Cover photo credit: Brian E. Small


Special Concern

“Special Concern” means the species lives in the wild in Ontario, is not endangered or threatened, but may become threatened or endangered due to a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.

Date added to the Species at Risk in Ontario List

September 10, 2009

What it looks like

The Canada Warbler is a small, brightly- coloured songbird. Males are more brightly coloured than females, with bluish-grey upperparts and tail and bright yellow underparts. The head is bluish with a black forehead and “sideburns,” which join to form a distinctive necklace of black stripes across its chest.

In the spring, males can be heard singing a distinctive song of clear, liquid notes ending emphatically.

Where it lives

The Canada Warbler breeds in a range of deciduous and coniferous, usually wet forest types, all with a well- developed, dense shrub layer. Dense shrub and understory vegetation help conceal Canada Warbler nests that are usually located on or near the ground on mossy logs or roots, along stream banks or on hummocks. It winters in South America. In its wintering range in South America, the Canada Warbler prefers the dense shrub understories of mature cloud and rain forests, second-growth forests, as well as coffee plantations and farm field edges.

Where it’s been found in Ontario

The Canada Warbler only breeds in North America and 80 per cent of its known breeding range is in Canada. Its primary breeding range is in the Boreal Shield, extending north into the Hudson Plains and south into the Mixedwood Plains. Although the Canada Warbler breeds at low densities across its range, in Ontario, it is most abundant along the Southern Shield.

What threatens it

A reduction in forests with a well-developed shrub-layer has likely impacted Canada Warblers throughout their breeding range. Canada Warblers likely face extensive pressure on their wintering grounds in South America, where deforestation is a widespread problem.

Action we are taking

Special concern species do not receive species or habitat protection.

What you can do

Report a Sighting

  • Report a sighting of an endangered animal or plant to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful.
  • Bird Studies Canada is working to advance the understanding, appreciation and conservation of wild birds and their habitat in Ontario and elsewhere. For more information on how you can help, visit:
  • As with all wildlife, don’t disturb or harass the birds or nesting sites. Be respectful and observe from a distance.


  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.

Be a good steward

  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. You may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • As with many other rare plants and animals, the Canada Warbler is at risk due to the loss of forested areas. You can help by protecting any forests and surrounding natural vegetation on your property.

Report illegal activity

  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).

Quick facts

  • The Canada Warbler is difficult to observe in Canada because it lives in dense forest that is difficult to walk and see through.
  • The Canada Warbler is one of the last migratory songbird species to arrive on Canadian nesting grounds in the spring and is also one of the first species to leave at the end of summer.