Waterfowl Conservation is Ecologically Invaluable

Waterfowl Conservation is Ecologically Invaluable

Monday April 4 2011

Goose feeding on vegitation


The importance of Birds is not just contained in their visible and valuable components of biodiversity ! Their importance lies in the fact that they are representatives of Ecological Health. And, Birds inspire an Ecological Approach to Conservation. The operative word here it “TO.” Bird Conservation is a field in the Science of Conservation in Biology related to threatened birds. From a socio-economic perspective, birds and their migrations have motivated incredible international co-operation, which for waterfowl has translated into millions of $ in wetland habitat conservation efforts across the continent. Birds link us to the natural world every day – even in the most urban settings. Birds keep our ecosystems running smoothly by controlling rodents and insect pests, scavenging wastes and pollinating plants. The truth is that healthy bird populations suggest healthy habitats for all species. Of the 431 species of Canadian Breeding Birds, 9% are Waterfowl, 18% are Waterbirds, and 10% are Shorebirds. Currently one in eight of the world’s birds are threatened with global extinction, and of the 431 bird species that regularly breed in Canada, 60 are classified as at risk. In waterfowl, there are 35 species of ducks, geese and swans that spend at least part of each year in Canada.

Mallard duck


The recruitment and morality rates of waterfowl vary in response to weather, climate, habitat loss, competition for resources, environmental contamination and other factors, and these factors also pertain to other species. However, waterfowl differ from most other bird populations in being subject to mortality from hunting. The Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research (WWR) is the scientific research arm of Ducks Unlimited Canada. Some species of sea-ducks, continue to experience long-term declines. But, in contrast, Snow Geese have become so abundant that they may endanger other wild life through their effects on habitat. April is a great time to look for migrating shorebirds, which can be seen on shallow wetlands, like Cootes Paradise Wetland (formerly Dundas Marsh). Given that Waterfowl cover only 9% of Canada’s 431 Breeding Birds, efforts for waterfowl conservation are expanding to include all birds. The North American Bird conservation Initiative is about this expansion.

Ducks heading north
Ducks in Cootes Paradise

In the early 1900s, North American birds were at risk from unregulated hunting pressures and marketing. The response to this was the 1916 Migratory Bird Treaties between Canada and U.S., and in 1936 between U.S. and Mexico. In the 1980s (30 years ago) Waterfowl populations declined so drastically due to habitat loss (drought) in Western Canada, that an international response was initiated to protect wetland and upland habitats – critical for Waterfowl populations and survival. This resulted in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP). The present status of many Waterfowl species is very good, with populations at or near the international goals agreed to under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP). Part of the success of (NAWMP) continues to be facilitated by legislation in the U.S. that enables millions of U.S. $ into Canada (to be matched) for wetland associated upland conservation.

Soon to fly north


Based on the history of co-operation, conservationists from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, along with the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation worked together to develop the response – the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI). the (NABCI) vision is populations and habitats of North America’s birds protected, restored and enhanced through co-ordinated efforts at international, national, regional and local levels, guided by sound science and effective management. The (NABCI) goal is to deliver the full spectrum of Bird Conservation through regionally based, biologically driven, landscape-oriented partnerships. The Canadian (NABCI) Model includes: NAWMP (Wetlands, Waterfowl), Partners In Flight (Uplands, Landbirds), Shorebird Plan (WHSRN sites, Shorebirds), Wings over Water (Waterbirds) for an integrated action plan and joint venture delivery system in a co-ordinated approach to Bird Conservation. This developed formed 67 Bird Conservation Regions (BCR) across the continent. Canada’s BCRs tend to be larger than the others, and orient themselves on an east-west basis, crossing many jurisdictions. For example, Ontario’s Boreal Forest BCR 8 has the highest breeding landbirds at one billion; and the Non-Boreal Forest BCR 12 has 40 million breeding birds using this landscape.

Canadian geese in flight
Canadian geese


So how does NABCI work at BCR level ? Basically, it determines biological and strategic priorities and population goals for species – waterfowl, landbirds, shorebirds, waterbirds. Bill Lamond said abut the Hamilton Fall Bird Count taken on the last day in the count window (Nov. 7th, 2,010) that “it produced at total of 126 species the lowest total since 2,00 when 125 species were recorded…I was expecting a fairly high species total in the range of 140+ species as there had not been any intense cold weather to push lingering birds out.” Although the results were disappointing, but there were great highlights, like the Purple Sandpiper spotted on the rocks at Fifty Point, Grimsby on Lake Ontario. And, the Semipalmated Sandpiper was documented in 2,010 at Dundas Marsh (Cootes Paradise), Windermere Basin in Hamilton Harbourfront, the Red Hill Expressway and QEW Stormwater Pond, and Campbellville Road. and Millboroug Line. The Common Loon, one was spotted off LaSalle Marina, seven off Sioux Lookout Park, six at Shoracres, 5 at Burloak Park, and one at Bronte Harbour. There were two nests of Red-necked Grebes at Bronte Harbour with eggs, and 13 Red-necked Grebes at Spencer Smith Park in Burlington. The Green Heron was spotted at the Windermere Basin in Hamilton Harbour and a pair were at a nest at the Millgrove Loam Pits.

Mute swan hamilton

“You have to believe in happiness, Or happiness never comes…, Ah, that’s the reason a bird can sing – On his darkest day he believes in Spring.” by Douglas Mallock

Waterfowl conservation

Source: North American Bird Conservation Initiative by Brigitte Collins, Eastern Habitat Joint venture Canadian Wildlife Service Ontario Region; April Birding; Nature Canada; Environment Canada; the Wood Duck

Woodland duck



By Jacqueline


Doug Worrall Photography