WCS Canada

Boreal Birds

Fast Facts 

Scientific name: 325 species of bird (Class Aves) regularly occur in the boreal forest of northern Canada

  • The boreal forest is North America’s bird nursery: it is the breeding place for at least 2 billion migratory landbirds, 7 million shorebirds, and 26 million ducks.
  • Almost half of the bird species found in North America spend time in the Canadian boreal forest, and close to 100 of Canada’s 451 bird species have more than 50% of their breeding population in the boreal forest.
  • The seasonal migration of an estimated 1.65 – 3 billion birds to the boreal forest is one of the biggest animal migrations on the planet. Some Blackpoll Warblers and Alder Flycatchers are thought to migrate over 4,000 km in each direction on their annual migration between Canada’s boreal and South America!
  • Many boreal birds are insectivores that play an important ecological role in Canada’s boreal forest, providing pest control services valued at $5.4 billion per year.

Overall, Canada's total bird populations have declined by 12% since 1970, with 44% of monitored species decreasing. There is little information on the status of most species that breed in Canada's boreal because the majority of monitoring occurs along its southern extent. However, within the monitored area, a number of boreal bird species have experienced dramatic declines, including long-distance migrants such as Blackpoll and Canada Warblers. The Rusty Blackbird, which breeds in the boreal forest of Canada and Alaska, has declined by an estimated 90% and is listed as a Species At Risk in Canada.

The primary threat to migratory boreal birds is habitat loss and degradation, both in the boreal forest and on migratory stop-over sites and wintering grounds. Land conversion for forestry, agriculture, oil and gas development, and other human activities has resulted in significant habitat loss along the southern boreal boundary. While most northern boreal regions are still relatively intact, all boreal birds experience environmental changes associated with climate change.

In remote parts of the boreal forest, making informed decisions about how best to conserve these migratory birds is challenging because we lack basic knowledge about species ranges and habitat needs. The need for more data on these birds is especially critical because birds are good indicators of the overall health of boreal ecosystems – tracking their wellbeing can tell us a lot about the state of our boreal ecosystems.

WCS Canada is working to fill key knowledge gaps on habitat needs of landbirds breeding in the northern boreal forests of Yukon so we can understand the potential impacts of land use and land management decisions on boreal bird populations, and ensure protection of critical habitats in Yukon’s relatively intact boreal forests.


Improving Management of Valley-Bottom Habitats

The valley bottoms of Yukon’s mountainous boreal region contain productive natural habitats that support a high diversity of plants and wildlife, but these valleys are increasingly threatened by resource development activities. WCS Canada scientists are studying breeding populations of boreal landbirds in shoreline forests and wetlands ─ ecological communities that are disproportionately important to regional biodiversity yet often poorly represented in protected areas. This field-based research aims to fill key information gaps on the habitat needs of landbirds breeding alongside rivers, streams, and wetlands, and establish best management practices to conserve these important habitats for boreal birds.

Identifying Key Habitats for Conservation

Land use planning processes provide an opportunity for the creation of new protected areas in Yukon. WCS Canada scientists use landscape-scale mapping and modelling techniques to identify key wildlife habitats in the boreal, including places with high quality habitat for breeding landbirds.

Key Staff

Hilary Cooke
Associate Conservation Scientist
Lila Tauzer
Research Assistant
All Boreal Birds Staff >>

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WCS Canada - Whitehorse
169 Titanium Way, Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 0E9