Boreal Forest

Boreal forest. Credit: Phil Zrimsek.

The nursery for billions of migratory birds

Long-distance migrants are facing more threats than birds that stay in or near the boreal forest year-round

Eighty percent of the boreal forest is still functionally intact, providing great conservation potential. The boreal forest supports the greatest abundance of birds on the continent—3 to 5 billion birds in the breeding season. Most boreal birds are migratory and travel the length of North America during the nonbreeding season, with many continuing to South America.

Among the species that are of conservation concern, most are long-distance migrants that face threats on their nonbreeding habitats. Many are migratory songbirds that spend their winters in the shrinking tropical forests of Mexico and farther south. Other species of concern, such as boreal shorebirds and waterfowl, rely on coastal habitats that are under heavy development pressure.

Status: Most species faring well

Most boreal bird species are of low or moderate conservation concern, indicating this is still a relatively healthy habitat. Maintaining the abundance of these species is important for a diverse and healthy boreal ecosystem.

Building on Success: Provincial pledges will protect 80 million hectares

The vastness of the boreal forest is a big reason why it is such vital bird habitat. Ontario and Québec have committed to protect 50% of their boreal forest from development to ensure that forests remain healthy for wildlife, protect clean water, and sequester carbon. Similar efforts are needed in other jurisdictions. Protected areas should include portions of the southern boreal forest where bird diversity is highest.

Take Action: Support sustainable forestry that mimics natural disturbance

Boreal forests are naturally dynamic. Fires and insect outbreaks create a mosaic of open areas and regenerating and mature forests that sustain healthy bird populations. Sustainable forestry practices emulate those natural disturbances to keep forests healthy.

  • In areas that are slated for management, forestry planning should consider natural patterns and disturbance regimes when determining where and how to harvest.
  • Timber certification programs through the Forest Stewardship Council, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and Canadian Standards Association are recognizing companies that support sustainable forestry. The more that companies and consumers choose certified wood products, the better off the boreal forest will be.