Trends in Canada's migratory bird populations
Billions of birds nest and raise their young in Canada and the majority are migratory. On average, Canadian breeding bird populations declined by 12% between 1970 and 2010, but trends vary among species, depending, in part, on where they winter.Footnote 
By 2010, bird species spending the entire year in Canada increased in population on average by 68% since 1970. Bird species migrating farther from home generally declined, and birds migrating the farthest - to South America - showed the most severe declines, with populations declining by 53%. Birds migrating to the United States had 10% declines on average, while birds migrating to Central America declined by 14%.
Trends in Canada's migratory bird populations by primary wintering area, 1970-2010
The line graph shows trends in Canada's migratory bird populations for the period 1970 to 2010 for groups of native bird species that winter primarily in one of four areas: Canada; United States; Central America (includes Mexico and the Caribbean); and South America. An overall population trend line for "all birds" is also provided. Plotted on a rescaled percentage change axis, the graph reflects changes in species' populations since the base year 1970 (1970 = 0). Overall, bird species spending the entire year in Canada increased in population on average by 68% since 1970 in 2010 while bird species migrating farther from home generally declined with populations migrating to South America declining by 53 percent, birds migrating to the United States declining by 10 percent and birds migrating to Central America declining by 14 percent.
Data for this chart
|Year||Average population trends of 52 bird species wintering in Canada (percent change from 1970)||Average population trends of 111 bird species wintering in the United States (percent change from 1970)||Average population trends of 74 bird species wintering in Central America (percent change from 1970)||Average population trends of 55 bird species wintering in South America (percent change from 1970)||Average population trends "All Birds" (percent change from 1970)|
Download data file (Excel/CSV; 2.25 KB)
Note: There are 451 regularly occurring native bird species in Canada. The annual composite population index for "all species" reports on 318 bird species for which there are sufficient population data, including birds that winter in more than one area. Annual indices by primary wintering area report on 292 bird species with sufficient population data and exclude birds that winter across more than one area. Central America includes Mexico and the Caribbean.
Source: North American Bird Conservation Initiative-Canada (2012) State of Canada's Birds.
Within each wintering area, there are increasing and decreasing species. While trends reflect the overall patterns, individual species or species groups respond to different environmental factors. For example, grassland birds in Canada are generally declining and raptors are generally increasing.Footnote 
|Primary wintering area||Strong increase (number of species)||Increase (number of species)||Little change (number of species)||Decrease (number of species)||Strong decrease (number of species)||Total|
Data for this indicator
|Strong increase (18)||Increase (6)||Little change (10)||Decrease (7)||Strong decrease (11)|
|Spruce Grouse||Barred Owl||Ruffed Grouse||Great Horned Owl||King Eider|
|Wild Turkey||Downy Woodpecker||Sharp-tailed Grouse||Long-eared Owl||Willow Ptarmigan|
|Gyrfalcon||Blue Jay||Northern Goshawk||Chestnut-backed Chickadee||White-tailed Ptarmigan|
|Northern Hawk Owl||Clark's Nutcracker||Red-breasted Sapsucker||Boreal Chickadee||Purple Sandpiper|
|Great Gray Owl||Northwestern Crow||Gray Jay||Bohemian Waxwing||Snowy Owl|
|Boreal Owl||Pygmy Nuthatch||Steller's Jay||Pine Grosbeak||Black-backed Woodpecker|
|Red-bellied Woodpecker||-||Black-billed Magpie||Red Crossbill||Bewick's Wren|
|Hairy Woodpecker||-||Mountain Chickadee||-||Northern Mockingbird|
|American Three-toed Woodpecker||-||Bushtit||-||Snow Bunting|
|Pileated Woodpecker||-||Brown Creeper||-||Common Redpoll|
|Hutton's Vireo||-||-||-||Hoary Redpoll|
|Strong increase (19)||Increase (17)||Little change (32)||Decrease (18)||Strong decrease (25)|
|Snow Goose||Tundra Swan||Brant||Yellow-billed Loon||American Wigeon|
|Ross's Goose||Gadwall||American Black Duck||Horned Grebe||Northern Pintail|
|Cackling Goose||Green-winged Teal||Mallard||Great Blue Heron||Lesser Scaup|
|Canada Goose||Redhead||Canvasback||Marbled Godwit||White-winged Scoter|
|Wood Duck||Greater Scaup||Surf Scoter||American Woodcock||Northern Harrier|
|Ring-necked Duck||Common Goldeneye||Black Scoter||Belted Kingfisher||American Kestrel|
|Bufflehead||Barrow's Goldeneye||Pied-billed Grebe||Northern Flicker||Killdeer|
|Hooded Merganser||Common Loon||Red-necked Grebe||Eastern Phoebe||Mew Gull|
|Common Merganser||Red-tailed Hawk||Cooper's Hawk||Mountain Bluebird||Short-eared Owl|
|Bald Eagle||Dunlin||Red-shouldered Hawk||Varied Thrush||Red-headed Woodpecker|
|Sharp-shinned Hawk||Rock Wren||Rough-legged Hawk||Brown Thrasher||Loggerhead Shrike|
|Ferruginous Hawk||Winter Wren||American Coot||American Pipit||Horned Lark|
|Yellow Rail||Sedge Wren||Piping Plover||Field Sparrow||Townsend's Solitaire|
|Sandhill Crane||Hermit Thrush||Wilson's Snipe||Le Conte's Sparrow||Chestnut-collared Longspur|
|Bonaparte's Gull||Cedar Waxwing||Yellow-bellied Sapsucker||Dark-eyed Junco||McCown's Longspur|
|Blue-headed Vireo||Smith's Longspur||American Crow||Red-winged Blackbird||American Tree Sparrow|
|Eastern Bluebird||Spotted Towhee||Marsh Wren||Brewer's Blackbird||Fox Sparrow|
|Pine Warbler||-||Golden-crowned Kinglet||Brown-headed Cowbird||Harris's Sparrow|
|Nelson's Sparrow||-||Ruby-crowned Kinglet||-||Eastern Meadowlark|
|-||-||American Robin||-||Western Meadowlark|
|-||-||Lapland Longspur||-||Rusty Blackbird|
|-||-||Orange-crowned Warbler||-||Purple Finch|
|-||-||Yellow-rumped Warbler||-||Cassin's Finch|
|-||-||Eastern Towhee||-||Pine Siskin|
|-||-||Vesper Sparrow||-||Evening Grosbeak|
|Strong increase (12)||Increase (9)||Little change (21)||Decrease (13)||Strong decrease (19)|
|Cinnamon Teal||California Gull||Sora||Greater White-fronted Goose||Eared Grebe|
|Western Grebe||Cassin's Vireo||American Avocet||American Bittern||Black-crowned Night-Heron|
|American White Pelican||Warbling Vireo||Long-billed Curlew||Green Heron||Forster's Tern|
|Virginia Rail||Philadelphia Vireo||Red Phalarope||Caspian Tern||Whip-poor-will|
|Ruby-throated Hummingbird||Northern Parula||Calliope Hummingbird||Dusky Flycatcher||Vaux's Swift|
|Pacific-slope Flycatcher||Magnolia Warbler||Red-naped Sapsucker||Great Crested Flycatcher||Rufous Hummingbird|
|Say's Phoebe||Black-throated Green Warbler||Hammond's Flycatcher||Tree Swallow||Yellow-bellied Flycatcher|
|Black-throated Blue Warbler||Western Tanager||Western Kingbird||Violet-green Swallow||Least Flycatcher|
|Palm Warbler||Indigo Bunting||Yellow-throated Vireo||Gray Catbird||Northern Rough-winged Swallow|
|Lark Sparrow||-||House Wren||Tennessee Warbler||Wood Thrush|
|Lazuli Bunting||-||Ovenbird||MacGillivray's Warbler||Sprague's Pipit|
|Orchard Oriole||-||Black-and-white Warbler||Black-throated Gray Warbler||Cape May Warbler|
|-||-||Nashville Warbler||Clay-colored Sparrow||Wilson's Warbler|
|-||-||Common Yellowthroat||-||Lark Bunting|
|-||-||Chestnut-sided Warbler||-||Grasshopper Sparrow|
|-||-||Townsend's Warbler||-||Baird's Sparrow|
|-||-||Chipping Sparrow||-||Rose-breasted Grosbeak|
|-||-||Brewer's Sparrow||-||Yellow-headed Blackbird|
|-||-||Lincoln's Sparrow||-||Baltimore Oriole|
|Strong increase (5)||Increase (5)||Little change (7)||Decrease (7)||Strong decrease (31)|
|Turkey Vulture||Solitary Sandpiper||Broad-winged Hawk||Upland Sandpiper||Spotted Sandpiper|
|Osprey||Greater Yellowlegs||Swainson's Hawk||Alder Flycatcher||Lesser Yellowlegs|
|Peregrine Falcon||Red-necked Phalarope||Sanderling||Willow Flycatcher||Hudsonian Godwit|
|White-rumped Sandpiper||Red-eyed Vireo||Buff-breasted Sandpiper||Eastern Kingbird||Ruddy Turnstone|
|Golden-winged Warbler||Blackburnian Warbler||Wilson's Phalarope||Northern Waterthrush||Red Knot|
|-||-||Swainson's Thrush||American Redstart||Least Sandpiper|
|-||-||Yellow Warbler||Scarlet Tanager||Baird's Sandpiper|
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Note: Bird species whose populations increased by more than 33% from 1970 to 2010 are classified as increasing. Species that have declined by more than 25% are classified as decreasing. Species that have experienced smaller increases or decreases are assigned to the little-change category.
Source: North American Bird Conservation Initiative-Canada (2012) State of Canada's Birds.
Travelling hundreds or even thousands of kilometres in search of food, shelter and safe passage, both en route and at their destinations, is risky for birds. The State of Canada's Birds 2012 lists the greatest threats to migrating birds travelling outside of Canada as follows:
- Habitat loss - Growing development pressures and demand for products in many countries in the Caribbean, Central and South America are destroying natural habitats. Agriculture is replacing both natural forests and grasslands. Logging has significantly reduced the forest habitats of Central America and the Caribbean. Beach tourism and shrimp aquaculture are replacing coastal habitats, including mangroves and salt marshes.
- Pollution - Oil spills, pesticides, industrial chemicals and heavy metals degrade the quality of air, water and terrestrial habitats, and may sicken or kill birds. Many toxic pesticides now banned in Canada and the U.S. are still in widespread use elsewhere.
- Incidental Take such as collisions with towers, windows, vehicles and power-lines kill millions of birds each year as they migrate between breeding and wintering areas. In addition, millions of birds are killed by domestic and feral cats.
- Uncontrolled hunting and trapping remains a concern for birds in some countries. Many shorebirds are hunted in the Caribbean, while songbirds are trapped for the caged bird trade in many areas.
- Climate change will have particularly strong effects on long-distance migrants because changes anywhere along their migration routes can disrupt their life cycle. Mismatches between migration timing and food availability can lead to reduced nesting success. Changing sea levels will flood coastal stopover habitats. More frequent, stronger storms can lead to major mortality on migration.
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