email a friend
printable version
Location Canada, Nova Scotia
Central coordinates 64o 16.77' West  45o 46.86' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii
Area 20,000 ha
Altitude 0 - 5m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Bird Studies Canada/Nature Canada

Site description Chignecto Bay, the western arm of the upper Bay of Fundy divides in two main branches: i) Shepody Bay on the western side and ii) the Cumberland Basin on the eastern side. Therefore, this portion of the Bay of Fundy has one portion in New Brunswick (Shepody) and the other in Nova Scotia (Cumberland). The Upper Cumberland is the part of this long narrow basin that loops north of the Elysian Fields and then winds in a southeasterly direction to Amherst Point and the mouth of the Maccan River. Directly west of Amherst Point, across the basin, is the community and mudflats of Minudie. Vast areas of mud and sand flats, and salt marshes are exposed at low tide the tides of the Bay of Fundy are the highest in the world (up to 16 m). The rich red-brown mud harbors millions of mud shrimp (Corophium volutator), a vital food source for many shorebirds.

Key Biodiversity It is thought between 1 and 2 million shorebirds (in this and adjacent IBAs) use the mud flats at the head of the upper Bay of Fundy (Chignecto Bay and Minas Basin) for staging before the fall migration. The availability and high concentration of the food supply attracts the shorebirds to the Bay of Fundy. The Upper Cumberland Basin and other regions in the Bay of Fundy are very important stopovers sites for the sandpipers because these sites are the last stopover prior to a non-stop migration over the Atlantic Ocean. The birds fly non-stop for three to four days before reaching wintering areas in South America. The rich feeding habitats in the Bay of Fundy enable the birds to build up fat stores necessary to make this long migration.

In the Upper Cumberland Basin, in the Minudie region, 50,000 Semipalmated Sandpipers have been recorded, which is about 1.4% of this species global population. This number is based on data from 1974 to 1983, using an improved estimation method that was reported in Canadian Field Naturalist in 1993. The high diversity of other species of shorebirds found in the Bay of Fundy in the fall includes, Red Knot, Sanderling, Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher and White-rumped Sandpipers. Earlier systematic searches of the basin included only certain species and areas within the Upper Cumberland Basin. As a result, there is only scant documentation of shorebird species other than Semipalmated Sandpipers.

In addition to shorebirds, high numbers of Canada Geese used to be seen during the spring migration in the Upper Cumberland Basin. For instance 10,000 were recorded in 1968. In recent years, the numbers of geese have been much lower (maximum 1,000) than they were in the 1960s.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla passage  1994  50,000 individuals  A4i  Near Threatened 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds passage  20,000-49,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Chignecto Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 1,020 protected area overlaps with site 400  
Chignecto-John Lusby Marsh National Wildlife Area 589 protected area overlaps with site 400  
Joggins Fossil Cliffs Operational Parks and Reserves 0 protected area contained by site 1  
Joggins Fossil Cliffs Special Places Act 5 protected area contained by site 5  
Joggins Fossil Cliffs World Heritage Site 689 protected area overlaps with site 445  
John Lusby National Wildlife Area 1,200 protected area overlaps with site 390  
Lower Cove Protected Beach 23 protected area contained by site 25  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Temperate mixed woods  3%
Wetlands (inland) Estuarine waters; Freshwater marshes/swamps; Intertidal mud, sand or salt flats; Salt/brackish marshes  97%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research major
fisheries/aquaculture minor

Contribute  Please click here to help BirdLife conserve the world's birds - your data for this IBA and others are vital for helping protect the environment.

Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Upper Cumberland Basin. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife