Upper Cumberland Basin

Country/territory: Canada

IBA criteria met: A4i, A4iii (2008)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 20,000 ha

Birds Canada / Nature Canada

Site description (2001 baseline)
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.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Upper Cumberland Basin. Downloaded from on 27/02/2024.