The Canada Warbler

By Victoria Foote

The Canada warbler is a small, brightly coloured songbird that, like millions of other migratory birds, breeds in Canada’s vast boreal forest, including the portion of it that is in Ontario. It is sometimes referred to as the “necklaced warbler” because of the distinctive black markings across its yellow throat and breast.

Sadly, this species has declined in population by 45 percent over the last 40 years, and in April, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) declared the Canada warbler to be a species at risk, classifying it as threatened. According to the COSEWIC listing, there is no indication that this population trend will be reversed.

Like so many other birds, the pretty Canada warbler undertakes an extraordinary journey between the northern parts of the province and wintering grounds in northern South America. It is one of the last warblers to arrive in our forests and one of the first to migrate south, following a chain of staging grounds along the Gulf coast and into southern Mexico until they eventually reach their winter habitats. At many of these staging sites – where the birds touch down before continuing on their way – Canada warblers must contend with habitat loss and degradation.

It is true that habitat fragmentation, logging and pollution in its South American wintering grounds are a contributing factor to the steady decline of this bird. But its dependency on the boreal forest cannot be underestimated. The Boreal Forest Region: North America’s Bird Nursery, a report Bird Studies Canada published in 2005, shows that this region is more important to avian life cycles than anyone had previously realized. One of the report’s authors, Jeff Wells, a scientist with the Boreal Songbird Initiative based in Seattle, said shortly after the release of the report, “Simply put, the future of bird life across North America depends on how well we steward the boreal forest region. We have the capacity and responsibility to forestall future extinction of the multitudes of birds that depend on this northern forest.”

Will the Canada warbler disappear from Ontario? We very much hope not. Please find out what you can do and how to support Ontario Nature’s Save the Boreal Forest campaign with its focus on boreal birds (more information can be found at www.saveourborealbirds.org). This colourful, active little bird also depends on us.

Contributors

moira_farrA novice gardener and budding lepidopterist, Moira Farr was eager to study the art of creating a perfect butterfly garden for her article “The butterfly effect”. Farr plans to entice the summer travellers by introducing host and nectar plants this year. According to Farr, “It is going to be a learning experience, but one I’ll enjoy, and feel good about doing if it does anything to provide a sliver of habitat for these creatures.” A frequent contributor to ON Nature, Farr teaches a course in magazine writing at the Carleton School of Journalism. Her articles have appeared in explore, The Walrus and Canadian Geographic.

mark_carabettaMark Carabetta, Ontario Nature’s conservation science manager, can trace his fascination with reptiles back to when he was a child growing up in Connecticut. Today, Carabetta is spearheading an effort to protect Ontario’s reptile populations through Ontario Nature’s Reptiles-at-Risk project (“SOS for endangered reptiles”). “Ontario is home to substantially more reptiles than any other Canadian province,” says Carabetta. “As a result of habitat fragmentation, however, most of our reptiles are now designated as species at risk.” Ontario Nature has begun mapping the habitats of some reptile species to identify opportunities for habitat restoration in parts of the province. Now that the project is under way, Carabetta says he is cautiously optimistic about the animals’ fate. “I believe this project is going to make a difference.”

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