Prairie Canada shorebird conservation plan

The three prairie provinces of Canada provide crucially important breeding and staging habitat for a large number of shorebird species. Of the 40 species of shorebirds that breed regularly in Canada, 25 breed in Prairie Canada (the prairie, boreal and Coastal Hudson Bay regions of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba), including eight species whose breeding range in Canada is primarily or entirely in the prairies. The region also provides important staging sites for 31 species of both spring and fall migrating shorebirds.

Recent analyses of population monitoring schemes over several decades across North America, including Canada, have shown a negative trend in nearly 80 per cent of shorebird species.

The North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) provides a national overview of the status of shorebirds in Canada and outlines procedures for cooperative national and international shorebird conservation. The Prairie Canada Shorebird Conservation Plan describes the current state of knowledge about shorebird species' biology, distribution, habitat needs and threats to their populations and conservation in Prairie Canada. It notes gaps in knowledge, and makes recommendations for priorities in shorebird monitoring, research and management activities in the three prairie provinces. Breeding birds are separated from migrants as priorities, timing of habitat use, and habitat requirements often differ between the two groups. Under those sections, the three main ecological areas of the region are discussed separately: prairie, boreal, and Hudson Bay coastline.

Overall Plan Goals: To sustain and enhance the distribution, diversity, and abundance of breeding and migrating populations of shorebirds throughout the Prairie Provinces. This will be done by:

  • acquiring sufficient information on population dynamics, population trends, breeding, migration and staging strategies, and habitat preferences of Prairie Canada shorebirds to make knowledgeable management recommendations;
  • sustaining and enhancing sufficient high-quality habitat to support healthy populations in Prairie Canada;
  • informing the public, decision-makers, and all those involved in land management in Prairie Canada about the importance of Prairie Canada to shorebirds, and about the biology, trends and management of shorebird species; and
  • ensuring that coordinated conservation efforts (regionally, nationally, and internationally) are in place to address the key conservation priorities for shorebirds in Prairie Canada.

1. Prairie/Parkland breeding birds

  • Piping Plover, (Charadrius melodus)
  • Mountain Plover, (Charadrius montanus)
  • Black-necked Stilt, (Himantopus mexicanus)
  • American Avocet, (Recurvirostra americana)
  • Willet, (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus)
  • Upland Sandpiper, (Bartramia longicauda)
  • Long-billed Curlew, (Numenius americanus)
  • Marbled Godwit, (Limosa fedoa)
  • Wilson's Phalarope, (Phalaropus tricolor)
  • American Woodcock, (Scolapax minor)

2. Boreal breeding birds (also Migrants through the Prairies/Parkland)

  • Greater Yellowlegs, (Tringa melanoleuca)
  • Lesser Yellowlegs, (Tringa flavipes)
  • Solitary Sandpiper, (Tringa solitaria)
  • Short-billed Dowitcher, (Limnodromus griseus)

3. Hudson bay breeders

  • American Golden-Plover, (Pluvialis dominica)
  • Semipalmated Plover, (Charadrius semipalmatus)
  • Whimbrel, (Numenius phaeopus)
  • Hudsonian Godwit, (Limosa haemastica)
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper, (Calidris pusilla)
  • Dunlin, (Calidris alpina)
  • Least Sandpiper, (Calidris minutilla)
  • Stilt Sandpiper, (Calidris himantopus)
  • Red-necked Phalarope, (Phalaropus lobatus)

4. Generalist breeding birds

  • Killdeer, (Charadrius vociferus)
  • Spotted Sandpiper, (Actitis macularia)
  • Common Snipe, (Gallinago gallinago)

5. Passage migrants

  • Black-bellied Plover, (Pluvialis squatarola)
  • Snowy Plover, (Charadrius alexandrinus)
  • Ruddy Turnstone, (Arenaria interpres)
  • Red Knot, (Calidris canutus)
  • Sanderling, (Calidris alba)
  • Western Sandpiper, (Calidris mauri)
  • White-rumped Sandpiper, (Calidris fuscicollis)
  • Baird's Sandpiper, (Calidris bairdii)
  • Pectoral Sandpiper, (Calidris melanotos)
  • Buff-breasted Sandpiper, (Tryngites subruficollis)
  • Long-billed Dowitcher, (Limnodromus scolopaceus)

6. Status, seasonal timing of occurrence, known Canadian population trends and conservation priority of shorebirds commonly occurring or known to have bred in the prairie region of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta

Table 1. The table of the status and seasonal timing of occurrence, and known Canadian population trends and conservation priority of shorebirds commonly occurring or known to have bred in the prairie region of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. table 1 note1
Species Nametable 1 note2 Status and Occurrence in the Prairiestable 1 note3 Population Trend in Canadatable 1 note4 Prairie Responsibility (Canada)table 1 note5 Prairie Responsibility (Hemispheric)table 1 note6
American Avocet B D H M
Black-necked Stilt b I (H) VL
Black-bellied Plover S,f D m M
American Golden-Plover S,f s?/d m M
Semipalmated Plover S,F s?/d l L
Piping Plover B d H H
Mountain Plover (b) d? (H) VL
Snowy Plover (b) ? (H) VL
Killdeer B D M L
Greater Yellowlegs F s?/d m M
Lesser Yellowlegs S,F D m M
Solitary Sandpiper s,f s?/d l L
Willet B D H M
Spotted Sandpiper B D L L
Upland Sandpiper B I? H L
Eskimo Curlew (s) s? l L
Long-billed Curlew B D H M
Whimbrel S d/s? I L
Hudsonian Godwit F ? h H
Marbled Godwit B D H H
Ruddy Turnstone S s? l L
Red Knot S d/s? l L
Sanderling S D h H
Semipalmated Sandpiper S,F D m M
Western Sandpiper (f) ? (l) Vl
Least Sandpiper S,F D l L
Baird's Sandpiper S,F s? h M
White-rumped Sandpiper S s?/D h M
Pectoral Sandpiper S,F s?/d h M
Dunlin S s? l L
Stilt Sandpiper S,F ? h H
Buff-breasted Sandpiper S,F D h M
Long-billed Dowitcher S,F ? m M
Short-billed Dowitcher S,F D m M
Common Snipe B D L L
American Woodcock B D L VL
Wilson's Phalarope B D H M
Red-necked Phalarope S,F D h H

Priority needs for Prairie shorebird conservation

A selection of priorities have been identified but extensive consultation with, and the involvement of, other partners during implementation of the Plan will further define and prioritize research, monitoring and habitat management activities. This selection includes: monitoring and research needs, and habitat management needs.

Monitoring and research needs:

  • assess the accuracy of select population monitoring schemes and develop appropriate methods.
  • identify factors affecting shorebird species survival and productivity.
  • conduct broad-scale monitoring (i.e. International Shorebird Survey), the International Piping Plover Census and special single species surveys, and
  • determine the effects of anthropogenic (human-caused) changes on shorebird populations and the effects of botulism on shorebirds.

Habitat management needs:

  • identify and protect critical habitat, and map key shorebird staging/breeding sites and habitat areas.
  • develop maps to integrate staging/breeding sites with other groups, and overlap these sites with other priority sites of landbirds, colonial waterbirds and waterfowl.
  • manage and create wetlands, and
  • develop and apply agriculture and forest management practices compatible with shorebird habitat needs.

Prairie Canada shorebird conservation plan drafting committee

  • Dr. Cheri Gratto-Trevor, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Gerry Beyersbergen, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Loney Dickson, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Pauline Erickson, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Bob MacFarlane, Ducks Unlimited Canada
  • Dr. Martin Raillard, Chair, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Tom Sadler, Ducks Unlimited Canada


The Prairie Canada Shorebird Conservation Plan was developed and endorsed by the Prairie Habitat Joint Venture, a group of government and non-government agencies working together to promote migratory bird conservation in Prairie Canada. Plan implementation will require partnerships among federal and provincial governments, non-government organizations, industry and landowners. Partnerships will be created around matching partners' strengths in research, monitoring, habitat protection, wetland and upland management, marketing, environmental education and communications. Strong and effective partnerships will ensure that the Prairie Canada Shorebird Conservation Plan moves forward as an integral part of an integrated, ecologically-based, biologically-driven landscape.

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