Boreal Forest: Bird Nursery of the North

The Yellow Rail is a threatened species that breeds in Canada’s boreal forest

What makes Canada’s boreal forest one of the most productive places for breeding birds in the world?Water.

The wetlands and waterways of the boreal play a crucial role in providing a feast of insects and fish for the one to three billion birds that breed in the boreal every year.

While the boreal forest wetlands provide abundant habitat for a multitude of wildlife, birds are the most visible. With spring at our doorstep, billions of birds will soon be returning from their wintering grounds after a long migration. Their return coincides with a surge in available food throughout the boreal forest.

Insects are hatched from the multitude of water bodies as soon as the ice melts, yielding a protein bonanza for the birds’ survival. Swarms of midges, mosquitoes, black flies and a host of other insects define the months of June and July in the boreal. Many species of birds, and later their young, take full advantage of this rich food source and its abundant larvae. Boreal breeding birds and their offspring also feed on fish and aquatic invertebrates that live in the waterways.

All birds – landbirds, waterfowl, waterbirds and shorebirds – that breed in the boreal, depend the wetlands for safety, shelter and food so that they can successfully raise their broods and prepare for risky migration across vast distances.

Quick Facts:

  • An estimated 38% of all waterfowl of Canada and the United States breed in the boreal forest
  • As many as seven million shorebirds are estimated to use the boreal’s wetlands for breeding.
  • The boreal forest supports more than 50% of the global population of 96 bird species.