Progress on Population Monitoring
Information gathered from monitoring bird populations is essential for tracking the status of bird populations—identifying which species are doing well and which may need conservation action—and they provide the foundation for this report on the state of Canada’s birds. Monitoring data are also used to set priorities, evaluate management actions and track the recovery of species at risk. They provide information on changes in distribution and abundance due to climate change, disease, invasive species or other factors, and can help to identify potential causes of population change and appropriate conservation actions.
Monitoring data for most waterfowl species are medium to high quality, with the exception of some seaducks, but many shorebirds, waterbirds (including marshbirds, inland colonial waterbirds and seabirds) and boreal-nesting landbirds remain poorly monitored. Many of the gaps are for species that nest in remote areas and for secretive species that are hard to monitor.
Current State of Bird Monitoring
Long-tailed Jaegers, like many other arctic-nesting
birds, are not well surveyed by existing monitoring
programs and little is known of their population
trends. (Photo: Charles M. Francis)
Monitoring programs have been improving over time
Despite the gaps, knowledge on the status of birds in Canada has been gradually increasing. New programs have been developed, and the geographic coverage of many existing programs has expanded to fill gaps as they are recognized. A major contribution to increased coverage has been a large jump in volunteer participation, both in formal programs, such as the North American Breeding Bird Survey, and less formal programs such as checklists. Improved designs and greater effort on professional surveys has also contributed to improvements. Nevertheless, many areas remain difficult to monitor, and substantial new efforts and resources will be needed to fill gaps for all species.
The North American Breeding Bird Survey, a volunteer-based survey which provides the most reliable trend data for most landbirds in Canada, started in 1966. Geographic coverage has improved over time, but coverage in the Boreal and Arctic remains incomplete due to limited road access and few people living in these regions.
Annual aerial waterfowl surveys now cover much of Canada. They began in central and western Canada which supports the largest breeding concentrations of ducks. They expanded to eastern Canada in 1990 to help manage Black Ducks and to British Columbia in 2005. The Arctic and northern Quebec are also surveyed, but not every year.
How we monitor birds
Knowledge about the state of Canada’s birds comes from many different monitoring programs, reflecting the diversity of habitats and behaviours of birds.
Changes in numbers of Evening Grosbeaks are
monitored mainly by volunteers participating in
Christmas Bird Counts and Project FeederWatch.
(Photo: Gord Belyea)
Skilled volunteers participating in breeding
season surveys can identify birds by sight or
by their songs. (Photo: Bird Studies Canada)
The Canadian Wildlife Service works with
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct
aerial waterfowl surveys in the Arctic and many
other regions of Canada. (Photo: U.S. Fish and
Since 1900, when a handful of birders started the first Christmas Bird Count in Canada, the number of observations contributed by volunteer bird surveyors to Canada’s bird monitoring programs has grown exponentially, leading to improved precision and better geographic coverage of bird monitoring programs in Canada.