Canada’s boreal forest: A province-by-province look at where our birds breed

7/7/2014 | 0

Boreal wetlands in the Northwest Territories. Photo © Ducks Unlimited, courtesy of Boreal Songbird Initiative.

Boreal wetlands in the Northwest Territories. Photo © Ducks Unlimited, courtesy of Boreal Songbird Initiative.

Each summer, 1-3 billion birds nest in the North American boreal forest, which occurs in all of Canada’s provinces and territories except New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia.

Because most birds occur in low densities over huge areas, protecting them requires not small, localized habitat conservation, but landscape-scale action. Indeed, according to a recent report from the Boreal Songbird Initiative and Ducks Unlimited, maintaining the forest’s rich mix of species, communities, and ecosystem services would require shielding no less than half of the area from industrial disturbance.

Here’s a province-by-province look at the forest and the birds that depend on it. Provinces are arranged by the size of their boreal forest.

Palm Warbler: 98% breed in the boreal forest. Photo © Jeff Nadler, courtesy of Boreal Songbird Initiative.

Palm Warbler: 98% breed in the boreal forest. Photo © Jeff Nadler, courtesy of Boreal Songbird Initiative.

Quebec

Size of boreal forest: 1,200,000 km2
Percentage intact: 75%
No. breeding birds: 300-500 million
No. species: About 180, including Harlequin Duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Canada Warbler, and Olive-sided Flycatcher, all threatened species, and American Black Duck, Lesser Yellowlegs, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Boreal Chickadee, Palm Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, and Evening Grosbeak.

Northwest Territories

Size of boreal forest: 950,000 km2
Percentage intact: 88%
No. breeding birds: 150-500 million
No. species: >200, including White-winged Scoter, Arctic Tern, Blackpoll Warbler, Harris’s Sparrow, and Rusty Blackbird.

Ontario

Size of boreal forest: 862,000 km2
Percentage intact: 74%
No. breeding birds: 200-400 million
No. species: >250, including Yellow Rail, Canada Warbler, and Olive-sided Flycatcher, which are threatened, and such boreal forest specialties as Cape May Warbler, Philadelphia Vireo, Tennessee Warbler, Spruce Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker, and Lincoln’s Sparrow.

Manitoba

Size of boreal forest: 570,000 km2
Percentage intact: 82%
No. breeding birds: 100-300 million
No. species: >250, including Yellow Rail, Canada Warbler, and Olive-sided Flycatcher, which are threatened, and Hudsonian Godwit, LeConte’s Sparrow, Connecticut Warbler, Bonaparte’s Gull, and Great Gray Owl.

Yukon

Size of boreal forest: 465,000 km2
Percentage intact: 95%
No. breeding birds: 80-240 million
No. species: >150, including Olive-sided Flycatcher, Townsend’s Solitaire, Blackpoll Warbler, Smith’s Longspur, and Rusty Blackbird.

Short-billed Dowitcher: 97% breed in the boreal forest. Photo © Jeff Nadler, courtesy of Boreal Songbird Initiative.

Short-billed Dowitcher: 97% breed in the boreal forest. Photo © Jeff Nadler, courtesy of Boreal Songbird Initiative.

Alberta

Size of boreal forest: 465,000 km2
Percentage intact: 35%
No. breeding birds: 80-240 million
No. species: >200, including Whooping Crane, Short-billed Dowitcher, Bay-breasted Warbler, Canada Warbler, and Rusty Blackbird.

Saskatchewan

Size of boreal forest: 410,000 km2
Percentage intact: 76%
No. breeding birds: 70-200 million
No. species: >175, including Yellow Rail, Canada Warbler, and Olive-sided Flycatcher, which are threatened, and Bonaparte’s Gull and Great Gray Owl.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Size of boreal forest: 380,000 km2
Percentage intact: 86%
No. breeding birds: 70-200 million
No. species: >150, including Harlequin Duck, Short-eared Owl, Golden Eagle, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Bay-breasted Warbler, American Tree Sparrow, and Rusty Blackbird.

British Columbia

Size of boreal forest: 299,000 km2
Percentage intact: 71%
No. breeding birds: 50-150 million
No. species: About 170, including Olive-sided Flycatcher, Wilson’s Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, and Rusty Blackbird.

Nunavut

Size of boreal forest: 107,000 km2
Percentage intact: 99%
No. breeding birds: millions
No. species: About 85, including Yellow-billed Loon, Short-eared Owl and Harris’s Sparrow.

Each fall, 3-5 billion birds (adults and their young) migrate south out of the boreal forest toward their wintering habitat. Map courtesy of Boreal Songbird Initiative.

Each fall, 3-5 billion birds (adults and their young) migrate south out of the boreal forest toward their wintering habitat. Map courtesy of Boreal Songbird Initiative.

Sources: Boreal Birds Need Half: Maintaining North America’s Bird Nursery and Why It Matters (Boreal Songbird Initiative, Ducks Unlimited Inc., and Ducks Unlimited Canada, 2014), Canadian Boreal Initiative, and Boreal Songbird Initiative.

A version of this article appeared in the August 2014 issue of BirdWatching. Subscribe.

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