Kirtland's Warbler
(Setophaga kirtlandii)


Picture of bird
© John Reaume
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

In Canada, the Kirtland's Warbler typically breeds in regenerating jack pine stands but also red pine stands in Ontario and possibly Quebec in very small numbers (approximately 20 pairs). The bulk of the population is found across the border, primarily in Michigan but also Wisconsin. While the population remains extremely small in Canada it has been found in Ontario on Canadian Forces Base Petawawa since 2007 and, more recently, along northeastern Georgian Bay and in Simcoe County. The species was first designated as Endangered in 1979, by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada due to its globally small population and restrictive breeding habitat requirements, and this status was most recently confirmed in 2008 (COSEWIC 2008b). It is listed under the Species at Risk Act. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
COSEWIC (Canada)Endangered2008 
SARA (Canada)Endangered2003 
IUCN (Global)Near threatened2018 
Partners in Flight (North America)Watch list - yellow R2017 
Wild Species (Canada)Critically imperiled2015 
State of North America’s BirdsWatch list2016 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLittle ChangeLowBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada< 50 adults

Migration strategy, occurrence

Long-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population
CanadaVery Low

Conservation and management

There are two main factors that are thought to limit this species' abundance: loss and degradation of jack pine barrens mainly due to fire suppression, and reduction in productivity due to brood parasitism by the Brown-headed Cowbird (COSEWIC 2008b). Activities that may result in the destruction of Kirtland's Warbler's critical habitat include: forest clearing and extensive removal, habitat fragmentation (through the development of towers, buildings and road clearing) and the removal or eradication of critical ground vegetation needed for foraging and shelter (ECCC 2016a).  Populations in the United States have increased since the 1990s after an increase in suitable breeding habitat as a result of management activities and two large wildfires in the late 1970s / early 1980s. Brown-headed Cowbird populations were also controlled during that time. Both habitat management and cowbird control continue to contribute to population growth in that country. Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), has worked with the Canadian Kirtland's Warbler Recovery Team and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to both increase the survey effort and ensure management for the species on crown land through forest management planning (see Environment Canada 2006). CWS is also working with several partners to create habitat in southern Ontario. For information on the legal status of this species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and to view the Recovery Strategy, see the SARA Registry.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Boreal Hardwood TransitionBoreal Hardwood Transition, sub-region and priority type: Ontario and Manitoba -- Conservation & Stewardship
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Conservation