Prince Edward Island

Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata ©Glenn Bartley Website
Birding Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island is a Canadian province consisting of an island of the same name. The maritime province is the smallest in the nation in both land area and population (excluding the territories). The island has a few other names: “Garden of the Gulf” referring to the pastoral scenery and lush agricultural lands throughout the province; and “Birthplace of Confederation”, referring to the Charlottetown Conference in 1864.

According to the 2008 estimates, Prince Edward Island has 139,407 residents[3] collectively referred to as Islanders. It is located in a rectangle defined roughly by 46°–47° N, and 62°–64° 30′W and at 5,683.91 km² (2,194.57 sq mi) in size,[4] it is the 104th largest island in the world, and Canada’s 23rd largest island. The island’s namesake is Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767–1820), the fourth son of King George III and the father of Queen Victoria.

Known as the Garden of the Gulf, the island is located in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence west of Cape Breton Island, north of the Nova Scotia peninsula, and east of New Brunswick. Its southern shore bounds the Northumberland Strait. The island has two urban areas. The largest surrounds Charlottetown Harbour, situated centrally on the island’s southern shore, and consists of the capital city Charlottetown, and suburban towns Cornwall and Stratford and a developing urban fringe. A much smaller urban area surrounds Summerside Harbour, situated on the southern shore 40 km (25 mi) west of Charlottetown Harbour, and consists primarily of the city of Summerside. As with all natural harbours on the island, Charlottetown and Summerside harbours are created by rias.

The island’s landscape is pastoral: rolling hills, woods, reddish white sand beaches, ocean coves and the famous red soil have given Prince Edward Island a reputation as a province of outstanding natural beauty. The provincial government has enacted laws that attempt to preserve the landscape through regulation, although the lack of consistent enforcement and absence of province-wide zoning and land-use planning has resulted in some aesthetically displeasing development in recent years.

The island’s lush landscape has had a strong bearing on its economy and its culture. Author Lucy Maud Montgomery drew inspiration from the land during the late Victorian Era for the setting of her classic novel Anne of Green Gables. Today, many of the same qualities that Montgomery and others found in the island are enjoyed by tourists who visit during all seasons. They enjoy a variety of leisure activities, including beaches, various golf courses, eco-tourism adventures, and simply touring the countryside and enjoying cultural events in local communities around the island.

The smaller rural communities as well as the towns and villages throughout the province proudly retain a slower-paced, old world flavour, something that factors heavily into Prince Edward Island’s popularity as a destination for relaxation. The economy of most rural communities on the island are based on small-scale agriculture, given that the size of farm properties is small when compared with other areas in Canada. There is an increasing amount of industrial farming as older farm properties are consolidated and modernised.

The coastline consists of a combination of long beaches, dunes, red sandstone cliffs, salt water marshes and numerous bays and harbours. The beaches, dunes and sandstone cliffs consist of sedimentary rock and other material with a high iron concentration which oxidises upon exposure to the air. The geological properties of a white silica sand found at Basin Head are unique in the province; the sand grains cause a scrubbing noise as they rub against each other when walked on, aptly named the singing sands. Large dune fields on the north shore can be found on barrier islands at the entrances to various bays and harbours. The magnificent sand dunes at Greenwich are of particular significance. The shifting, parabolic dune system is home to a variety of birds and rare plants and is also a site of significant archeological interest.

Prince Edward Island’s climate varies widely. The winter weather begins in late November, with flurries as early as late October. Through November and December, the temperatures are typically from 5°C to -5°C. As the Northumberland Strait and the Gulf of St. Lawrence freeze they contribute to colder temperatures and heavier snowfall. The temperature steadily falls until the beginning of February, following which the temperatures steadily rise. From as early as December until as late as April, the island is often handicapped by severe storms and blizzards. While the mainland warms in the spring, the surrounding ice keeps the island cold and snowy for a few more weeks. Once this ice has melted, the temperatures rise continuously until spring begins, in late April or early May. The spring weather patterns are very erratic, at any time in May the temperatures can reach 25°C or sink as low as 5°C. Most of the precipitation experienced in May is a continuous drizzle as opposed to rainfall, though there are exceptions. The weather stabilizes in June, at about 15° – 20°C. The summer is mild and humid in July and August with temperatures sometimes reaching 30°C. The long winter and late spring are compensated for by the summer continuing through September and mild weather even into October. By late fall, temperatures tend to drop quickly.

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 368

    Provincial Bird - Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata
Useful Reading

  • Familiar Birds of Prince Edward Island

    | By John Sylvestor | Nimbus Publishing | 1991 | Paperback | ISBN: 9780921556169 Buy this book from
  • Prince Edward Island Birds

    | (130 Inland and Shore Birds) | by Jeffery C Domm |James Lorimer and Company | 2003 | Paperback | 144 pages, Colour illustrations, Map | ISBN: 9780887805585 Buy this book from
Museums & Universities
  • Provincial Museum of Prince Edward Island

    The Natural History Society of Prince Edward Island would like to see more focus on the Island
  • The Island Nature Trust

    Facebook Page
    The Island Nature Trust is a non-government, not-for-profit organization dedicated to protection and management of Natural Areas on Prince Edward Island (Canada). We acquire lands to be held in trust for future generations, manage these lands as an example of appropriate and sustained use, and help private owners voluntarily protect their lands. Our vision is to work with government and private landowners to create a true natural areas network on Prince Edward Island, consisting of core protected areas connected by corridors
  • The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC)

    The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has been protecting natural areas on Prince Edward Island since 1978, when we worked with partners to secure 247 acres (100 hectares) in Blooming Point, Queens County, 25 kilometres from Charlottetown. Almost 90 per cent of the land on PEI is privately owned, so NCC has focused on private action, encouraging people to play a role in saving ecologically important species. NCC has engaged individuals and groups in 26 different projects, working together to conserve 4,939 acres (1,998 hectares) on PEI.

Abbreviations Key

  • Macphail Woods

    WebsiteSatellite View
    We do a lot of activities here at the Macphail Woods concerning songbirds and the role they play in forest habitats. This includes yearly breeding bird surveys, as well as giving birdwatching tours. In your last two seasons, we have located and monitored such bird nests as Ruby throated hummingbird and Swainson's thrush's to name a few.
  • Malpeque Bay

    InformationSatellite View
    The intertidal flats support beds of Zostera and provide abundant food for large numbers of migratory water birds…
  • NP Prince Edward Island National Park

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    ...Hike woodlands and overlook ponds watching for red fox, waterfowl and warblers...
  • Provincial Parks

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Clickable list with basic info for each park
Trip Reports

Click on WAND to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • 2001 [11 November] - Paul Jones

    …The most interesting sightings were one Leach’s Storm Petrel, one drake Harlequin Duck and four Purple Sandpiper. The Sandpipers were on the rock shelf immediately below the point. Small flocks of White-winged Crossbill were flying in off the sea from the northeast. While it is possible that they were local birds blown out over the water, my strong sense was that they were coming across from Cape Breton or Newfoundland. The birds could be seen at a distance over the water and they were moving fast and low towards land. At they approached the shore they would rise up at the last second to barely clear the seaside cliffs and then immediately disappear into the coastal tuckamore…
Other Links
  • Birding on PEI

    Facebook Page
    Drop by to chat or share photos with other PEI birders
  • Birds of the Island

    Bird watching and bird feeding are common pastimes for many Islanders. Since records began, some 368 bird species have been observed on the Island in forests, coastal regions, wetlands and other areas.
  • Nocturnal Owl Survey

  • PEI Hotspots

    Birding localities, reports, photos etc

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