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Location Canada, New Brunswick
Central coordinates 64o 54.04' West  46o 47.76' North
IBA criteria A4i
Area 35,000 ha
Altitude 0 - 10m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Bird Studies Canada/Nature Canada

Site description The Kouchibouguac National Park Sand Spits and Barrier Islands are located on the east coast of New Brunswick adjacent to the Norththumberland Strait. The site includes the entire barrier beach and sand island area. Locally, these islands and dunes are known as: North Island, North Kouchibouguac dune, North Richibucto dune, Pointe Sapin dune, Portage River dune, South Kouchibouguac dune, and Tern Islands. Much of the area is low and flat with the dominant vegetation being beach grass and strand wheat. Every few years storms wash over the islands and beaches, removing all debris and vegetation. This is an important natural process in that it sets back succession and favours the long-term use of the islands, beaches, and dunes by terns and plovers.

Key Biodiversity The sand spits and barrier islands of Kouchibouguac National Park are especially important as breeding sites for Common Terns and Piping Plovers. Piping Plovers have been identified as both globally vulnerable and nationally endangered.

The main colony of nesting Common Terns (Tern Island) has been inventoried yearly since 1989, and sporadically between 1971 and 1989. Numbers of tern nests have varied from a few thousand in 1971 to a peak of 7,000 nests in 1991, to 4,292 nests in 1996. It has consistently been the largest tern colony in the Maritimes, containing approximately 35% to 40% of the Maritimes Common Tern population. Not only are the islands significant at the regional level, but also at the global level with on average, about 14.5% of the North American Common Tern breeding population being present.

Piping Plovers also breed throughout the sand spit and barrier island area. Over the last five years (1992 to 1997) populations have varied from a low of nine pairs (1994) to a high of 17 pairs (1993). On average over 12 pairs have been present. In this respect, Kouchibouguac supports as much as 6% of Atlantic Canada Piping Plover population and about 1% of the Atlantic coastal Piping Plover population. During recent years, the North and South Kouchibouguac dunes have supported the majority of the Piping Plover territories. The beach and barrier island system, however, is naturally dynamic, and habitats are occasionally changed as a result of storms. When this happens other beaches in the system may become more important as nesting areas.

Other nesting species include Red-breasted Mergansers and Herring, Ring-billed and Great Black-backed Gulls.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Common Tern Sterna hirundo breeding  1999  5,068 nests  A4i  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Kouchibouguac National Park 23,920 protected area contained by site 23,920  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland) Estuarine waters; Intertidal mud, sand or salt flats; Sand dunes and beaches  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research -
tourism/recreation -

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Kouchibouguac NP Sand Islands. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016

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