Nature Canada

Canada Warbler International Conservation Initiative

The Canada Warbler is perhaps the perfect example of a species that ties the north to the south.  From a breeding perspective, the Canada Warbler is aptly named, as its breeding range is primarily in Canada, spanning the south-central boreal forest from Newfoundland to British Columbia, with populations extending into the north-eastern United States. However, its wintering range is almost exclusively in north-western South America from Venezuela to Peru. This declining species was recently recognized as “Threatened” under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, triggering many activities to support its recovery.  The Canada Warbler International Conservation Initiative was officially launched in June 2013 at the BirdLife International World Conference in Ottawa, Canada as a multinational collaboration to support and coordinate recovery efforts.

The partners in this project are committed to acquiring and applying the best science as we collaborate to stop the severe population declines of the last 40 years – over 70% of the population of this beautiful bird has disappeared.  We recognize that a “full life-cycle” approach is required to understand the ecology of this species and the threats to its populations on breeding grounds, wintering grounds and during its migration.

About Canada Warblers

The Canada Warbler is a small, brightly coloured songbird. It has a dark grey back and wings, a yellow throat, chest, and belly, white eye rings, yellow streaks in front of its eyes, and a distinctive “necklace” of dark streaks across the yellow chest. Males and females are very similar in appearance but males are brighter in colour, and the necklace on females is not as well-defined.

Canada Warblers are more often heard than seen on their breeding grounds. The males have a clear and complicated song, and both sexes have a clear and distinctive “chip” call.

The Canada Warbler is a ground nester and prefers damp, forested areas and the presence of water, but otherwise its specific habitat preferences can vary across its breeding range. About 1.4 million Canada Warblers migrate to Canada to breed each year. It is often one of the last warblers to arrive in the spring, and the first to depart in late summer after breeding. Canada encompasses roughly 80% of the Canada Warbler’s entire breeding range.

Many Canada Warblers migrate through parts of Mexico and the Caribbean side of Central America. Its winter range is limited to northern South America, particularly the low- to mid-altitudes of the Andes slopes from Venezuela to Peru, with perhaps the highest concentrations in Colombia.

State of Canada’s Birds Report 2012 reported that this species has been declining at 4.6% annually. On its breeding grounds, the Canada Warbler is threatened in eastern regions by a combination of logging, expansion of settlements and agriculture, and in western regions by agriculture, road development and fragmentation of habitat. During migration, Canada Warblers seem to be particularly susceptible to window strikes and tower strikes. Habitat loss on the wintering grounds is considered the largest overall threat to the Canada Warbler. About 90% of the Northern Andes forest – the main winter territory of the Canada Warbler – has been lost as a result of deforestation and the establishment of agriculture.

To learn more about the Canada Warbler and its life cycle, click here! 

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