Friday, 22 February 2013

bird talk: state of the nation

Spruce Grouse SOCB 2012 May Haga

Greater Sage Grouse SOCB 2012 May Haga
 Maps and photos are reproduced from 
State of Canada's Birds 2012 website, 
see notes & a link to pdf download below

excerpt from canadian geographic

The state of the avian nation

with illustrations by 


1. Southern Shield and Maritimes
The Southern Shield and Maritimes region covers southern Ontario, skimming over the north shore of Lake Superior, as well southern Quebec (the shores of the St-Lawrence River excepted) into the Gaspé peninsula, and New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in their entirety.
Populations across all bird species in this region have decreased by 13 percent.

Thriving: American black duck
This is one of a number of waterfowl whose numbers have increased, due in part to careful management of hunting in Canada and the United States and habitat conservation.
Struggling: Olive-sided flycatcher
Aerial insectivores, including this threatened species, have decreased by almost 70 percent, possibly as a result of habitat change or a decline in insect prey because of pesticide use.

2. Lower Great Lakes-St.Lawrence
The Lower Great Lakes / St. Lawrence region encompasses Lakes Huron, Erie and Ontario, extending up the St. Lawrence Valley to cover the north and south shores of the St. Lawrence River to the river's mouth.
On average, all species in this region are up by 20 percent, but some groups are of great concern, such as aerial insectivores.

Thriving: Hooded merganser
Habitat conservation and improved nesting in urban areas have been a benefit to the species, which has increased by more than 50 percent.

Struggling: Chimney swift
The number of these aerial insectivores has declined by 95 percent. Factors in their decline may include a reduced insect population and loss of nesting habitat.

3. Eastern Boreal
The Eastern Boreal region extends east from the Manitoba-Ontario border through central Ontario and Quebec to Newfoundland and Labrador.
Billions of nesting birds call this region’s forests, bogs and wetlands home, but it’s under threat, largely from industrial development.

Thriving: Sandhill crane
Thanks to the protection provided by the Migratory Birds Convention Act, this species’ numbers have increased by as much as 100 percent.

Struggling: Blackpoll warbler
A migrant forest species, this bird has decreased in population because of the loss of habitat from encroaching industrial development.

4. Western Boreal
The Western Boreal extends west from the Ontario-Manitoba border, skirting north of the Prairies, and includes most of the Northwest Territories and Yukon (most northern sections excluded).
Billions of birds use this massive region, the focus of some intense industrial development, as a breeding ground.
Thriving: Green-winged teal
This “generalist” species of duck has doubled its population over the past 22 years.

Struggling: Lesser scaup
This “specialist” species of diving duck has declined by more than 50 percent since 1990, possibly because of shifts in the aquatic food web caused by climate change.

5. Prairies
The Prairie region occupies a roughly semi-circular area that has its base on the Canada-U.S. border and arcs from the western edge of Alberta to the eastern edge of Manitoba.
Grassland birds have declined by almost 40 percent, and the Prairie Pothole Region — an important waterfowl nesting area that stretches across parts of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and five U.S. states — is under threat of being drained.

Thriving: Western meadowlark
This is one of many species to benefit from bird-friendly farming practices, such as planting cover crops to provide shelter for nesting and reducing the amount of pesticides used.

Struggling: McCown’s longspur
The population has plummeted by 90 percent, and the loss of its native grassland habitat to agriculture could be one of the biggest factors in its decline.

6. West Coast and Mountains
The West Coast and Mountains region includes the southern two-thirds of British Columbia, coast included, and a southwestern section of Alberta.
Characteristic species have declined overall by 10 percent, but along the Pacific coast, they’ve declined by 35 percent.

Thriving: Trumpeter swan
This species has been brought back from the brink of extinction through habitat restoration and legal protection in Canada and the United States.

Struggling: Red crossbill
The number of these birds has declined by 10 percent, mostly due to the logging of mature forests, which provide their main food source: cones.

7. Arctic
The Arctic region includes the top of Canada by covering the arctic islands, mainland Nunavut and the northern tip of the Northwest Territories. A smaller eastern segment bridges the top of Quebec and Labrador.
Climate change may be the biggest contributor affecting bird populations in this region.

Thriving: Snow goose
This population has increased by more than 300 percent — but at a cost to coastal salt marshes, where the birds engage in intense foraging.

Struggling: Whimbrel
Habitat loss, environmental pollutants and climate change have seen the numbers of Arctic shorebirds such as the whimbrel decline by 60 percent.

8. Oceans
The Oceans region encompasses the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans, including Hudson and James Bays.
The number of seabirds has increased, but the Pacific region has seen a minor decline due to introduced predators, such as rats and raccoons.

Thriving: Northern gannet
Almost 60,000 pairs of this species nest on Île Bonaventure in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, up from 16,000 in 1976. Reduced exposure to pesticides is one of the reasons the population has increased.

Struggling: Ancient murrelet
Fifty percent of the world population is found off the coast of British Columbia, and introduced predators — namely rats and raccoons — have significantly reduced their numbers.

Read the full article by Anne Watson in the CG Dec 2012 issue (end of excerpt)


Only 22% of Canadian bird species spend the whole year in Canada. Most others migrate to the United States (33%), to Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean (23%) or to South America (15%). Some travel to Europe or Asia or spend long periods of time at sea (7%). 
source/SOCB 2012 website


full colour, 36 pages


Maps by: Andrew Couturier, Sandra Marquez, Eva Jenkins, Adam C. Smith 

Illustrations by: Ksenia Nigmanova

Photographs by: May Haga 

more about the grouse:
birds, maps, languages 1
birds, maps, languages 2
The maps of grouse territories in my previous discussion do not reflect the regional divisions of SOCB study. In my discussion, Blue Grouse and Ruffed Grouse are the focus; in the national report, only three of the Family of Grouse are specifically noted (see May Haga photos above), Greater Sage Grouse on p 4 and 14, and Spruce Grouse of p 12, with the accompanying text (emphasis/links added):

The endangered Greater Sage-Grouse, highly
susceptible to disturbance, occurs in habitats 
increasingly subject to oil and gas development.
Preservation and restoration of its prairie and 
sagebrush habitat will benefit many other
grassland species.

Spruce Grouse are year-round residents of boreal
forests across Canada, found mainly in spruce, 
regenerating pine and other conifers. Little is
known of their population status as they are 
difficult to survey.

AND the White-tailed Ptarmigan, p 17:

The White-tailed Ptarmigan is one of few species
that nest in rocky areas above the treeline. Climate 
change may affect their habitat, but little is known 
of their population trends.

also see:

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