COSEWIC Updates 2020

‘Tis the time of year again – not the holiday season – instead the annual COSEWIC meeting. COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) is an independent advisory panel that provides information to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change in Canada. They are responsible for identifying and assessing the conservation status of wildlife species in Canada.

At COSEWIC meetings Species Specialist Subcommittees (say that three times fast!) meet to determine changes to COSEWIC wildlife rankings and determine the urgency for wildlife species to receive COSEWIC assessments. These rankings sort wildlife candidates into different risk categories (special concern, threatened, endangered, extirpated) after an assessment and different priority categories (high, mid and low priority) prior to a COSEWIC assessment.

Changes to Species at Risk Status:

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs was assessed by COSEWIC as Threatened. Previously Lesser Yellowlegs was a Priority for assessment by COSEWIC. Lesser Yellowlegs can be found in many of our IBAs such as Whitewater, Oak Lake/ Plum Lake, Shoal Lakes and Oak Hammock Marsh IBA, just to name a few.

Lesser Yellowlegs. Photo by Christian Artuso.

Canada Warbler

Some good news here! Previously ranked as Threatened by COSEWIC, now re-assessed as Special Concern. While we don’t have an IBA specifically triggered by the Canada Warbler, we do sometimes get a glimpse of them during migration season. Otherwise look for them in the Boreal Forest during breeding season.

Canada Warbler. Photo by Dale Bonk/Audubon Photography Awards

Bird Species up for Assessment in 2021:

Horned Lark– High Priority

Seven of the eight subspecies are listed as priorities for COSEWIC assessment. The eighth subspecies is already listed as endangered. Subspecies of Horned Lark listed as occurring in Manitoba are the Saskatchewan Horned Lark, Hoyt’s Horned Lark and the Desert Horned Lark. Long term declines of these subspecies range from 52%-89% (1970-2018) and short-term declines range from 15%-42% (2008-2018) from sources such as the Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Count.

Horned Lark. Photo by Christoph Moning/ Cornell All About Birds

Snowy Owl – High Priority

Snowy Owl populations are thought to have declined to approximately 15% of their historical numbers worldwide. The Snowy Owl breeds on the northern edges of Manitoba and northward on the arctic tundra. We more often see Snowy Owls in Manitoba during the winter season. Threats contributing to this decline are mostly unknown, but the rapid pace of climate change is likely a key driver on the breeding grounds.

Snowy Owl. Photo by Mark Benavides/ Cornell All About Birds.

Other species still on candidate list from prior to 2020:

Sanderling – High Priority

Pectoral Sandpiper – High Priority

Stilt Sandpiper – High Priority

Dunlin – High Priority

Semipalmated Sandpiper – High Priority

Killdeer – High Priority

Whimbrel – High Priority

Connecticut Warbler – High Priority

Le Conte’s Sparrow – Mid Priority

Upland Sandpiper – Mid Priority

Long-billed Dowitcher – Mid Priority

American Golden Plover – Mid priority

Purple Martin – Mid Priority

Blackpoll Warbler – Mid Priority

Arctic Tern – Mid Priority

Black Tern – Low Priority

Western Wood-Pewee – Low Priority

Brewer’s Blackbird – Low Priority

American Kestrel – Low Priority

Pine Siskin – Low Priority

If you are interested in other types of wildlife discussed in recent COSEWIC meetings check out the links below:

Summary of COSEWIC Wildlife Species Assessments, November 2020

COSEWIC Candidate Wildlife Species