‘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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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