Population status of Canada's migratory birds

Canada's bird populations have been heavily influenced by human activity, in ways that have helped some species and hindered others. Of the managed migratory speciesFootnote [1] (368 with adequate monitoring data) regularly found in Canada, 57% (208 species) have population sizes within an acceptable range, and 43% (160) do not. The proportion of species with acceptable population sizes varies between ecological groups. For example, most waterfowl (67%) and forest bird species (63%) are within acceptable ranges, but grassland birds (18%) and aerial insectivores (birds that catch insects while in flight, 28%) have lower proportions of species with acceptable population levels.

Population status of migratory birds, Canada, 2013

Proportional bar chart

Long description

The proportional bar chart shows 57% of migratory bird species in Canada have population sizes in an acceptable range, and 43% do not. Other bars show the proportions for groups of species with similar ecologies. Waterfowl and other waterbirds have the highest proportion of species with acceptable population sizes, while grassland birds and aerial insectivores have the lowest proportions. Waterfowl are the only group with species that exceed acceptable bounds.

Data for this chart
Population status of migratory birds, Canada, 2013
Ecological group Below bounds
(number of species/populations)
Above bounds
(number of species/populations)
Within bounds
(number of species/populations)
Insufficient data
(number of species/populations)
All MBCA species 151 9 208 53
Forest birds 36 0 61 2
Waterfowl 10 9 39 10
Other waterbirds 19 0 41 18
Shorebirds 31 0 14 5
Grassland birds 18 0 4 0
Aerial insectivores 21 0 8 1

Download detailed data file (Excel/CSV; 1.10 KB)

Note: Species groups are as in State of Canada's Birds but include only species addressed in the Migratory Birds Convention Act (MBCA). Fifty-three species lack sufficient data to be assessed.
"Species" as used here may include subspecies or populations of relevance to management. Species groups are as in State of Canada's Birds; note that, of the 420 species considered here, 70 cannot be classified into the ecological groups and therefore do not appear in any group. Examples include habitat generalists that use both forest and grassland. Aerial insectivores are shown separately but are also included in other groups.
Source: Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, 2014.

Birds are important to Canadians. Bird watching is a popular activity and millions of Canadians feed birds in their backyards. Waterfowl hunting contributes to tourism, provides food and maintains traditions. Birds also provide ecological benefits by controlling insect and rodent populations, dispersing seeds, pollinating plants and playing key roles in the functioning of ecosystems. These "ecosystem services" contribute to our economy and our well-being.

Conserving Canada's birds requires a range of responses. At the end of the 19th century, many species of North American birds had been hunted almost to extinction. Increasing awareness of their plight led to national and international protections, including the Migratory Birds Convention, signed by Canada and the United States in 1916. This convention has provided the foundation for nearly a century of international cooperation on bird conservation. Commercial harvesting of birds was banned, and regulations have helped to ensure sustainable recreational hunting in both countries. Many species, such as herons, egrets and waterfowl, recovered dramatically after protection.Footnote [2] Habitat conservation remains key, not just in Canada but also along migratory routes and in wintering ranges for migrant species.

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