- Limited monitoring data are available for most parts of the Western Boreal for species other than waterfowl (which are primarily surveyed from the air); only since 1990 have enough areas been surveyed to calculate trends for most groups.
- Within the surveyed region of the Western Boreal, the population of all birds combined has changed little over the past 20 years, but many individual species have shown large increases or decreases.
- The Western Boreal plays a critical role in supporting continental bird populations of many songbirds, water birds and waterfowl. In drought years, many ducks that usually breed in the Prairie Region move to the Western Boreal.
- The permanent loss of forest due to development, including agriculture and energy extraction, is the biggest conservation concern in this ecosystem. The most intense industrial activities occur at the southern edge of the region, overlapping directly with the habitats containing the highest density and diversity of birds.
Spruce Grouse are year-round residents of
boreal forests across Canada, found mainly in
regenerating spruce, pines and other conifers.
Little is known of their population status as
they are difficult to survey. (photo: May Haga)
Lesser Scaup populations in the Western
Boreal have declined by more than 50% over
the last three decades, while other species
such as Green-winged Teal have doubled.
Shifts in aquatic food webs due to climate
change may be favouring generalist species
such as teal, instead of the more specialized
diving ducks. (photo: Nick Saunders)
Black-throated Green Warblers depend on patches
of mature forests. They are expected to decline
due to reductions in the amount of mature forest
on the landscape as a result of forestry practices.
(photo: Alan MacKeigan)
Older forests support diverse bird communities. Forestry practices are changing the age structure of the forest, and several species are expected to decline over the next 50 years as the area of old forest declines.
Approximately 80% of the world population of
Bonaparte's Gulls nests in the Western Boreal
region, and their populations depend on healthy
wetlands. (photo: Ducks Unlimited Canada)
The changing northern climate has already resulted in changes to forests, such as the spread of the Mountain Pine Beetle and increasingly severe forest fire regimes, and more changes are expected.
Blackpoll Warblers follow one of the longest
migration routes of any warbler, connecting forests
of the Western Boreal with forests of eastern
South America. Their conservation depends on
maintaining healthy habitats at both ends of this
migration route. (photo: Charles M. Francis)
Water-level management on major river systems with hydro-electric developments must maintain the ecological health and functioning of critical waterfowl habitats such as the Peace-Athabasca Delta.
Societal values need to be incorporated into
land-use plans so that resource use and
conservation are balanced with development.
The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), the main survey for most species of birds other than waterfowl, has only limited coverage in the region. In the 1970s, BBS routes were present only around the agriculture/boreal transition area. Since the 1990s, some additional coverage has been achieved but there are still substantial gaps. This means that large portions of some populations or ranges are not surveyed at all, and caution is warranted in interpreting the indicators for many species. In contrast, waterfowl have been well monitored by aerial surveys since 1955.