep into the water to swim after any potential meals. If you’re surprisingly large birds if you’re lucky to see them up close.

7. Wood Duck

Seeing a wood duck in Cape Breton is a sure sign that spring is here. These colourful little ducks can make any drab day a vibrant one. Keep an eye open for a punch of colour on the edges of ponds and you may be lucky enough to check this species off your life list!


Adam Hill

Adam Hill

Adam Hill can usually be found chasing the light around Cape Breton trying to find new and unique photos of this spectacular island. His work has been featured in Canadian Geographic, National Geographic online, Elle Magazine, Outdoor Photographer, Landscape Magazine, The Globe and Mail and The Canadian Mint.

Locals Know Blogs