Habitat conservation priority for healthy bird populations in Canada

New report indicates waterfowl populations healthy, but threats to habitat escalating

Stonewall, Manitoba – June 28, 2012 – Today, the North American Bird Conservation Initiative in Canada (NABCI-Canada), a collaborative group made up of federal, territorial and provincial governments, conservation non-government organizations, and private sector organizations, released The State of Canada's Birds, a new national report that draws on 40 years of data to explore the current health of Canada's birds.

This new report finds that there are fewer birds now than in the seventies, and on average, Canadian bird populations have declined by 12 percent. Some groups, including grassland birds, migratory shorebirds and aerial insectivores have severely declined by more than 40 percent on average, some individual species in these groups up to 90 per cent.

The State of Canada's Birds indicates that habitat loss is a contributing factor to the decreasing bird population in Canada. Despite a sunny outlook in the report for waterfowl populations, Ducks Unlimited Canada continues to have significant concerns related to ongoing threats to waterfowl habitat.

"Although we have seen a steady increase in waterfowl populations over the last several years, we continue to see significant challenges to key waterfowl habitat across Canada," said David Howerter, national manager, institute for wetland and waterfowl research, DUC. "Widespread drainage of wetlands continues at high rates in key duck breeding areas like the Prairie Pothole Region. DUC continues to focus on key policy initiatives that ensure functional provincial wetland policies exist to stop wetland drainage."

Historic wet conditions in recent years have contributed to the increase in population for some species while agricultural changes on wintering grounds have led to large increases in some goose populations—to the point of overabundance in some cases.  Concerns for populations still remain for many other ducks that are well below population goals including the lesser scaup, American wigeon, northern pintail and several sea ducks.

"This new report illustrates that direct conservation efforts can have a positive impact on bird and waterfowl populations," added Howerter. "Waterfowl populations are where they are because of the focus that has been placed on protecting and restoring habitat by partners in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. It will take a combination of on-the-ground conservation work backed by science and policy for waterfowl populations to remain healthy."

This year's annual Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey will be released in the coming weeks. The BPOP Survey is an epic collaboration between the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service and is the largest, longest-running, and most effective and reliable wildlife survey conducted anywhere.

For more information on The State of Canada's Bird, please visit www.stateofcanadasbirds.org.  

Ducks Unlimited Canada is the leader in wetland conservation. A registered charity, DUC partners with government, industry, non-profit organizations and landowners to conserve wetlands that are critical to waterfowl, wildlife and the environment. Learn more at ducks.ca.