Population Status of Migratory Game Birds in Canada 2015
To obtain a copy of the full version of the 2015 Populations Status of Migratory Game Birds in Canada report, please contact
Beginning with this year’s edition, please note that the Canadian Wildlife Service will now publish the report on the Population Status of Migratory Game Birds in Canada (i.e., November Report) every two years such that the next report will be published in January 2018. Data on waterfowl population status will continue to be obtained, compiled and analyzed annually to ensure the long-term sustainability of game bird populations.
- Executive Summaries -
Canadian Wildlife Service
CWS Migratory Birds Regulatory Report Number 45
- Executive Summaries
- American Black Duck(Anas rubripes)
- American Coot (Fulica americana)
- American Wigeon (Anas americana)
- American Woodcock(Scolopax minor)
- Band-tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata)
- Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica)
- Blue-winged Teal(Anas discors)
- Brant (Branta bernicla)
- Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
- Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)
- Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
- Canvasback (Aythya valisineria)
- Common Eider (Somateria mollissima)
- Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata)
- Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
- Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)
- Gadwall (Anas strepera)
- Greater Scaup(Aythya marila) and Lesser Scaup(Aythya affinis)
- Greater Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens atlantica)
- Greater White-fronted Goose(Anser albifrons)
- Green-winged Teal(Anas crecca)
- Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus)
- Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)
- King Eider (Somateria spectabilis)
- Lesser Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens caerulescens)
- Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)
- Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
- Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
- Northern Pintail(Anas acuta)
- Northern Shoveler(Anas clypeata)
- Red-breasted Merganser(Mergus serrator)
- Redhead (Aythya americana)
- Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)
- Ross’s Goose (Chen rossii)
- Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)
- Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis)
- Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator)
- Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus)
- Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinagodelicata)
- Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)
Through a special partnership with Environment and Climate Change Canada, Wildlife Habitat Canada receives the revenues from the sale of the Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp, purchased primarily by waterfowl hunters to validate their Migratory Game Bird Hunting Permits. The conservation stamp is also sold to stamp and print collectors and those interested in contributing to habitat conservation. In 2014-2015, Wildlife Habitat Canada provided 43 grants totalling more than $1.5 million. This in turn helped leverage an additional $8.6 million in partner funding for conservation projects, resulting in the conservation, restoration and enhancement of almost 52 000 acres of wildlife habitat across Canada.
For more information on Wildlife Habitat Canada or the conservation stamp and print program, please call Wildlife Habitat Canada at 613-722-2090 (in the Ottawa area) or toll-free at 1-800-669-7919, or consult at wildlife habitat Canada.
Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the conservation of migratory birds in Canada and the management of the sustainable hunting of these birds. The hunting regulations for migratory game birds are reviewed and amended biennially by Environment and Climate Change Canada, with input from provinces and territories, as well as from various other stakeholders.
The population status of migratory game birds is assessed on an annual basis to ensure that the regulations are appropriate. Thus, Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) produces a report entitled "Population Status of Migratory Game Birds in Canada". This report contains population and other biological information on migratory game birds. Indeed, the CWS supports a variety of surveys to monitor migratory game birds in their breeding, wintering, staging, and moulting areas. The monitoring programs include surveys of breeding waterfowl to estimate population size and productivity, and harvest surveys to estimate the size of the harvest and assess the impacts of hunting regulations on populations. The data obtained from these monitoring programs are used in this report to assess the status of migratory birds in Canada, thus providing the scientific basis for managing waterfowl and setting sustainable hunting regulations. This information ensures that hunting does not jeopardize the sustainability of harvested waterfowl populations. The status of each migratory game bird species in Canada is summarized below.
American Black Duck (Anas rubripes)
The American Black Duck breeds primarily in the eastern part of North America and has traditionally been one of the most abundant duck species encountered in this region; however, the species declined in abundance over the middle of the last century. Causes for this decline are thought to be the result of changes in breeding and wintering habitat quality, overharvesting, and interactions (competition, hybridization) with Mallards. The Black Duck population has remained relatively stable since the 1990s. The harvest of Black Duck in Canada has remained relatively stable since 2000, and the species remains one of the most sought-after waterfowl by hunters in both Canada and the United States.
American Coot (Fulica americana)
The American Coot breeds from British Columbia to Ontario, with the highest densities in the Prairie provinces. In the early 1900s, wetland loss and overhunting were thought to have led to significant population declines, but the population has since recovered and is increasing. In Canada, the harvest of American Coot has diminished over the years, contrary to the United States, where it has remained relatively constant.
American Wigeon (Anas americana)
The American Wigeon’s breeding range is centred in western Canada. After major declines in the 1980s, resulting in part from prolonged periods of drought, American Wigeon numbers have been increasing steadily throughout most of the species’ range, particularly in the Canadian Prairies and in the Western Boreal Forest. Elsewhere, where the species is less abundant, its population has remained relatively stable or has shown slight declines. The Canadian harvest of this species has remained stable since the 1980s.
American Woodcock (Scolopax minor)
There are two distinct American Woodcock populations: the Central Population, which includes the individuals breeding in Manitoba and Ontario, and the Eastern Population, which encompasses breeding birds in Quebec and the Maritimes. Both populations appear to have undergone a moderate decrease relative to that of the early 1970s. A possible reason for the decline is the loss of suitable (early successional) wintering and breeding habitat. The American Woodcock is a popular migratory game bird in Canada but is particularly sought after in the United States. The harvest of American Woodcock has declined in Canada and the U.S. since the 1970s, a trend that has continued during this past decade, especially in the United States.
Band-tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata)
In Canada, the Band-tailed Pigeon is found only in the forested habitats of coastal southern British Columbia. This species’ population has shown a large decline since the 1970s, due in part to overhunting and habitat loss. Harvest has been severely limited in Canada for the past 20 years, in agreement with the management plan for the species. The Band-tailed Pigeon was listed in 2011 as a species of Special Concern under the federal Species at Risk Act .
Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica)
Two geographically isolated populations of Barrow’s Goldeneye are found in Canada: a small Eastern Population and a much larger Western Population. The Eastern Population was listed in 2003 as a species of Special Concern under the federal Species at Risk Act . As a result, the daily bag limit was restricted to one bird per day, in agreement with the species management plan. The Western Population has shown a stable long-term trend since the past 20 years. Due to its localized distribution and the small number of hunters sampled during the National Harvest Survey in the Eastern Population region, it is not possible to provide accurate Canadian harvest estimates for this species.
Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors)
The Blue-winged Teal breeds throughout much of Canada, with its core breeding range located in the Prairie Pothole Region. While its population has been significantly increasing since the early 1990s, the number of breeding pairs of this species in southern Ontario and Quebec has shown a slow decline in the last two decades, following even more dramatic declines between the early 1970s and the mid-1990s. Agricultural development and habitat destruction in eastern Canada are possible reasons for the species’ decline; consequently, restrictive regulations have been implemented in Quebec, although the harvest across Canada has remained relatively stable since the 1980s. Generally, fewer Blue-winged Teals are harvested in Canada compared to Green-winged Teals.
Brant (Branta bernicla)
Brant are Arctic-nesting geese. There are four distinct populations of Brant recognized in North America: the Atlantic Population, the Eastern High Arctic Population, the Black Population and the Western High Arctic Population. Recent estimates of numbers for the Atlantic Population suggest a population size of approximately 200 000 birds. Eastern High Arctic Brant population numbers are estimated through counts on wintering grounds; the 2013 estimate suggested a population of approximately 35 000 birds. Black and Western Arctic population numbers are assessed during winter surveys, when it is difficult to distinguish the two types of Brant and, therefore, to estimate the population size of each species’ population. The Black Brant Population has been increasing in size during the last few decades, following a steady decline beginning in the early 1960s, and was estimated at approximately 150 000 birds in 2013. The Western Population has shown a stable trend since the 1960s and was estimated at approximately 16 000 birds in 2013. Harvest of the Atlantic Brant occurs mainly in the U.S., while the combined subsistence harvest of Atlantic and Eastern High Arctic Brant likely represents only a few thousand birds annually in Canada. In British Columbia, Black and Western High Arctic Brant are harvested during a short and late hunting season that was established in 1977 to reduce harvest on the local Brant population and to help increase local numbers of wintering birds.
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
The Bufflehead, which uses tree cavities to nest, is the smallest of the North American diving ducks. The species is found from coast to coast, but is more abundant in the western regions of Canada. Overall, the continental population has been increasing since the 1960s. Since 2000, the Canadian harvest has remained relatively stable but is considerably smaller than levels observed in the 1970s.
Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)
In 2004, the American Ornithologists’ Union identified two species of geese from the one species previously referred to as the “Canada Goose”: the Canada Goose and the Cackling Goose. In Canada, the Mid-continent Population of Cackling Geese includes all Cackling Geese nesting in the Arctic ecozone north of the tree line; these mostly migrate through the Prairies and winter mainly in areas of the Central and Mississippi Flyways. Although concrete population estimates are difficult to obtain for this species due to the remoteness of its breeding range, the Cackling Geese Population appears to have doubled in size between the 1970s and the 2010s. Harvest levels for this species are high and have varied significantly from year to year since the beginning of the 21st century.
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
Canada Geese are grouped into different management populations based on their breeding and wintering ranges. The subarctic-breeding populations have remained relatively stable since the early 2000s, with the exception of the Southern James Bay and the Mississippi Valley Populations. The temperate-breeding populations, however, have grown so quickly in size that they have caused conflicts with humans, crop damage and even hazards in some areas (e.g., airports). Over the past 30 years, hunting regulations for temperate-breeding Canada goose populations have been gradually liberalized to mitigate these issues. Other management practices, including egg addling, prevention of nesting, and landscape management, have complemented the liberalized harvest. In Canada, the harvest of Canada Geese has been steadily increasing since the 1970s.
Canvasback (Aythya valisineria)
The Canvasback’s core breeding area is in the Prairie provinces, but the species is found as far south as the U.S. Prairies and as far north as the Northwest Territories. Despite the fact that the Canvasback remains one of the least abundant waterfowl species in Canada, its population has increased since the beginning of the 1990s. Much of the interannual population fluctuations can be explained by annual changes in water levels, which impact the number of wetland breeding habitat in the Prairies. Since 2001, the majority of Canvasbacks have been harvested in the Prairie provinces, but harvest in Ontario has historically represented about half of the Canadian harvest for this species.
Common Eider (Somateria mollissima)
The Common Eider inhabits Arctic and Subarctic coastal marine habitats and has a circumpolar distribution that includes Russia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland. The species spends its entire life cycle in marine environments: it nests in large colonies, mostly on marine islands, and forms large aggregations in inshore coastal regions outside of the breeding season. There are four subspecies of Common Eider worldwide. Information on population size and trends for the Common Eider, as for most sea ducks, is largely unreliable because of the remoteness of the breeding and wintering areas, as well as the lack of regular population surveys. In Canada, Common Eiders are harvested for Aboriginal subsistence purposes (adults, eggs). They are also harvested recreationally, and their down is collected commercially. Data suggest that in some regions, the harvest must be carefully monitored to ensure the long-term sustainability of the population. The harvest of this species in Canada has been highly variable since the 1990s, although there is an overall gradual decline in harvesting rates.
Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata)
The Common Gallinule is a secretive marsh bird that is primarily found in southern Ontario and southwestern Quebec, but with some individuals also found in eastern New Brunswick and western Nova Scotia. Population estimates are not available for all of Canada, but data from Ontario suggest a significant population decline. Consequently, in 2012, the CWS-Ontario Region, in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, initiated a pilot banding project of gallinules in Ontario. The species has been listed as a priority species in Ontario, with the objective of reversing its decline. There are no annual harvest estimates for Common Gallinules available in Canada, but the harvest is likely small.
Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
In North America, the Common Goldeneye breeds in tree cavities across the boreal forest regions of Canada and Alaska. The western Canadian population has shown a stable or decreasing trend in the last two decades following a long-term increase between the 1960s and the 1990s. The population trend in eastern Canada has remained stable over this period. The harvest of Common Goldeneyes has been decreasing since the 1980s, with most of the harvest taking place in eastern Canada.
Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)
The Common Merganser is the largest of the three North American merganser species. It breeds across Canada wherever trees are large enough to support suitable nesting cavities. The population size and trend for mergansers are not reliably known, as many aerial surveys do not distinguish between Common and Red-breasted Mergansers, whose breeding range overlap extensively. An important part of the species’ breeding range, the boreal forest, is not covered by surveys. However, the three merganser species can be reliably identified during helicopter-based plot surveys such as those conducted in eastern Canada. In eastern Canada, Common Merganser numbers appear to have remained stable since 2000, a consistent trend since surveys first began in the 1990s. Overall, this species is not heavily harvested by hunters. The harvest of Common Mergansers has been decreasing since the 1980s, with most of the harvest occurring in eastern Canada.
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
The Gadwall is a common duck species in Canada, with its core breeding area located in the Prairies. Following a prolonged drought in the 1980s, the species’ population has shown a dramatic increase in most of its range and has doubled in size since the 1990s, mainly because of improved wetland conditions in the Prairies. Harvest has been relatively stable over the past 30 years, despite the population increase. In Canada, the majority of the Gadwall harvest takes place in the Prairie provinces, but the Canadian harvest is much smaller than that in the United States.
Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) and Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)
Two scaup species occur in North America: the Greater Scaup and the Lesser Scaup. These two closely related species are nearly identical in their overall appearance, which can cause difficulties in distinguishing them. The status of the breeding population of scaup (Greater and Lesser Scaup combined) in North America became a conservation concern due to apparent declines in the population size of these species compared to the historically high levels observed in the 1970s. Their populations have not yet fully recovered; research to understand the cause of the decline is ongoing.
The Greater Scaup is the larger of the two species and is the only diving duck in North America. The Greater Scaup is widely distributed across Arctic and Subarctic regions. The Lesser Scaup is the smaller of the two scaup species and is the most abundant and widespread diving duck in North America. The core breeding area for the Lesser Scaup is the Western Boreal and Prairie and Parkland regions, but it also nests at lower densities in eastern Canada.
The Lesser Scaup is the most abundant of the two scaup species, and the harvest for this species represents about two thirds of the combined harvest for Canada. The harvest of Lesser Scaup and Greater Scaup in Canada has declined considerably since the 1970s and appears to have stabilized below 50 000 birds annually since 2000.
Greater Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens atlantica)
Greater Snow Geese breed in the Canadian Eastern High Arctic, with the largest nesting colony on Bylot Island, Nunavut. During migration, the entire population stages in the marshes and agricultural lands of southern Quebec, and a small part of the population recently began to migrate through eastern Ontario and northern New Brunswick. The Greater Snow Goose population underwent a dramatic increase from a few thousand individuals in the 1930s to one million birds in 1999. The Greater Snow Goose has been designated as “overabundant” and has been subject to special conservation measures to control the numbers. In fact, harvest regulations were liberalized and a spring conservation season was established in Quebec in 1998; it was subsequently extended in 2012 to southeastern Ontario. Since the implementation of special conservation measures, the population has remained relatively stable, fluctuating annually between approximately 700 000 and 1 million birds. The harvest of Greater Snow Geese has increased since the end of the 1980s and has more than doubled since the introduction of special conservation measures in Canada and the U.S.
Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)
The Greater White-fronted Goose has one of the largest ranges of any species of goose in the world. In North America, it breeds across a broad region of the Arctic, from Alaska to the west coast of Hudson Bay. White-fronted Geese that breed in Canada belong to the Mid-continent population, which has increased substantially since the late 1980s. Recent estimates suggest a population size of about 2.4 million adults. Most Mid-continent White-fronted Geese migrate through Alberta and Saskatchewan in the fall, where most of its Canadian harvest takes place. The combined Canadian and U.S. harvest has more than doubled since the 1970s.
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)
The Green-winged Teal is a widely distributed and relatively abundant species in Canada. Unlike that of many other dabbling ducks, this species’ core breeding range is not in the Prairie Pothole Region but rather in the boreal forest. In western Canada, Green-winged Teal numbers have increased steadily since the early 1990s, whereas in eastern Canada, they have remained relatively stable over the same period. The Green-winged Teal is the most hunted duck species in Canada after the Mallard and the Black Duck, although the harvest level has been declining steadily since the 1970s but especially so in the last decade. Most of the Canadian harvest takes place in Ontario and Quebec, and the Canadian harvest represents only a fraction of the U.S. harvest.
Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus)
Until the 1990s, little was known of the ecology of Harlequin Ducks in North America. However, research efforts have since improved our understanding of this species, including with respect to its distribution and threats. For management purposes, there are two distinct populations of Harlequin Ducks in North America: the Western Population along the Pacific coast, and the much smaller Eastern Population. The Western Population trend appears to be stable, with estimates ranging from 150 000 to 250 000 birds. The Western Population of Harlequin Duck is hunted, but under restrictive regulations: probably fewer than 1000 Harlequin ducks are harvested annually in Canada. The Eastern Population declined in the 1980s, likely because of overharvesting. In 2003, the Eastern Population of the Harlequin Duck was listed as a species of Special Concern under the Canadian Species at Risk Act . The population has increased, reaching approximately 6 800 individuals in the mid-2000s, in part because hunting of this population has been prohibited in eastern Canada since 1990.
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)
The Hooded Merganser is the smallest of the three merganser species and is the only one that occurs solely in North America. The species breeds mostly in eastern Canada, where it is found in the highest densities in the Great Lakes Region in southern Ontario, and in Quebec. The species is also found in southeast Saskatchewan, southern Manitoba, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. It is thought to be one of the least abundant sea duck species in Canada, but its population status and numbers are difficult to determine accurately, due to the species’ secretive nature, its association with forested wetlands, and the fact that it nests in tree cavities. Furthermore, the Hooded Merganser is difficult to detect during fixed-wing aerial surveys, and an important part of its breeding range (the boreal forest) is not covered by surveys. Overall, mergansers are not heavily harvested by hunters. The Hooded Merganser is the most harvested of the three merganser species, and its harvest levels in Canada have slightly declined since the 1970s to approximately 11 000 birds annually during the last decade.
King Eider (Somateria spectabilis)
The King Eider has a circumpolar distribution. Among the sea ducks, this species is among the most northerly nesting. There are two populations of King Eider: the Western Arctic and the Eastern Arctic populations. Based on limited data, both populations appear to be locally stable or, in some areas, declining. Subsistence Aboriginal harvest in Canada, Alaska and Russia represents the majority of the take for this species. Information on population trends and harvest is limited.
Lesser Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens caerulescens)
Lesser Snow Geese nest in colonies ranging from a few hundred to over a million birds in coastal and inland areas of the Arctic. There are three populations of Lesser Snow Geese: the Mid-continent Population, the Western Arctic Population and the Wrangel Island Population. The Mid-continent Lesser Snow Goose Population has increased dramatically since the 1970s from 2 million to more than 12 million in the last decade. Populations have remained stable in recent years. The Mid-continent Lesser Snow Goose population has been designated as “overabundant” and has been subject since 1999 to special measures to control its size. In 2014, the Western Arctic Population was also designated as overabundant, and special conservation measures to control the population were implemented in Alberta and the Northwest Territories. In recent years, the harvest of Lesser Snow Geese has slightly increased compared to harvest levels in the 1970s, although it appears to have stabilized in the last decade despite the implementation of special conservation measures.
Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)
The Long-tailed Duck has a circumpolar distribution and, in North America, breeds at low densities in remote Arctic and Subarctic areas. During most of the year, this species is found primarily in coastal marine waters, often far offshore. Despite indications of long-term population declines, the Long-tailed Duck remains the most abundant Arctic sea duck in North America. The population appears to have remained relatively stable since the early 1990s. The Long-tailed Duck is not commonly harvested by recreational hunters in Canada due in part to the strong taste of its flesh. However, it is believed to be an important species in the Aboriginal subsistence harvest.
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
The Mallard is the most abundant and most widely distributed dabbling duck species in Canada, and is most abundant in the Prairie provinces. Mallards have been spreading eastward for decades and are now well established in New Brunswick, though they remain rare in Prince Edward Island and in Newfoundland and Labrador. The species’ population size has remained relatively stable or has increased since the drought periods of the 1980s. Mallard harvest levels have declined in the 1970s to the 1980s but have since stabilized. It remains the most extensively hunted duck species across the country.
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
The Mourning Dove is one of the most familiar and most heavily harvested migratory game birds, at least in the United States. It is also one of the most abundant and most widespread bird species in North America. This species is a common breeder in urban and rural areas across southern Canada, reaching its highest breeding densities within the Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain Region of Ontario and Quebec in the east, and within the Prairie Pothole Region of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta in the west. The Mourning Dove is monitored in Canada through the Breeding Bird Survey. Results from this survey indicate that the population has increased markedly since 1970 but has levelled off during the most recent decade. A hunting season was opened in 2013 in Ontario, and approximately 22 000 birds were harvested in 2014. An annual Mourning Dove hunting season takes place in British Columbia since 1960, but harvest levels are a small fraction of their historical levels.
There are two species of murres:
- Common Murre (Uria aalge)
- Thick-billed Murre (Uria lomvia)
In Canada, both species are most abundant on the Atlantic coast, with small numbers of Common Murres breeding in B.C. and small numbers of Thick-billed Murres breeding in the western Arctic. Numbers for both species have been drastically reduced over the last century because of human disturbance, overharvesting, oil pollution and probably commercial fisheries development. Murres are hunted by residents of Newfoundland and Labrador and by Aboriginal people. Newfoundland residents were granted hunting rights soon after they entered Confederation in 1949. Harvest levels decreased significantly following the implementation of hunting regulations in 1994 but have since shown a significant increase.
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
The Northern Pintail is one of the most abundant waterfowl species in Canada. The species is found across the country, with its core breeding range located in the Prairie Pothole Region of western Canada. Annual nesting success and productivity estimates are closely correlated with precipitation levels in the Prairies: periods of extended drought have led to dramatic population declines. Since 1990, the population has been slowly increasing, but it has yet to recover completely. In Canada, the Northern Pintail harvest has remained relatively stable since 1990.
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
In Canada, the core breeding range of the Northern Shoveler is the Prairie Pothole and Parkland Region of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba. The continental population has seen a significant increase since the 1990s, following a period of drought in the Prairies in the 1980s. Despite an increase in this species’ population size, the Canadian harvest of this species has remained relatively stable.
Four species of rails are found in Canada:
- Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola)
- Yellow Rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis)
- King Rail (Rallus elegans)
- Sora (Porzana carolina)
Rails are secretive marsh birds that breed and stage in many wetlands in Canada. Most often, they remain hidden in dense emergent vegetation, which makes surveying their populations and hunting individuals challenging. In Canada as a whole, the Virginia Rail population appears to be increasing, while the Sora population appears to be stable. The harvest for these two species is allowed in Ontario and Yukon, although it is thought to be very low. Conversely, Yellow and King Rail populations are believed to be declining. The Yellow Rail was listed in 2003 as a species of Special Concern under the federal Species at Risk Act , and the King Rail was listed the same year as Endangered. Neither the Yellow Rail nor the King Rail can be legally hunted in Canada.
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
The Red-breasted Merganser has a wide distribution in North America and is known to breed at high latitudes (up to 75°N). It is thought to be one of the least abundant species of sea ducks in Canada, but its population status and size are difficult to determine accurately due to the species’ secretive nature, the remoteness of parts of its breeding range, and its habit of nesting in tree cavities. Both short- and long-term trends for this species appear to be increasing. Overall, mergansers are not heavily harvested by hunters, and the Red-breasted Merganser is the least harvested of the three species.
Redhead (Aythya americana)
The Redhead breeds exclusively in North America, primarily in the Prairie Pothole Region of Canada and the United States. The continental population is increasing and has largely recovered since its decline following periods of drought in the 1980s. The vast majority of Redheads are harvested in the United States, where harvest levels have increased since the 1970s. In Canada, harvest levels have been low compared to other duck species, averaging approximately 23 000 birds per year in the last decade.
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)
The Ring-necked Duck is a common diving duck that breeds throughout the boreal forest in Canada. Its range extends from southern Yukon to Newfoundland. Its population has been steadily increasing in the Prairie provinces since the 1990s, whereas it has remained stable in eastern Canada. The harvest of Ring-necked Ducks in Canada has declined over the last 20 years, but the species continues to be sought after by hunters. A much larger harvest occurs in the United States.
Ross’s Goose (Chen rossii)
The vast majority of Ross’s Geese breed in the Queen Maud Gulf Region in the central Canadian Arctic, but increasing numbers are being found along the western coast of the Hudson Bay. Considered a rare species in the early part of the last century, Ross’s Goose has shown increasing numbers since the mid-1990s. In the last decade, the population has shown further increase and is currently estimated at approximately 2.7 million birds. Ross’s Goose has been designated as overabundant and is subject to special measures to control its numbers. The harvest of Ross’s Geese in Canada and the U.S. increased slowly from the 1960s to the 1980s and then more rapidly through the 1990s.
Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)
The Ruddy Duck is not an abundant species in Canada. Approximately 86% of the breeding population breeds in the Prairie Pothole Region of Canada. Ruddy Duck numbers are stable or increasing throughout most of the species’ North American breeding range. The species is not an important game bird species in Canada, with harvest numbers averaging approximately 1 500 birds over the last 10 years.
Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis)
Two Sandhill Crane populations breed in Canada: the Mid-continent Population and the Eastern Population. The Mid-continent Population, which is the larger of the two, breeds across Canada from eastern British Columbia to western Ontario, south to the Prairies and north to Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Its population is stable and above the North American Waterfowl Management Plan population objective. The Eastern Population of Sandhill Crane breeds in eastern Ontario, around the Great Lakes, as far north as James Bay, and in western Quebec. This population’s numbers show a long-term increasing trend and are above the population objective. In Canada, the harvest of Sandhill Cranes is allowed only in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Yukon. The harvest has been variable, but it has increased slightly over the years.
The three species of scoters that breed in Canada are:
- Black Scoter (Melanitta americana)
- Surf Scoter (M. perspicillata)
- White-winged Scoter (M. fusca)
Less is known about scoters than about any other group of sea ducks, but among the three species, the White-winged Scoter is the species for which the most information is available. Research efforts in recent years have led to a better understanding of the breeding, moulting and wintering ecology of this group of species. There are currently no surveys that provide good population or trend estimates for scoters. However, based on the available data, scoter numbers in western Canada for all three species have remained stable over the last twenty years but are lower than the population levels in the 1960s. Additional information is needed to better assess the status of scoter populations in Canada. Overall, scoters are not heavily harvested by hunters, with harvest levels averaging less than 7 000 birds annually over the last decade.
Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator)
There are three populations of Trumpeter Swans in North America: the Pacific Coast Population, the Rocky Mountain Population, and the Interior Population. The Pacific Coast population breeds mainly in Alaska, but also in Yukon and northwestern British Columbia. The Rocky Mountain Population breeds mainly in Alberta, western Saskatchewan, southern Yukon and the Northwest Territories. The Interior Population breeds primarily in Ontario, but small numbers have become established in eastern Saskatchewan and in Manitoba. The three populations have reached or exceeded their population objectives and are increasing. Consequently, most of the swan release programs that had been implemented--and were aimed at restoring the species’ population after it reached very low numbers in the 1930s--have now been discontinued. Hunting Trumpeter Swans is illegal in both Canada and the United States.
Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus)
The Tundra Swan is the most abundant and widespread of the two swan species native to the continent (the Mute Swan is an introduced species). Tundra Swans are managed as two distinct populations--the Eastern Population and the Western Population, primarily based on affiliations for each population with the major traditional wintering areas, along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Numbers for the Eastern Population appear to have increased slightly over the last decade, while the population trend for the Western Population appears stable. Historically, the Eastern Population has been slightly larger in size than the Western Population: the population sizes have averaged 100 000 and 85 000 swans, respectively, in the last decade. The hunting of Tundra Swans is legal but strictly regulated in the United States and prohibited in Canada.
Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata)
The Wilson’s Snipe is one of the most abundant and widespread shorebirds in North America. However, due to its elusive nature, it is difficult to monitor. Nevertheless, its overall numbers appear to have been slightly increasing since the late 1960s and early 1970s. The species is hunted at low levels both in Canada and the United States. In both countries, the harvest levels had shown a gradual decline since the end of the 1970s but appear to have stabilized in the last decade.
Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)
The Wood Duck is a secretive cavity-nesting species commonly found in swamps, marshes and riparian habitats in Canada. In Canada, it breeds primarily in the eastern provinces, including in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. In western Canada, the breeding population is small and scattered in locations between southern British Columbia and the extreme southwest of Alberta. Once threatened with extinction, this species’ population is now stable or increasing in Canada. As a result of this population recovery, the Wood Duck now ranks as the second most abundant duck species in both Ontario and Quebec. The species is sought after by hunters, and an average of 68 000 birds have been taken annually in Canada over the past 10 years. Harvest levels have declined compared to levels in the 1970s and 1980s but have been stable in the last decade.
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