Manitoba IBA Blog Update January 2017

Happy New Year to all our volunteers and readers. As we build up to a new season of events and monitoring there will be a steady build up of activity on this blog and elsewhere. Ahead of that I thought it would be worth highlighting a few posts published on this site over the holiday period and point towards some other activities worth checking out in the next few months.


We are planning to run a workshop in Brandon in late February on the IBA Program, a look at some of the local IBAs and using eBird. This will be a very informal event. If you are interested in coming please email Tim at If there is interest in putting something similar on in other places (Winnipeg, Gimli, southern Manitoba) please also get in contact. The events page has recently been updated and there are some interesting workshops being put on by Nature Manitoba including one on shorebird identification and one on electronic birding. Check out the events page for more details.

New Years Resolution

Nature Manitoba asked us for a New Years Resolution and it is included with some other environmental organisations in a piece on their website. It was also picked up by CBC.

Quick Review of 2016 (and 2015)

We thought it would be interesting to look back at some of the monitoring data for the past couple of years using the tables on the IBA Canada site to show where data collected by volunteers has triggered an IBA threshold. You can see more on our end of season blogpost.

Looking Ahead

The second half of the review blog was a piece looking at some of the species in our IBAs for which it might be worth thinking about targeted monitoring. You can check it out here. 


Tundra Swan, a species which congregates in large numbers in spring and fall migration in Manitoba’s IBAs and therefore a possible target species for IBA monitoring at for example Whitewater, Oak Lake, Saskatchewan River Delta and Delta Marsh. Photo copyright Christian Artuso

We are going to start thinking ahead fairly soon to where we would like to carry out events in 2017. I am keen to spread out from the traditional sites we have previously covered but also think more strategically. For example, is it possible to do goose counts in fall of birds leaving their roosts at Netley-Libau or Big Grass Marsh if we have enough volunteers stationed around the perimeter? Is there areas of Sandy Bay Marshes where we can access with a group to monitor birds? Can we get more people into some of the northern or lake IBAs? If you have any thoughts or ideas, please let us know – we are open to suggestions. Finally we will plan to do some IBA profiles and species profiles highlighting some of the IBAs and the priorities for monitoring. We are generating some terrific data in some IBAs thanks to the efforts of our army of volunteers but maybe in others there is more to be done.

Manitoba IBAs – a List of Possible Species to Target in Your Local IBA in 2017

Following the recent blog demonstrating how volunteer and blitz data is now beginning to bear fruit, offering insights into the significance of some of our bird concentrations in Manitoba, we thought it might be useful to provide a follow-up with suggestions for target groups and species of birds for which triggering an IBA total is both possible and plausible.

Before moving ahead it is worth recalling how IBAs are designated. Each IBA meets the Birdlife International standardised criteria. For a site to qualify as an IBA concentrations of birds must meet one of the criteria laid out in the table below. This table has been adapted and simplified from an explanation available on the IBA Canada website. Note that there are no restricted range or endemic species in Canada and we no longer use the national importance criteria for congregations of birds.

Criteria Globally Threatened Species Restricted-range Species Biome-restricted Species Congregations
1 2 3 4
Global A A1  IUCN listed species,  Critically Endangered & Endangered = 1                             Vulnerable = 30                                                                               Static thresholds. Bird species with a natural
breeding range
less than 50,000 sq km
Bird species with a natural
breeding range of less than 50,000 sq km
No species meet this criterion in Canada.
N/A 1% of species’ global abundance. 
Continental B B1  IUCN listed species
Near Threatened: non‐songbird = 30,                 Songbirds = 90.
Static thresholds
 N/A N/A 1% of species’ North American abundance.
National C C1  COSEWIC listed species
1% of all listed species
Threshold set based on species abundance
within the region of listing.
 N/A  N/A  N/A

The trigger for each of the species across Canada are set by the IBA Canada Technical Committee and below is a list of potential species for which it is very possible to meet these criteria on a day out at your IBA.

Remember these lists are updated regularly and there is a possibility that the birds you are counting, although not considered threatened at the time they are recorded, might become endangered in the future so please still record everything you encounter!

Globally Threatened Species

These are species present on the IUCN Red List which has just been updated. A globally threatened species is considered as any species listed on the high end of this list (Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically Endangered, Extinct in the Wild, Extinct). The list of species in Manitoba present on the Red List currently can be found in this spreadsheet which I have condensed from the Birdlife International long list of c. 11,000 species. Fortunately we have very few species on the actual Red List in Manitoba and those that are present tend to be on the lower risk of extinction (apart from those which are likely to be extinct or extirpated from the province). The current list is:


A species we hope to see return to Manitoba’s IBAs in the future, the Whooping Crane. Photo copyright Christian Artuso

  • Eskimo Curlew (almost certainly extinct but still not officially confirmed so we keep it for posterity)
  • Long-tailed Duck
  • Rusty Blackbird
  • Greater Prairie Chicken (Extirpated in the province)
  • Horned Grebe
  • Whooping Crane (occasional visitor but listed under the The Endangered Species and Ecosystems Act for Manitoba)

Continentally threatened species

These are species which are listed by the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened. This means that the species is undergoing sharp declines in population and range but not enough yet to be considered as threatened with extinction. Unfortunately, there are a number of Manitoban species present in this category.


Black Scoter breed in the Hudson Bay lowlands (one record of confirmed breeding during the Breeding Bird Atlas) and congregate along the Hudson Bay coast. They are also spotted in IBAs such as North, West and East Shoal Lake during fall migration. Photo copyright Christian Artuso

  • Common Eider
  • Black Scoter
  • Chimney Swift
  • Yellow-billed Loon (occasional species)
  • Piping Plover
  • Red Knot
  • Buff-breasted Sandpiper
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper
  • Red-headed Woodpecker
  • Olive-sided Flycatcher
  • Chestnut-collared Longspur
  • Golden-winged Warbler

Nationally threatened species

These are species listed by COSEWIC as threatened in Canada. When counting any of these species it is important to remember that triggering a population threshold is going to be more straightforward for some species than others. For example, even though they are in steep decline, the overall breeding population in Canada of Red-necked Phalarope is 1.85 million  compared to 3600 Ferruginous Hawk. This would mean that to trigger the IBA threshold for each species one would need to locate 18,500 and 36 individuals respectively. The current avian list for Manitoba is:


Perhaps not a regular IBA visitor in Manitoba, but the Golden-winged Warbler would qualify under continental and national IBA criteria. Photo copyright Christian Artuso.


Red-necked Phalarope is listed as Special Concern due to large declines in the number of individuals passing through the Bay of Fundy. Photo copyright Christian Artuso

  • Baird’s Sparrow
  • Bank Swallow
  • Barn Swallow
  • Bobolink
  • Buff-breasted Sandpiper
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Canada Warbler
  • Chestnut-collared Longspur
  • Chimney Swift
  • Common Nighthawk
  • Eastern Whip Poor Will
  • Eastern Wood Pewee
  • Evening Grosbeak
  • Ferruginous Hawk
  • Golden-winged Warbler
  • Horned Grebe
  • Least Bittern
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Olive-sided Flycatcher
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Piping Plover
  • Red-headed Woodpecker
  • Red Knot
  • Red-necked Phalarope
  • Ross’s Gull
  • Rusty Blackbird
  • Short-eared Owl
  • Sprague’s Pipit
  • Western Grebe
  • Yellow Rail

Global and Continental Congregations

In simple terms, these thresholds are set for congregations of species which exceed 1% of their global or continental population at any time during their life-cycle. The following are examples of species – not listed under the above categories – for which it is very possible to meet these criteria in Manitoba. This list is not exhaustive and it goes without saying that collecting and entering data for all species is critical. Globally bird populations are in decline and it is conceivable that many more Manitoban species will be added to the IUCN Red List or COSEWIC in the future.

So here is a non-exhaustive list of species:

Colonial nesting birds


An Environment Canada report from 2004 estimated that 15% of the estimated global population of Franklin’s Gulls breed at Whitewater Lake. Photo copyright Christian Artuso

  • American White Pelican
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Franklin’s Gull
  • Black Tern
  • Caspian Tern
  • Common Tern
  • Forster’s Tern
  • Arctic Tern (northern Manitoba)


Redhead pair

Large congregations of moulting Redhead and Canvasback during late summer can be found at Sagemace and Coleman Island Bay IBA and Long Island and Long Island Bay IBA. Photo copyright Christian Artuso

  • Canada Goose
  • Cackling Goose
  • Snow Goose
  • Ross’s Goose
  • Tundra Swan
  • Trumpeter Swan
  • Canvasback
  • Redhead
  • Greater Scaup
  • Lesser Scaup
  • White-winged Scoter

Long-legged Waders


White-faced Ibis, increasing range and population in Manitoba. Copyright Tim Poole

  • White-faced Ibis
  • Black-crowned Night Heron
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Sandhill Crane (strictly speaking not a long-legged wader, but for these purposes we’ll include it here)

Grebes and Loons


In June 2010, 440 Red-throated Loon, were observed in the Churchill & Vicinity IBA. Photo copyright Christian Artuso

  • Red-throated Loon
  • Red-necked Grebe
  • Horned Grebe
  • Eared Grebe
  • Western Grebe



Shorebirds are one of the most important migratory bird groups in Manitoba’s IBAs. Photo copyright Christian Artuso

Shorebirds are one of the more likely groups of birds for meeting the IBA thresholds. Shorebirds tend to gather in large concentrations during migration (call it safety in  numbers) and this combined with the fact that shorebird habitat is often seasonal means that this is a group where it is certainly possible to locate 1% of the global or continental populations of a species in a single area on a single day. It goes without saying that concentrations of shorebirds are worth targeting during monitoring trips to your local IBA.

Rare Breeders


Star attraction – a single pair of Ross’s Gull would easily pass the 1% continental threshold. Photo copyright Christian Artuso

Some rare breeders for North America do appear in Manitoba, especially around Churchill and the Hudson Bay Lowlands. For example, Ross’s Gull is such a rare breeder in North America that even a single breeding pair triggers the continental congregation. To qualify the species must be a breeding species (so a random Eurasian Common Crane turning up in Churchill would not count). However there is a small breeding population of Little Gull in Churchill which would count.