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

Addendum to the Recovery Strategy for the Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) in Canada

Identification of Critical Habitat on Federal Lands

June 11, 2007



This addendum has been prepared to augment the recovery strategy for Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) in Canada (hereinafter referred to as the "Prothonotary Warbler Recovery Strategy"). Section 41(1)(c) of SARA requires that recovery strategies include an identification of a species' critical habitat, to the extent possible, and examples of activities that are likely to result in its destruction. SARA also states in Section 45(1) that recovery strategies may be amended at any time, and that copies of the amendments must be included in the SARA Public Registry.

New information has been evaluated regarding critical habitat for Prothonotary Warbler since the Prothonotary Warbler Recovery Strategy received support from the cooperating jurisdictions. This addendum outlines the proposed criteria for critical habitat identification throughout the Prothonotary Warbler's Canadian range (Section 1), and applies these criteria to federal lands using information currently available (Section 2). This addendum identifies critical habitat at one location- the Hahn Unit of Big Creek National Wildlife Area (NWA) and identifies activities that are likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat within or in the vicinity of this NWA (Section 3).

The criteria used to identify critical habitat (Section 1) will be further evaluated, in consultation with migratory bird experts and cooperating jurisdictions, to better inform additional identification of critical habitat for the Prothonotary Warbler throughout its Canadian range. Consultations on these criteria, along with the approaches used to delineate critical habitat boundaries for this species, are still in progress.

1.0 Criteria Used to Identify Critical Habitat

SARA defines critical habitat as "...the habitat that is necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed wildlife species and that is identified as the species' critical habitat in the recovery strategy or in an action plan for the species."

For Prothonotary Warblers, critical habitat is characterized as, where individuals of the species carry out essential aspects of their breeding cycle (courtship, territory defence, feeding, nesting, and post-fledgling) in Canada. For Prothonotary Warbler, sites[2] where critical habitat is identified must meet two basic criteria regarding breeding evidence and site occupancy:

1) Basic Criterion of Breeding Evidence:

Confirmed breeding evidence for a minimum of one year

There must be observations of a functional nest[3] with confirmed breeding evidence (containing eggs and/or young, and/or adults carrying food, and/or adults carrying faecal sacs, and/or fledged young, and/or sightings of both an adult male and an adult female entering the same cavity in circumstances that strongly suggest that the pair nested) from reliable sources.

Natural nests or nest boxes where data are inconclusive to substantiate confirmed breeding do not meet the criteria for critical habitat identification. In accordance with the description of "residence" for Prothonotary Warbler in Canada, nests that are built in nest boxes specifically erected to attract the species (with landowner permission) are afforded the same level of protection as natural nest sites. As such, this criterion can apply to sites at which nest boxes have been occupied by the target species.


2) Basic Criterion of Site Occupancy:

The site has been occupied by Prothonotary Warblers for at least 2 years during the breeding season since 1997.

Prothonotary Warblers will occasionally occupy small, isolated pockets of habitat for only one year and never return. Pairs that occupy sites for more than one year, however, indicate that the site is sufficiently suitable to warrant critical habitat identification. The benchmark year of 1997 was chosen because it coincides with the first year of systematic, annual surveys of the species in Canada.

Criteria for identifying critical habitat for areas where habitat creation, restoration and enhancement will take place (e.g. recovery habitat) will be developed through the schedule of studies. Criteria which will be considered to further delineate critical habitat at given locations in Canada include, but are not limited to, factors such as area delimitations around functional confirmed nests; habitats used by juveniles following fledging; and vegetation communities where the functional, confirmed nest location occurs (e.g., Community Series level within the Ontario Ecological Land Classification (ELC) Framework of Lee et al. (1998). It is expected that certain features will also be excluded from critical habitat (e.g. buildings and other human-made structures).

2.0 Application of the Basic Criteria and Identification of Critical Habitat on Federal Land

Based on the Basic Criteria above, it is possible to identify critical habitat on only one federal property within the range of the Canadian population of Prothonotary Warbler - the Hahn Unit of Big Creek National Wildlife Area (NWA).

As required by SARA, the description of critical habitat will be published in the Canada Gazette within 90 days of posting of the final addendum to the SARA public registry. The boundaries of critical habitat are contained within the boundaries of the Hahn Unit of Big Creek National Wildlife Area (legally described as: being all that parcel of land, in the regional municipality of Haldimand-Norfolk, in the township of Norfolk, formerly in the geographic township of South Walsingham, County of Norfolk, shown as Part 1 on a plan of survey deposited in the Land Registry Office for the Registry Division of Norfolk (Number 37) as Plan 37R 264, together with a right-of-way over Part 2 shown on said plan, said Part 1 containing 402.19 acres, more or less and said Part 2 containing 0.14 acres, more or less.).

No other federal lands meet the two Basic Criteria necessary for critical habitat identification. Additional critical habitat will be identified within sites across the range of the Canadian Prothonotary Warbler population that meet the Basic Criteria as additional information (e.g., habitat data, vegetation mapping and scientific analysis) is gathered.

The Action Plan, expected to be posted on the SARA Public Registry in June 2010, will identify additional critical habitat and outline monitoring methods proposed for the recovery of Prothonotary Warblers in Canada.

Examples of Activities within or in the Vicinity of Big Creek National Wildlife Area That are Likely To Result in the Destruction of Critical Habitat

Activities within or in the vicinity of identified critical habitat that are likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat include: radical or lasting alterations to normal hydrological regimes (e.g. wetland drainage, construction of dams, infilling of swampy lowlands and associated marshes); any reduction in the total areal extent of forest cover due to commercial forest practices or land clearing; expansion of existing residential developments; and industrial development.

Water level manipulation through diking and pumping for the purpose of maintaining wildlife habitat has occurred in Big Creek National Wildlife Area - Big Creek Unit since 1985. This activity does not result in the destruction of critical habitat at the Hahn Unit, as evidenced by the birds returning and successfully breeding at this location regularly since the late 1970's. Monitoring of Prothonotary Warblers will continue on the NWA to ensure the protection of critical habitat for Prothonotary Warblers.


Lee, H., W. Bakowski, J. Riley, J. Bowles, M. Puddister, P. Uhlig, and S. McMurray. 1998. Ecological Land Classification for Southern Ontario: First Approximation and Its Application. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Southcentral Science Section, Science Development and Transfer Branch. SCSS Field Guide FG-02.


[2] For the purposes of this addendum, a 'site' is the 10 x 10 km UTM grid square with two or more observations during the breeding season.

[3]A functional nest is a natural (e.g. a stump) or artificial (e.g. a nest box) location where there is confirmed breeding evidence for Prothonotary Warblers. 'Dummy nests' are not considered to be functional nests.

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