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Location Canada, Nova Scotia
Central coordinates 64o 18.57' West  45o 9.06' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii
Area 23,000 ha
Altitude 0 - 15m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Bird Studies Canada/Nature Canada

Site description The Southern Bight of the Minas Basin, which includes the Avon River situated about 12 km north of Wolfville, is a large embayment in the Minas Basin, Bay of Fundy, south of the boundary line between Medford and Bramber. The Southern Bight is a large tidal embayment, chiefly composed of intertidal mudflats that are divided by river channels into five sections, varying in substrate (sand/silt gradients) and invertebrate fauna. These five sections include Kingsport-Medford, Porters Point, Starrs Point, Evangeline Beach, and Avonport.

Key Biodiversity The mud flats at the head of the Bay of Fundy are important staging grounds for an estimated 1 to 2 million shorebirds in late July and early August (in this and other adjacent IBAs). At low tide, vast areas of mud and sand flats, and salt marshes are exposed - the result of the Bay of Fundys tides, which are the highest tides in the world (up to 16 m). The rich red-brown mud harbors millions of Fundy mud shrimp, a vital food source for the Semipalmated Sandpiper. The Southern Bight, Minas Basin and other regions in the Bay of Fundy are the last and most important stopovers for the sandpipers, where they build up fat stores enabling them to make the long southward migration to South America in three to four days. The availability of such a prodigious food supply attracts 50 to 95% of the worlds Semipalmated Sandpipers, along with many other species of shorebirds, to the Bay of Fundy.

Some of these birds are found in the Southern Bight, Minas Basin: 51,667 Semipalmated Sandpipers have been recorded in late July and early August. This figure accounts for 1.4% of the global population. Also, more than 1% of the North American Black-bellied Plover population has been observed at this site. This number is based on data from 1974 to 1983 using an improved estimation method that was reported in Canadian Field Naturalist in 1993.

A high diversity of other migrant shorebirds forage on the large intertidal mud and sand flats throughout the Bight. Commonly observed species include: Red Knot, Sanderling, Short-billed Dowitcher, Least Sandpiper, and Semipalmated Plover. Some of these species may at times occur in numbers exceeding 1% of their North American or global populations, but surveys often do not cover all parts of the basin. Likewise, it is believed that an accurate census of the entire basin would reveal greater than 100,00 shorebirds.

During the spring tides, some of the sandpipers use nearby dyked fields for roosting.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola passage  1994  2,130 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Short-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus griseus passage  1994  1,613 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla passage  1994  51,667 individuals  A4i  Near Threatened 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds non-breeding  1985  50,000-99,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Boot Island National Wildlife Area 144 protected area contained by site 150  
Fort Edward National Historic Site 15 protected area contained by site 16  
Minas Basin Wildlife Management Area 186 protected area contained by site 130  
New England Planters National Historic Site 0 protected area contained by site 1  
Southern Bight-Minas Basin Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 26,800 protected area overlaps with site 8,700  
Southern Bight-Minas Basin Wildlife Management Area 26,800 protected area overlaps with site 8,700  
Wolfville Eastern Habitat Joint Venture Lands 0 protected area contained by site 0  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland) Estuarine waters; Intertidal mud, sand or salt flats; Salt/brackish marshes  60%
Sea Sea inlets  20%
Artificial - terrestrial Arable land; Improved pasture land  20%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture major
nature conservation and research minor
rangeland/pastureland minor
tourism/recreation minor

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Southern Bight, Minas Basin. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016

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