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Location Canada, Saskatchewan
Central coordinates 102o 39.03' West  53o 56.46' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii
Area 480,000 ha
Altitude 698 - 740m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Bird Studies Canada/Nature Canada

Site description This huge mid-boreal area, known as the Cumberland Marshes, includes all the wetlands between the Carrot and Saskatchewan Rivers, and between Kennedy Lake and the Saskatchewan - Manitoba boundary. The community of Cumberland House is located in the northern section of this area. This site is part of the gently sloping flood plain of the Saskatchewan River and its tributaries. Most of this area is covered by fens that are frequently saturated with water at or near the surface. These largely treeless wetlands are covered by cattails, rushes, reeds, sedges, and scattered willows. Numerous marshy lakes are also found throughout the site.

Key Biodiversity These vast wetlands contain some of the highest densities of breeding waterfowl in Saskatchewan and provide habitat for many other marsh-nesting birds as well. The only thorough surveys of the entire area were completed in the early 1970s. More recently, data has been collected only for specific areas that are of conservation interest. The surveys in the early 1970s documented globally significant numbers of several waterfowl species using the fens and marshes in both the breeding and non-breeding seasons. Perhaps most notable was an estimate of 72,000 nesting Ring-necked Ducks; this could represent over 10% of the worlds nesting population. Two other bay ducks the Redhead and Canvasback are also found in the Cumberland Marshes in globally significant numbers: 36,000 (about 5% of the worlds population) and 30,000 (over 4% of the worlds population) respectively. A further 19,000 Gadwall (1% of the Canadian population) and 14,000 Common Goldeneye (over 1% of the North American population) nest here as well. Also, the highest breeding densities of Lesser Scaup in Saskatchewan have been recorded at this location.

During migration periods, other waterfowl dominate the scene at the Cumberland Marshes. About 200,000 Mallards have also been recorded here during the fall migration. This is over 1% of the North American population of this abundant duck. When Tundra Swan, which breed in the Canadian Arctic, return south, about 5,000 or 2.5% of the North American population passes through these marshes. Also, several hundred Black Terns concentrate here during the non-breeding season.

Of interest too, is that the now extinct passenger Pigeon once commonly nested in this area and the first sighting of a Eurasian Wigeon in Saskatchewan was made in the Cumberland Marshes.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus passage  1976  5,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos passage  1976  200,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Canvasback Aythya valisineria breeding  1972  30,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Redhead Aythya americana breeding  1972  36,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris breeding  1972  72,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula breeding  1972  14,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds breeding  1972-1976  100,000-499,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Anderson Island Protected Area 526 protected area contained by site 390  
Pasquia Hills North Recreation Site 40 protected area contained by site 150  
Saskeram Wildlife Management Area 96,648 protected area overlaps with site 87,000  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Temperate coniferous forest  2%
Wetlands (inland) Fens transition mires & springs; Freshwater lakes and pools; Rivers  98%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
hunting major
tourism/recreation minor

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

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