Prepared by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Adoption of the Recovery Strategy for the Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) in Canada (Environment Canada, 2011).

The Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA) requires the Minister of Natural Resources to ensure recovery strategies are prepared for all species listed as endangered or threatened on the Species at Risk in Ontario (SARO) List. Under the ESA, a recovery strategy may incorporate all or part of an existing plan that relates to the species.

The Prothonotary Warbler is listed as endangered on the SARO List. The species is also listed as endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). Environment Canada prepared the Recovery Strategy for the Prothonotary Warbler in Canada in 2011 to meet their requirements under the SARA. This recovery strategy is hereby adopted under the ESA. With the additions indicated below, the enclosed strategy meets all of the content requirements outlined in the ESA.

Section 7.1 of the federal recovery strategy provides an identification of critical habitat (as defined under the SARA). Identification of critical habitat is not a component of a recovery strategy prepared under the ESA. However, it is recommended that the areas of critical habitat identified in Section 7.1 be considered when developing a habitat regulation under the ESA.

Executive summary

Prepared by Environment Canada

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 designated as Endangered in Canada by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and is listed as Endangered under both the federal Species at Risk Act and Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007. Its population has declined continentally at an average annual rate of 1.1% from 1966 to 2007. In Canada, the population declined from an estimated 40+ pairs in the 1980s to fewer than a dozen pairs in 2008.

There are unknowns regarding the feasibility of recovery of the Prothonotary Warbler. In keeping with the precautionary principle, this recovery strategy has been prepared as per section 41(1) of SARA as would be done when recovery is determined to be feasible. This recovery strategy addresses the unknowns surrounding feasibility of recovery.

Degradation and loss of swamp forest nesting habitat and mangrove forest wintering habitat have been identified as key threats. 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.

The long-term objective is to recover the Canadian population of the Prothonotary Warbler to what is believed to be its historical population size and distribution (i.e. at least 40 breeding pairs spread among at least six geographically distinct nesting areas). The population and distribution objective of this recovery strategy is to increase the current population to at least 15 to 20 pairs, spread among at least five geographically distinct nesting areas by 2015.

Over the next five years, the population and distribution objective will be achieved by implementing the following recovery objectives:

  1. enhance, restore, monitor, and create habitat at current and potential breeding sites;
  2. increase the number of nesting opportunities;
  3. increase nesting success (proportion of nests that fledge at least one young) to an average of at least 60% annually.
  4. mitigate potential effects from catastrophic weather;
  5. assess and address the current and expanding threat to Prothonotary Warbler habitat from invasive species;
  6. protect occupied habitat from application of insecticides;
  7. establish a dialogue and relationship with agencies and organizations that are interested in recovery efforts in New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio to help further species recovery in both countries.

Critical habitat for the Prothonotary Warber in Canada is partially identified within this revised recovery strategy. It has been identified within the municipalities of Chatham-Kent, Essex, Hamilton and Norfolk. A schedule of studies for the identification of additional critical habitat is outlined in this document.

One or more action plans will be posted on the SAR Public Registry by December 2015. The action plan(s) may include an area-based, multi-species approach for some areas.