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Recovery Strategy for the Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) in Canada [Proposed]

Executive Summary

In Canada, the Prothonotary Warbler’s breeding range is restricted entirely to the Carolinian forest zone, and almost entirely to sites located on the north shore of Lake Erie. The Prothonotary Warbler has been assessed as an endangered species in Canada by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and designated as such under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act. Its population has declined continentally at an average annual rate of 1.5% since 1966. In Canada, the population declined from an estimated 40+ pairs in the 1980s to fewer than 20 pairs in 2005.

Degradation and loss of swamp forest nesting habitat and mangrove forest wintering habitat have been identified as key threats and limiting factors. These impacts are compounded by a high level of competition from other species for nest sites, high levels of nest predation and brood parasitism, encroachment of invasive plants, and emerging issues related to climate change and exotic insect infestations.

Based upon a habitat viability analysis and other attributes, the Prothonotary Warbler population in Canada is believed to be recoverable to a level that existed during the 1980s (about 40 pairs). The long-term recovery goal is to increase the population over the next 20 years to 40 breeding pairs spread among at least six geographically distinct nesting areas separated by at least 20 km. The short-term goal is to increase the current population over the next five years to at least 25 pairs, spread among at least five geographically distinct nesting areas.

Over the next five years, the recovery goal will be achieved by meeting the following recovery objectives:

  1. protecting identified critical habitat and monitoring its condition;
  2. enhancing, creating, and restoring habitat at appropriate sites;
  3. increasing the number of nesting opportunities through maintenance of at least 200 nest boxes annually;
  4. increasing nesting success to an average of at least 60% annually;
  5. formulating an appropriate management strategy for occupied sites in response to the current and expanding range of the emerald ash borer;
  6. formulating and implementing appropriate management strategies for occupied sites in response to invasive plants;
  7. ensuring that at least five geographically distinct nesting areas are available annually in order to mitigate potential effects from catastrophic weather;
  8. protecting occupied habitat from application of insecticides;
  9. establishing a dialogue and relationship with agencies and organizations that are interested in recovery efforts in New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio; and
  10. producing a detailed description of important wintering habitat and evaluating its protection status, in cooperation with other species management initiatives.

Critical habitat will be identified by June 2010 within an action plan for the species. This recovery strategy provides direction for the next five years. The strategy will then be reviewed and, if necessary, revised to reflect conditions at that time.