Protecting forest birds at risk in the Priority Place

The Ontario Forest Birds at Risk program at Birds Canada is very pleased to be a part of Environment and Climate Change Canada’s initiative to increase forest cover and connectivity within the Long Point Walsingham Forest (LPWF) Priority Place.

Birds Canada is a non-profit charitable organization with the mission to conserve wild birds through sound science, on-the-ground actions, innovative partnerships, public engagement, and science-based advocacy. The Ontario Forest Birds at Risk program has been operating at Birds Canada since 2011 and completes extensive bird surveys throughout southwestern Ontario as well as in the Frontenac region of eastern Ontario.

An endangered Prothonotary Warbler. Photo: Sue Drotos.

Ontario Forest Birds at Risk goals in the LPWF Priority Place are to improve the conservation status of four rapidly declining forest birds in southwestern Ontario’s forests: Acadian Flycatcher (Endangered), Louisiana Waterthrush (Threatened), Cerulean Warbler (Endangered), and Prothonotary Warbler (Endangered). Project results are intended to direct conservation and stewardship efforts over the short and long term.

Ontario Forest Birds at Risk’s primary project objectives are to:

  • Determine and monitor the location of the four target species at risk in the LPWF Priority Place
  • Search for and monitor nests to determine their outcome for three target species at risk in the LPWF Priority Place;
  • Identify forest health risks to the target species at risk in the LPWF Priority Place
  • Increase key audiences’ awareness and understanding of the target species at risk and conservation needs, and to engage landowners and managers in stewardship for species at risk
  • Increase our understanding of Cerulean Warbler habitat preferences in Ontario

The surveys completed by the Ontario Forest Birds at Risk program help landowners and managers make important conservation decisions to protect species at risk populations and habitat. Keeping an eye on these populations also helps track the health of our old-growth forests. All four rapidly declining birds are an indicator for old-growth forests in southwestern Ontario, meaning that seeing these birds indicates that a forest is healthy, diverse, and capable of withstanding some forest health risks such as invasive species.

In addition to bird surveys, The Ontario Forest Birds at Risk program takes advantage of their time in the forest to identify destructive invasive species such as Gypsy Moths and Emerald Ash Borer, and provide information to land owners and managers in taking action against them. These invasive species are devastating our forests throughout southern Ontario. Potential invasive species, such as Oak Wilt and Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, are also surveyed for. These tree diseases are currently ravaging oak and hemlock trees in northeastern North America. If these diseases spread, this would directly affect the Acadian Flycatchers and the Louisiana Waterthrushes that depend on hemlock for nesting and forest cover, as well as the Cerulean Warblers which nest in and around oak trees.

An endangered Cerulean Warbler. Photo: Trish Snider.

“Over the past decade of completing bird surveys, we’ve seen year after year that private landowners have been the most important contributor to the success of species at risk protection,” says Ian Fife of Birds Canada. “Of all four high priority species the Ontario Forest Birds at Risk program has detected, approximately 25% of the species at risk are found in private landowner woodlots and forests.”

The Ontario Forest Birds at Risk program completes surveys at no charge, and welcomes any person who wishes to have their woodlot surveyed or who would like to find out more about the Forest Birds at Risk program to contact Ian Fife at

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