Canada Warbler International Conservation Initiative
The Initiative was officially launched in June 2013 at the BirdLife International World Conference in Ottawa, Canada.
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. Finally, we recognize that all on-the-ground actions and policies to recover this species must be respectful of local community values and include local community participation in management solutions.
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What is a Canada Warbler?
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. Young birds resemble females.
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, which stretches from Nova Scotia in the east to the Peace River district of north-eastern British Columbia in the west, and extends south into the eastern United States along the Appalachian mountain chain. Most Canada Warblers (90%) breed in the southern part of Canada’s boreal forest, as far north as James Bay in the east and the Peace River in the west.
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.
The 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.
Range of Canada Warbler showing breeding, migration and wintering areas:
Equitable coffee from South and Central America
Purchase and promote shade – grown, equitable coffee from South and Central America. Conversion of forests to plantations for sun grown coffee is believed to be one of the more significant causes of habitat loss on the Andean slopes of the Canada Warbler’s wintering grounds. Many organizations, including Calidris in Colombia, work with coffee producers in the Colombian Andes to produce sustainable, bird-friendly coffee in areas that also support Canada Warblers and a diversity of other migratory and non-migratory bird species. Shade-grown coffee is available at most coffee specialty shops. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre has a certification program for bird-friendly coffee, as does the Rain Forest Alliance. To learn more about bird-friendly coffee, visit the http://www.coffeehabitat.com/Coffee and Conservation website.
Protection from window collisions
It is estimated that between 300 million and one billion birds die annually from collisions with glass in North America. The Canada Warbler is one of about 300 species of birds that have been collected at the base of windows. It is found as a window casualty more often than expected for reasons that are still unclear, but possibly owing to its particular physiology or behaviours. You can reduce the likelihood of your windows killing Canada Warblers and other species of birds by taking some basic steps to reduce the risk of collision:
Tape: Use strips of opaque tape to create grid patterns that “break-up” the glass into smaller units. Note that smaller size units are better for birds. Research has shown that to be truly effective, the vertical stripes should be less than 10 cm apart, and the horizontal stripes less than 5 cm apart.
Film: Most window films (for external use) do not have patterns and will not prevent window strikes because the windows remain reflective. To be effective, window films must be visible to birds. UV reflective film, patterned film, or “one-way” film that is opaque on the outside and transparent on the inside are all good options.
Netting: In some circumstances, you may want to stretch a net 10 or 15 cm in front of the window. Nets with mesh similar to volleyball netting are highly visible to birds and unlikely to trap them, yet they do not compromise the view.
Decals: Decals work like tape in that they appear to birds as objects and are only effective at a fairly high density. A decal of a raptor or falcon shape in itself is not effective, as it is perceived as an object by a bird, and not as a predator.
Moving objects – (old CDs, mobiles, etc): Many people hang mobiles in front of their windows, sometimes using simple materials such as old CDs strung together. To be effective, multiple mobiles would be required to “break up” a large window, similar to the tape and decals.
Make your observations known – using eBird
Let the world know the details of when you observe a Canada Warbler, on breeding grounds in Canada or the USA, wintering grounds in South America, or on migration. Enter your information on eBird. Add details to your observation, including age, sex, habitat, if possible.
Make sure that your cat is friend not foe to the Canada Warbler
Environment Canada estimates that 196 million birds are killed by feral and domestic cats annually in Canada. There is very little data about what types of birds are being killed, but the Canada Warbler’s preferences to nest in low places and forage near the ground make it a likely target for cats.
Nature Canada is initiating a national campaign to address this issue, and also contributed to healthier and happier lives for cats. You can start by keeping your cat under control when it is outside. All evidence shows that indoor cats live longer and healthier lives than free wandering cats. Feline distemper, Toxoplasmosis, and Feline cancer are a few of the diseases that outdoor cats are more likely to develop and die from than indoor cats due to contact with other cats and other animals. We will be working with many partners to achieve a measurable reduction in cat predation of birds over the next five to ten years. For more information about our campaign, contact our Senior manager of birds conservation: Ted Cheskey
Make your observations known through eBird
Let the world know the details when you observe a Canada Warbler, whether you see it during migration, on its breeding grounds in Canada or the USA, or on its wintering grounds in South America. Signing up for eBird is simple. Enter your information on eBird. Add details to your observations, including age, sex and habitat, if possible.
December 21, 2017
Canada Warbler Conservation featured at Conservation Workshop in Edmonton
Late in October, Nature Canada’s Ted Cheskey led a workshop session on conserving Canada Warbler on its northern breeding grounds with forest company representatives and biologists as part of a larger workshop on birds and forest management hosted by the Boreal Avian Modelling Project (BAM), supported by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. The workshop was in Edmonton, and as a result was mainly attended by representatives from companies operating in western Canada. Nature Canada was delighted to be able to support the participation of Liz Kejick of the Lac Seul First Nation in northwestern Ontario. Big forestry operations occur widely on the traditional lands of First Nations, some of which operate their own forestry operations, but most of whom rarely have the capacity to participate in initiatives like this one. The fact that Liz was the only First Nation representative at the workshop underlines this point.
My take away learning was that there are already many logging companies that incorporate Canada Warbler conservation practices into their daily operations in western Canada. Many conduct pre-operational surveys, for example. BAM’s interest in getting the scientists and forestry companies talking was in part to apply the BAM products (e.g. predictive models for bird presence and abundance) to support improve forestry practices that support conservation. They also look to improving their models, which always require field-testing and revision. At some point in the workshop, I noted that, the overall workshop title could have been “forestry, modelling and the Canada Warbler.
April 6, 2017
4 ways YOU can help Canada Warblers
With spring finally upon us, our feathered friends are making the migration back to Canada. There are various ways you can help with bird conservation and below we have outlined four simple steps that not only help the threatened Canada Warbler but also help other bird species.
1) Bird proof your windows.
Canada Warblers are highly vulnerable to window collisions as they are at 17.9 times greater risk of collisions than the average species across all building types, 46.7 times greater risk of collisions with low-rise buildings, and 25.8 times greater risk of collisions with high-rise buildings. Approximately 25 million birds are killed annually from collisions with windows in Canada.
Ninety percent of all bird-window collisions occur with single dwelling homes. Make your windows at home visible to birds to reduce the risk of window strikes by moving bird feeders and birdbaths a safe distance from your window (less than a meter or greater than five meters) and decorate your windows with visual markers.
To learn more about bird proofing your windows visit our Save Bird Lives Page here.
2) Buy shade grown, bird friendly coffee.
On its wintering grounds in South America, the Canada Warbler is found mainly between 1000 and 2000 meters in mature forest. Much of this forest in the Andes has been cut down, often to grow crops including coffee. Most coffee plantations are monocultures of coffee with no canopy of trees, no shade, and no birds. Some producers grow shade coffee or manage their farms in ways that benefit birds. Organically-grown shade coffee plantations in Colombia, for example, support many species of birds including Canada Warbler and Blackburnian Warbler. Also, a pre-requisite for the bird-friendly certification is the organic certification. Make the switch from sun grown coffee to organic, shade grown, bird friendly certified coffee. By supporting shade grown coffee plantations you are contributing to bird conservation!
3) Buy SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper.
Buying SFI or FSC certified paper products help Canada Warblers because (like shade-grown coffee) it directly protects the species habitat in the management of forests and the harvesting of forest products. SFI and FSC promote responsible forest management and improve the practice of forestry. SFI and FSC set standards to protect water quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, and forests with high conservation value. Next time you purchase paper, wood, or other types of wood products check for the SFI or FSC label!
4) Keep your cat indoors or supervise your cat outdoors.
Cat predation is a serious threat to bird populations in Canada, killing between 100 and 350 million birds annually in Canada. Domestic cats are likely the largest human-related source of bird mortality in Canada. The Canada Warbler is vulnerable to cat predation as they forage and nest on or near the ground. They are most susceptible to cat predation when they are migrating; stopping in populated areas and parks. Keep your cat indoors or supervise your cat outdoors by walking them with a harness or allowing them to play in an outdoor enclosure (also known as a catio!).
March 16, 2017
Why make the switch to bird-friendly coffee
One simple way to help birds is to support shade-grown, bird-friendly coffee! In the last 30 years, over half of the shade coffee farms have been converted to sun coffee farms in order to increase production. Sun coffee farms require clear cutting forests which destroy critical bird habitat. The conversion from shade-grown to sun-grown coffee has greatly contributed to the decline of Canadian bird species that overwinter in Latin America. This includes species at risk such as the Canada Warbler and Wood Thrush.
Bird-friendly coffee has various requirements that provide a healthy habitat for birds. In order for a farm to become certified as bird-friendly, it must have the organic certification, have a minimum of 40% canopy cover and have a minimum canopy height of 12m. There is also criteria regarding the diversity of tree and shrub species, buffer zones for waterways and ground layer and leaf litter presence. Bird-friendly certified coffee farms also must be recertified every three years to ensure that they are keeping up with standards.
North Americans should support shade coffee farms in Latin America and reward the farmers for their efforts in protecting birds. If we do not support shade coffee farmers, they may be forced to abandon their practices and turn to the alternative: sun coffee, which generates higher yields but has much higher environmental costs. Because shade-grown coffee generates lower yields, it costs more to buy in stores (which is the one negative aspect of bird-friendly coffee!).
However, by paying a little extra for your coffee, you can have the satisfaction of knowing that your purchase is conserving critical habitat for birds overwintering in Latin America. Next time you purchase coffee look for the bird-friendly certification. A good place to look is Birds and Beans, all of their coffee is bird-friendly certified and they have a variety of options to suit every coffee drinker needs.
Lastly, North Americans drink one-third of the world’s coffee, which means that by making this small change, we can make a difference! Help migratory birds by making the switch today!
August 7, 2015
The Canada Warbler days of summer
The days are growing noticeably shorter in Ottawa, and we can be sure that the field work with Canada Warbler on its breeding grounds has pretty much wrapped up. Here is a brief summary of what some of the researchers have been up to this summer.
Dr. Erin Bayne | Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta
“We have been evaluating how Canada Warblers used residual retention within harvest blocks as well as riparian buffers in the boreal forest of Alberta. Specifically we have been marking CAWA with color bands and fitting transmitters to some individuals to determine the exact location of their territory and the time they spend within harvest areas relative to mature forest. The work is done between Slave Lake and Calling Lake, AB. This work is done in collaboration with the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory, Richard Krikun, and Tyler Flockhart. My student Anjolene Hunt and myself are the contacts.”
Anjolene adds: “I am a M.Sc. student at the U of Alberta. My project is investigating CAWA use of post-harvest forest in their central/northern Alberta breeding grounds, and attributes or occupied and unoccupied residual patches and riparian buffers left by forestry companies. 2014 field work took place at two field sites: 1) Northwest of Lesser Slave Lake and 2) West of Calling Lake. 2015 field work is currently being conducted North of Lac La Biche. To aid in identification during tracking, we colour banded territorial males (2014: n=37, 2015:n=17 so far). In 2014, we also fit 10 of the colour banded males with VHF transmitters.”
Dr. Greg Mitchell | Environment Canada
I did some work looking at spring migration stopover habitat use. We used MOTUS to track regional migration routes and timing of migration in relation to weather and we will be continuing this in the fall. Junior Tremblay is deploying geolocators and miniature GPS tags on breeding males neat Quebec city to identify wintering locations and migration routes. Keith Hobson also deployed tags in Colombia this winter to see if birds were detected in Ontario. Kevin Fraser is doing same as Junior out west.
Dr. Junior Tremblay | Environment Canada, near Quebec City. (English at bottom):
Voici un petit descriptif de mon projet sur la paruline du Canada et qui porte sur la sélection de l’habitat, la productivité et la connectivité migratoire :
Les travaux ont lieu à la forêt d’enseignement et de recherche de Simoncouche. Les principaux objectifs du projet sont de: a) définir les habitats utilisés par la paruline du Canada pendant les périodes de nidification et d’après l’envol, b) évaluer la productivité des nids, c) établir la phénologie de la période pré-migratoire en mesurant les dates où les oiseaux quittent les aires de nidification et partent en migration, d) déterminer les corridors de migration et les aires d’hivernage. Pour ce faire, des inventaires par station d’écoute sont effectués au début de la période de nidification, ce qui permet de cibler des lieux de capture afin de munir des individus de bagues de couleurs et de géolocateurs. Par la suite, des recherches de nids sont effectuées et l’établissement de territoire par le suivi des individus avec des bagues de couleurs. L’établissement des territoires permettra de caractériser l’habitat utilisé par la paruline du Canada et alimenter la définition de son habitat essentiel. Une fois les nids trouvés, un suivi à tous les 3-5 jours est réalisé afin de déterminer la productivité ou le nombre de jeunes à l’envol. L’année prochaine, nous poursuivrons les travaux et veillerons à récupérer les géolocateurs afin d’analyser les données recueillies sur la migration et les aires d’hivernage.
Here is a description of my work on the Canada Warbler that is about habitat selection, productivity and migration route connectivity.
Our work takes place in the Simoncouche teaching and research forest in Quebec. The main objectives of the project are: a) define the habitats used by the CAWA during nesting and after fledging, b) evaluate nesting productivity, c) establish the phenology of the pre-migration period by measuring the dates when birds leave their breeding grounds and begin their migrations, d) determine the migration routes and the wintering areas. To do this, we conduct surveys at the beginning of the breeding period, once birds are detected, which allows us to target capture areas, then trap, band and deploy geolocators. Following this step, we search for nests and determine territories by following colour banded individuals. Determining territories allows us to characterize the breeding habitat and help define “critical habitat” for the species. Once we find nests, we monitor them each 3 to 5 days to determine productivity and the number of young that fledge. Next year, we will continue this work and hope to recover some of the geolocators and analyse the information about their migration routes and wintering grounds.
April 22, 2015
Canada Warbler International Conservation Initiative Breeding Grounds Summit – By Alaine Camfield, PhD
*The views expressed are the author’s own and not of her employer
Alaine Camfield, PhD | Bird Conservation Biologist, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environmental Stewardship Branch, Environment Canada
In mid-March 2015, under the watchful eyes of Carlitos (our papier–mâché mascot) a remarkable group gathered to discuss Canada Warbler conservation on the breeding grounds. The workshop was organized to mirror a previous meeting in Colombia that focused on wintering ground conservation and included Canadians and Americans from NGOs, industry, first nations, government and academic scientists, to name a few. Many of our South American colleagues also participated by sending short video introductions that helped set the positive tone of the workshop.
One of the workshop objectives was to build a sense of ownership and community around the recovery of this species. Through a series of presentations, break-out sessions and lively discussions, participants were able to share their work on Canada Warblers, raise important questions that highlighted gaps in our knowledge and share lessons learned from other conservation initiatives. A round-table at the end of the 3-day workshop highlighted a sense of motivation to move forward and a broad feeling that the connections made at the workshop would be incredibly valuable in advancing our efforts to conserve this most spectacular species.
Although the discussions were varied, a number of recurring themes surfaced. It is no surprise that a species with as broad a range as the Canada Warbler would have shifting habitat preferences across its range. Our lack of understanding of what exactly Canada Warblers cue in on when it comes to selecting breeding habitat is a gap in our knowledge that needs to be addressed, although it is clear that a shrubby, complex understorey is an important feature. This feature became known during the workshop as “the mess on the ground”. It would appear that Canada Warblers and two year olds have something in common when it comes to their preferred environmental conditions. Other recurring themes were the need for research to allow us to better estimate vital rates and to generate a better understanding of connectivity among breeding, migrating and wintering populations. Not all themes related to research needs. There was a general consensus that an important next step would be to work together with a broad range of stakeholders to generate Beneficial Management Practices for the forest industry to help them to continue management to improve Canada Warbler habitat.
A final workshop objective was to develop a breeding grounds conservation action plan for Canada Warbler that includes research, management strategies, information sharing, regional coordination and monitoring with a view to the species’ full life cycle. To this end, participants contributed to a compilation of a list of known threats/pressures that are thought to be contributing to Canada Warbler population declines on the breeding grounds and made significant strides in identifying important actions that should be taken to maintain Canada Warbler populations across their range. The results of this work will be the basis for the Conservation Action Plan for the Canada Warbler.
As we return to our homes across the US and Canada and resume everyday life, hopefully the vision and goals we have set for Canada Warblers will linger in the back of our minds and motivate us to build on the momentum generated at the workshop. As I think about previous conservation successes we have had in the past I cannot help but be reminded of the great strides that can be gained by small groups of dedicated individuals.
Vision: To have healthy and viable populations of Canada Warbler across its current range and occurrence.
Overarching Goal: To stop the decline by 2025, (losing no more than 10% over this time), have an increasing trend by 2035 and maintain the extent of occurrence with minimal loss of distribution.
Dec 12, 2014
The Road to Recovery – By Ted Cheskey
At first glance, the Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis) seems about as Canadian as a bird species can get, with over 90% of its population breeding in Canada. But is it really as Canadian as all that? The entire breeding population leaves Canada by mid-September, migrating through the USA, Mexico and Central America to northern South America (especially Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru) for the winter. In fact, in any given year, this species is barely in Canada for four months of the year. While no one is suggesting a name change, it is clear that many of “our” birds are in fact species we share with other countries. This important fact lies behind current conservation efforts, which look beyond our borders.
The Canada Warbler is a recent addition to Schedule 1 of the federal Species at Risk Act as a threatened species, and was even more recently added to Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Animals. Although Canada is not a signatory to the Convention, the Convention does have the effect of encouraging partnerships and a collaborative approach to shared migratory species that are in trouble. The Canada Warbler is still a widespread breeding species across most of Canada and parts of the northeastern USA, but it has declined significantly over the past 40 years. The reasons behind the decline are complex, but impacts on the wintering grounds appear to be the most critical issue.
To address these concerns, BirdLife International, Environment Canada, Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada, through the support of Swarovski Optik, held a “summit” workshop high in the Colombian capital of Bogota in late September 2014. Representatives from organizations based in the Canada Warbler’s main wintering grounds (including Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru) and along its migration route (including Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico) participated in an intense three-day workshop to develop a conservation plan for the wintering grounds of this species. This workshop was jointly facilitated by BirdLife International and Calidris, the BirdLife partner in Colombia. Four Canadians attended this workshop, including Judith Kennedy of the Canadian Wildlife Service, who is a driving force for the conservation of this species in Canada, Ana Gonzalez, a Colombian/Canadian doctoral student at the University of Saskatchewan and staff member of Bird Studies Canada, Amélie Roberto-Charron, a biologist with the Beaverhill Bird Observatory and Masters student from the University of Manitoba, and Nature Canada’s own Ted Cheskey. Although Bogota is 2600 metres above sea level, the mild altitude effects scarcely slowed anyone down during this intensive workshop.
The workshop was organized as a forum to determine how much we know about the Canada Warbler in Latin America, who is working on the species in some way, and what we can and should be doing to help it recover. In addition to biologists and conservation groups, there were also some participants who work directly with coffee growers. Loss of forest habitat to coffee plantations is thought to be a threat to the species on the wintering grounds, as its preferred habitat on the Andean slopes is at the same altitude where coffee is grown. While this is a complex threat to describe and understand, it was extremely rewarding to meet and talk with people like Rocio Espinosa Aldana and Giovanni Cárdenas Carmona, who work closely with coffee cooperatives, including the families and schools, to promote sustainable approaches to coffee growing that also support Canada Warblers and many other bird species that use the same habitats.
Nature Canada will be hosting a Canada Warbler breeding grounds workshop in March 2015, with the intent to apply the same energy and methods to addressing concerns in the north, which will inform our conservation efforts here at home. We know there are many issues impacting this species on the breeding grounds, ranging from certain types of forestry, residential expansion, climate change, window collisions and cat predation. We look forward to sharing the outcomes of this workshop with you.
Two important steps for Canada Warbler conservation and management are identifying what habitat is important for the species, and how to appropriately manage it. A partnership between Environment and Climate Change Canada and High Branch Conservation Services, with support from Nature Canada, the Boreal Avian Modelling Project and the Canada Warbler International Conservation Initiative, developed habitat management guidelines for this species in the Atlantic Northern Forest of Canada (U.S. guidelines are available in English here and French here). These guidelines and maps are designed to help managers engage in forestry activities so as to minimize their impact on Canada Warbler habitat, and ensure a future supply of habitat is available. The full report and the 2-page field guide summary are available in both English and French. The Canada Warbler spatial report is available in both English and French.
No events in the near future. Stay posted here or visit the Canada Warbler International Conservation Initiative on Griffin Groups.