Species at Risk Conservation

Decision makers require reliable information to develop risk assessments, recovery plans  and successful conservation actions for species or populations of conservation concern. Obtaining reliable information for boreal forest birds is challenging because many species have broad geographic ranges and respond to natural and anthropogenic stressors differently across this range. Furthermore, the dynamic nature of the boreal forest must be accounted for in assessment and recovery planning processes. Conserving critical habitat across boreal landscapes requires consideration of the dynamics of these natural disturbances and their interactions with anthropogenic activities.

To address these challenges, BAM has collaborated with scientists at Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) to develop a conceptual framework to identify Critical Habitat (CH) for boreal birds breeding in Canada.  The identification of CH is an important and necessary step in planning and actioning the recovery of species listed as Endangered or Threatened on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). A key component of this conceptual framework is the estimation of population density and trend. BAM has developed sophisticated density models using a guided variable selection process (Haché et al. 2014; Ball et al. 2016). These density models have been used to generate residual-based estimates of population trend at regional (Ball et al. 2016) and national scales (Haché et al. in preparation).

Opportunities are now being explored to apply this framework to a growing number of species.

Density map of Canada Warbler (average density, males/ha)


BAM contributes to the assessment and recovery planning for boreal Species at Risk and is at the forefront of developing the increasingly sophisticated set of tools needed to respond to the growing list of conservation challenges faced by boreal birds.

  • BAM has worked closely with Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) for several years to produce science to inform critical habitat identification for species at risk. Recently, we have our efforts on Canada Warbler (Threatened, SARA Schedule 1) as a thorough test of the conceptual model for critical habitat identification we developed in previous years. 
  • In 2019-20, BAM worked with ECCC to develop a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to inform the identification of Critical Habitat under the Species at Risk Act, based on the Critical Habitat Identification Framework. The SOP was included as an appendix in the Statement of Work for the CWS Wood Thrush Critical Habitat Identification contract
  • BAM has contributed to the assessment and recovery planning processes for several boreal-nesting Species at Risk including Canada Warbler, Olive-sided Flycatcher and Common Nighthawk from regional to national extents (Ball et al. 2016; Haché et al. 2014; Stehelin et al. 2016; Westwood 2016; Westwood et al. 2019).
  • BAM has facilitated the inclusion of Species at Risk in regional land use planning. For example, BAM developed density models for Canada Warbler, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Common Nighthawk and Rusty Blackbird (Dénes 2019a; 2019b) to inform the land planning processes of the Moose Cree and the Lac Seul First Nations.
  • BAM examined the effects of caribou-specific forest harvest management plans on boreal avian populations more generally (Leston et al. 2020). 


Westwood, A.R., Lambert, J.D., Reitsma, L.R., Stralberg, D., 2020. Prioritizing Areas for Land Conservation and Forest Management Planning for the Threatened Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis) in the Atlantic Northern Forest of Canada. Diversity 12, 61. https://doi.org/10.3390/d12020061

Dénes, F., Barker N.K.S., Schmiegelow F.K.A., St-Laurent K., Westwood A.R., Haché S., Song S.J., Sólymos P., Stralberg D., In preperation. Critical habitat identification for boreal birds in Canada: Challenges, current practices, and a conceptual framework.

Dénes, F.V., (2019), Species at Risk in the Moose Cree Homelands: Habitat Modeling of Bird Species at Risk in the Moose Cree Homelands, Report to the Moose Cree First Nation and Nature Canada, Boreal Avian Modelling Project, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Dénes, F.V., (2019), Species at Risk in the Lac Seul First Nation Traditional Territory: Habitat Modeling of Bird Species at Risk in the Lac Seul Traditional Territory, Report to the Lac Seul First Nation and Nature Canada, Boreal Avian Modelling Project, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Westwood, A. R., C. Staicer, P. Sölymos, S. Haché, T. Fontaine, E. Bayne, and D. Mazerolle. 2019. Estimating the conservation value of protected areas in Maritime Canada for two species at risk: the Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi) and Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis). Avian Conservation and Ecology 14(1):16. https://doi.org/10.5751/ACE-01359-140116

Westwood, A.R., Harding, C., Reitsma, L., Lambert, D. (2017), Guidelines for Managing Canada Warbler Habitat in the Atlantic Northern Forest of Canada, Technical Report, High Branch Conservation Services, Hartland, VT, USA, available at: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.2435733.

Stehelin, T., Bayne, E.M., Sólymos, P. and Fontaine, T. (2016), Status of the Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus Sordidulus) in Alberta, Boreal Avian Modelling Project, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Ball, J.R., Sólymos, P., Schmiegelow, F.K.A., Haché, S., Schieck, J., Bayne, E.M., 2016. Regional habitat needs of a nationally listed species, Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis), in Alberta, Canada. Avian Conserv Ecol 11. https://doi.org/10.5751/ACE-00916-110210

Haché, S., Sólymos, P., Fontaine, T., Bayne, E.M., Cumming, S.G., Schmiegelow, F.K.A., Stralberg, D. (2014), Critical Habitat of Olive-Sided Flycatcher, Canada Warbler, and Common Nighthawk in Canada (Project K4B20-13-0367), Technical Report for Environment and Climate Change Canada, Boreal Avian Modelling Project, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada, available at: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.2433885.