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

2. Recovery

2.1 Rationale for Recovery Feasibility

Recovery of this species is considered technically and biologically feasible, since:

  • individuals capable of reproduction are currently available;
  • sufficient habitat is available or can be made available to support the species;
  • significant threats can be avoided or mitigated; and
  • recovery techniques exist and are effective.

Based on Tischendorf’s (2003) population viability analysis, immigration from the United States is necessary to maintain the species in Canada. Hence, its recovery here will depend on population trends and recovery activities in the adjacent Great Lakes states. If these and other limiting factors and threats are adequately addressed (e.g. through habitat restoration, nest box provisioning, control of invasive species), recovery is a realistic goal.

2.2 Recovery Goal

The long-term goal of this recovery strategy is to recover the Canadian population of the Prothonotary Warbler to what is believed to be its historical population size and distribution in 1980. As such, the long-term goal is to increase the Canadian population over the next 20 years to at least 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.


2.3 Recovery Objectives

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

  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.

2.4 Broad Approaches and Strategies Recommended to Meet Recovery Objectives

The broad approaches and strategies that are recommended to meet recovery objectives emphasize a combination of public outreach, stewardship, research, inventory, and monitoring efforts. Table 2 outlines specific steps necessary to address threats, with reference to the pertinent recovery objective.

Table 2. Broad approaches and strategies necessary for recovery of the Prothonotary Warbler
Obj. No.PriorityBroad approach/
strategy
Threat addressedGeneral stepsOutcomes or deliverables
1.High

Habitat protection/

stewardship

Loss/degradation of breeding habitat

Identify and, where appropriate, map critical habitat.

Prioritize sites that are in most urgent need of protection. Identify landowners at high-priority sites.

Determine ideal protection strategies for each high-priority site (tax relief, easement, covenant, acquisition, stewardship).

Candidate sites for securement are identified and prioritized.

Protection strategies are identified and implemented.

1.High

Habitat protection/

stewardship

Loss/degradation of breeding habitatDevelop guidelines/ information for allowable forestry activities at Prothonotary Warbler-occupied sites.Guidelines and information are utilized by forest management practitioners and land managers.
1.HighPublic outreachLoss/degradation of breeding habitatIdentify relevant landowners and land managers, and support the development of appropriate outreach materials.

Information materials are provided to landowners and land managers on a schedule that is consistent with messages and planned outcomes.

Guidelines and map habitat are developed for Ontario’s Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program.

1.HighInventory and monitoringLoss/degradation of breeding habitatDevelop and implement protocol to monitor and mitigate threats to habitat in occupied sites.Database maintained; results reported; strategies for dealing with negative changes are developed and implemented.
2.HighHabitat restorationLoss/degradation of breeding habitat

Develop criteria for the prioritization of sites that would most clearly benefit from strategic restoration activities.

Develop appropriate restoration and management tools to restore breeding habitat at each site.

Suitable habitat is created/restored where cost-effective and appropriate, with a priority on projects that are likely to have the most impact.

Measures that protect or restore the integrity of the water table are implemented.

3.

4.

HighHabitat restoration/ stewardshipLoss/degradation of breeding habitat and breeding productivityRefine nest box provisioning program, and establish site-based criteria to screen sites that are being considered for box deployment.At least 200 nest boxes are deployed annually; at least 60% nest success is achieved annually.
4.High

Research/

monitoring

Breeding productivityInvestigate techniques to reduce nest failures attributable to House Wrens.Control techniques are implemented and evaluated; at least 60% nest success is achieved annually.
4.LowPublic outreachBreeding productivity

Minimize public disturbance of nest sites during the breeding season through outreach and extension.

Do not disclose nesting locations to the general public?

Responsible practices are promoted to birders and photographers, and no lapses in ethical judgement are made.

Where necessary, public access to nesting areas is curtailed.

5.HighResearchInvasive forest insectsQuantify and map areas of occupied habitat that are vulnerable to forest insect infestations, and assess the potential impact of these insects for each site.Appropriate management strategies are formulated in response to outbreaks of exotic insects, and advice/input is provided into any proposed control measures that impact critical habitat.
6.High

Research/

habitat restoration

Invasive plants

Determine the present extent of invasive plant species within each area containing critical habitat.

Research methods to control invasive species.

Management guidelines are developed, and, where appropriate, invasive plant species are controlled.
7.HighInventory and monitoringN/AMonitor annual population trend, productivity, and survivorship in Canada in relation to predation, brood parasitism, and nest competition.Annual reports are produced, and a georeferenced database of survey results is maintained.
7.MediumResearch and monitoringCatastrophic weather eventsAssess/evaluate potential impacts of future catastrophic events on critical habitat.Impacts are evaluated and reported on.
8.LowResearchToxic chemicals and other pollutants

Investigate potential for mosquito control programs to directly or indirectly impact the species during the breeding season in Canada.

Investigate the extent to which DDT is currently being sprayed in important wintering habitat, and provide a risk assessment.

Findings are communicated, and, if necessary, critical habitat in Canada is exempted from mosquito control.

Findings of research are communicated; if necessary, the use of DDT alternatives is investigated and promoted.

9.MediumHabitat protectionLoss/degradation of breeding habitat (United States)Identify potential U.S. partners/collaborators in Great Lakes states that likely provide source populations to Canada.Communication and liaison with U.S. partners to address conservation needs in relevant Great Lakes states.
10.HighResearchLoss of wintering habitatIn cooperation with other researchers and agencies, quantitatively describe wintering habitat and define important wintering habitat components; determine winter site fidelity; determine how much wintering habitat remains and its protection status.Findings are published, and recommendations are made.

2.5 Critical Habitat

2.5.1 Identification of the species’ critical habitat

Identification of critical habitat for the Prothonotary Warbler will be completed following the activities and timelines outlined in the schedule of studies (Table 3) and will be included in the action plan. Critical habitat has been identified within the Hahn Unit of Big Creek National Wildlife Area in an addendum to this recovery strategy.

Swamp forests with a history of confirmed nesting will be considered as an initial approach for identifying critical habitat. Detailed boundary information is lacking, and further cooperation is required to gather this information for identifying critical habitat. For example, it is anticipated that an entire swamp forest may not be identified as critical habitat because it may contain portions of unsuitable habitat. Additional field data, ground-truthing, and better delineation of boundaries will allow clearer understanding of critical habitat areas for affected landowners.

2.5.2 Schedule of studies

The schedule of studies (Table 3) outlines steps necessary to identify critical habitat for the Prothonotary Warbler. Based upon results, the definition of critical habitat should be refined as often as necessary.

Table 3. Schedule of studies detailing activities required to identify critical habitat for the Prothonotary Warbler in Canada
Detailed description of research activityCompletion date
Use best available knowledge to delineate site-specific critical habitat on maps within swamp forest areas that have a history of confirmed nesting.June 2010
Obtain information on post-fledging movement and dispersal and the habitat needs of fledglings. Incorporate knowledge into an updated identification of critical habitat.June 2010
Monitor sites that have evidence of Prothonotary Warbler use (e.g. sites with inconclusive historical information or sites used for migration). Consider these areas for additional critical habitat.June 2010
A preliminary habitat viability analysis for the Canadian population of the Prothonotary Warbler was conducted using broad-scale geographic information system (GIS) modelling (Flaxman and Lindsay 2004). These analyses should be further refined to include detailed GIS landscape and elevation layers that clearly distinguish flooded areas of deciduous swamp forest (i.e. potentially high-quality nesting habitat). Follow-up field surveys should be conducted at newly identified areas of potentially high-quality habitat to ground-truth the GIS predictive models and better inform the recovery potential of the species.June 2012

2.6 Performance Measures

The recovery strategy and action plan must follow the adaptive management approach, whereby new information feeds back into the plan on a regular basis in order to take advantage of new tools, knowledge, challenges, and opportunities. A five-year evaluation of the recovery strategy will be based upon the performance measures listed in Table 4, using 2007 as the benchmark year.

Table 4. Performance measures that will be used to evaluate if recovery objectives have been met by 2012
Recovery objectivePerformance measure(s)
1. Protecting identified critical habitat and monitoring its conditionChange in proportion of habitat protected from 2007 levels, and conditions of critical habitat known
2. Enhancing, creating, and restoring habitat at appropriate sitesHabitat enhanced and restored within sites containing critical habitat, and new habitat created, where appropriate. Numbers of sites and hectares that are enhanced and/or restored increased over 2007 levels.
3. Increasing the number of nesting opportunities through maintenance of at least 200 nest boxes annually200 nest boxes functioning annually in Ontario. A steady increase in size of breeding population and numbers of nests over 2007 levels.
4. Increasing nesting success to an average of at least 60% annuallyChange in nesting success and overall productivity within the Canadian population.
5. Formulating an appropriate management strategy for occupied sites in response to the current and expanding range of the emerald ash borerManagement strategies are formulated and then distributed to, and adopted by, landowners.
6. Formulating and implementing appropriate management strategies for occupied sites in response to invasive plantsManagement strategies are formulated and then distributed to, and adopted by, landowners.
7. Ensuring that at least five geographically distinct nesting areas are available annually in order to mitigate potential effects from catastrophic weather eventsNumber of geographically distinct nesting areas that are occupied is no less than five in any given year.
8. Protecting occupied habitat from application of insecticidesNumber of municipalities implementing measures that inhibit the application of insecticides in occupied habitat is increased over 2007 levels.
9. Establishing a dialogue and relationship with agencies and organizations that are interested in recovery efforts in New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and OhioNumber of new recovery projects established in the United States and number of joint meetings/site visits that are held between U.S. and Canadian collaborators.
10. Producing a detailed description of important wintering habitat and evaluating its protection status, in cooperation with other species management initiativesCharacteristics of important wintering habitat are defined; important wintering areas are broadly mapped; and a threat assessment is conducted and reported on.

2.7 Effects on Other Species

Recovery efforts that are focused on Prothonotary Warblers -- especially efforts that are designed to protect, restore, or create swamp forest habitats -- will benefit a great variety of species. No species of conservation concern are expected to be detrimentally affected. All species at risk listed in Table 5 utilize deciduous swamp forests and are known to occur in one or more sites occupied by Prothonotary Warblers in Canada. Several sites support multiple species at risk.


Table 5. List of COSEWIC species at risk that are expected to benefit from recovery activities directed at the Prothonotary Warbler

Common nameLatin nameCOSEWIC status
Acadian FlycatcherEmpidonax virescensEndangered
Louisiana WaterthrushSeiurus motacillaSpecial Concern
Cerulean WarblerDendroica ceruleaSpecial Concern
Red-shouldered HawkButeo lineatusSpecial Concern
Red-headed WoodpeckerMelanerpes erythrocephalusSpecial Concern
Spotted turtleClemmys guttataEndangered
Blanding’s turtleEmydoidea blandingiiThreatened
Eastern foxsnakeElaphe gloydiThreatened
Eastern ribbonsnakeThamnophis sauritusSpecial Concern
Eastern hog-nosed snakeHeterodon platirhinosThreatened
Jefferson salamanderAmbystoma jeffersonianumThreatened
Swamp rose-mallowHibiscus moscheutosSpecial Concern

2.8 Statement of When One or More Action Plans in Relation to the Recovery Strategy Will Be Completed

A Prothonotary Warbler action plan should be completed by June 2010. To address most threats and further delineate critical habitat, a single, overarching action plan is envisaged for this species. Separate action plans should be prepared to address threats posed by invasive plants and forest insect pests, in close consultation with the newly formed Carolinian Woodlands Recovery Team and others. The overarching action plan will identify the need for, and roles of, any recovery implementation groups.