Partner Media Release – Shorebird populations declining

The following release has been published by Nature Conservancy Canada, and relates to the International Shorebird Survey which we have partnered in launching in Manitoba this fall (full story found here). The release is timely following our initial surveys at Whitewater Lake and Oak Lake (survey report 1, survey report 2)

Nature Conservancy of Canada, partners and volunteers conducting surveys to learn more

Since late July, some of Canada’s most amazing travellers will have started their fall migration. Shorebirds are a diverse groups of migratory birds, a few species of which have some of the longest migration distances in the feathered world. But they are in trouble, and more needs to be done to help them.

The good news is that a number of local, national and international organizations are working together to learn how best to conserve them here in Manitoba.

Shorebirds come in various shapes and sizes, but this group of birds is strongly associated with shallow water habitats found on beaches or shorelines of lakes, shallow wetlands and in flooded fields or grasslands, where they forage for food in the mud and sand.

The migratory route that passes through the prairies is sometimes referred to as the central flyway. A handful of the species that move through Manitoba will stay and breed, raising their young, before returning south for the winter. Others only stop temporarily for food and rest on their way north or south. Whether for breeding or refuelling, Manitoba’s wetlands are incredibly important for these birds on their journeys.

Declining populations

This group of birds is declining quickly. A 2016 report on the State of the North American Birds indicated a 70 per cent decline in shorebird populations since the early 1970s. Causes of that decline range from habitat loss in breeding and wintering areas and along migratory pathways, changes in predation pressure, pollution, changes in food availability, changing climate conditions, and being repeatedly disturbed while resting and feeding.

Loss of habitat or stresses to birds during stopovers can have a significant impact on migrating birds. If the birds are not healthy and strong when they reach their breeding site, their ability to successfully raise their young falls significantly.

We need to learn more about shorebirds in Manitoba and other parts of the central flyway. How many are there? Where do they go? Which areas are the most important for them? Manitoba has a storied history of shorebird research in the Hudson Bay lowlands, but information on significant stopover sites in the midcontinent is more limited. Answering these questions will help ensure that efforts to conserve them will be as effective as possible. While a significant amount of work has been done on shorebirds on the East Coast, and more recently the West Coast, there is fewer data in the prairie regions.

Working together

Over a year ago, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) began discussions with partner organizations in both Canada and the U.S. to establish a monitoring system as part of the International Shorebird Survey (ISS). This spring, NCC, Manomet, the Manitoba Important Bird Areas Program (IBA), Bird Studies Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada led an effort to establish a monitoring program in Manitoba. Over the past months, NCC and partners have identified sites to be surveyed and protocols for long-term surveying in ephemeral wetlands, complementing work by the IBA program and numerous volunteers. Survey data collected using ISS methods are used to calculate shorebird population trends, examine the distribution of shorebirds, the routes they use during migration and the locations of the most important stopover sites.

Key information about shorebird conservation was shared at a spring workshop held near Oak Lake. Participants were trained in shorebird identification and survey methods. These methods are currently being piloted in southwestern Manitoba. If successful, the program will eventually expand to other parts of the province and the prairies.

In late July, staff from Bird Studies Canada and the Manitoba Important Bird Area Program trained staff from NCC and volunteers from the IBA Program on Manitoba’s first shorebird surveys at Whitewater Lake near Deloraine, and Oak Lake.

What you can do

Simple, everyday things like cleaning up garbage along wetlands, beaches and shorelines and not allowing your pets to disturb birds while they are resting and foraging can help. If you are a birding enthusiast, consider submitting your data to databases such as eBird so it is available to researchers and conservation organizations. Donating to non-profit organizations working on shorebird conservation is also great way to contribute.

If you are interested in volunteering for future shorebird surveys, contact the Nature Conservancy of Canada or the Manitoba IBA Program.

Learn more

To learn more about shorebirds and the work that is being done in Manitoba, check out these blogs by the Manitoba IBA:

this post by Manomet:

and this link to the International Shorebird Survey


The Nature Conservancy of Canada is Canada’s leading not-for-profit, private land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped protect 2.8 million acres (more than 1.1 million hectares), coast to coast. We have conserved and protected over 65,000 acres (26,305 hectares) across nine natural areas critical to Manitoba’s biodiversity. To learn more, visit

The shorebird workshop was funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Program (NACP), a unique public-private partnership led by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Manomet, and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

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Volunteer Trip List – Whitewater Lake IBA

Randy and Odette Mooi visited Whitewater Lake on August 4th and 5th 2018. Randy sent us his trip list, and some photos, so we thought we would post the pics on this blog for your enjoyment, with the trip list of course.

If you have any birding lists, or individual sightings from any of Manitoba’s IBAs which you have not entered on eBird, we would love to enter them for you. Please email any records to us at

Whitewater marsh scene lr

American Coots and foraging shorebirds at Whitewater Lake. Copyright Randy Mooi

Species Count
Canada Goose X
Blue-winged Teal 200
Northern Shoveler 25
Gadwall 7
Mallard 200
Northern Pintail 12
Green-winged Teal 12
Redhead 5
Ruddy Duck 12
Pied-billed Grebe 4
Red-necked Grebe 4
Eared Grebe 15
Eared Grebe juve look ma no wings

Eared Grebe juvenile having a stretch. Copyright Randy Mooi

Eurasian Collared-Dove 2
Mourning Dove 24
American Coot 1000
American Avocet 360
Killdeer 25
Upland Sandpiper 1

Upland Sandpiper, one of the most striking looking shorebirds. Copyright Randy Mooi

Marbled Godwit 20
Ruddy Turnstone 10
distant turnstones

Some distant Ruddy Turnstones. Copyright Randy Mooi

Stilt Sandpiper 5
Baird’s Sandpiper 10
Bairds Sandpiper I hope

Baird’s Sandpipers. Copyright Randy Mooi

Least Sandpiper 1
Pectoral Sandpiper 10
Short-billed Dowitcher 500
Long-billed Dowitcher X
Wilson’s Phalarope 5
Greater Yellowlegs 100
Willet 5
Lesser Yellowlegs 50
Franklin’s Gull 1000
Ring-billed Gull 24
Black Tern 50
Common Tern 1
Double-crested Cormorant 1
American White Pelican 24
American Bittern 2
Great Blue Heron 3
Great Egret 20
Black-crowned Night-Heron 3
White-faced Ibis 100
White-faced Ibis at sunset III

White-faced Ibis at sunset. Copyright Randy Mooi

Turkey Vulture 5
Northern Harrier 4
Bald Eagle 4
Swainson’s Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 10
Ferruginous Hawk 1
Northern Flicker 1
American Kestrel 5
Peregrine Falcon 1
Western Kingbird 15
Eastern Kingbird 30
American Crow X
Common Raven X
Horned Lark 10
Purple Martin 100
Tree Swallow 200
Bank Swallow 1000
Black-capped Chickadee X
Sedge Wren X
Marsh Wren X
American Robin X
European Starling X
American Goldfinch 20
Chipping Sparrow X
Vesper Sparrow 5
Savannah Sparrow 24
Song Sparrow X
Yellow-headed Blackbird 20
Bobolink 5
Western Meadowlark X
Red-winged Blackbird 1000
RWBL a few blackbirds lr

A swarm of blackbirds…Copyright Randy Mooi

Common Grackle 50
House Sparrow X