Northern Bobwhite
(Colinus virginianus)


Picture of bird
© Dick Daniels ( - License
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Northern Bobwhite is a small grouse native to southern Ontario's grasslands and early-successional savannahs. The only known remaining natural population is on Walpole Island First Nation. In 2000, that population was estimated at just over 200 individuals (COSEWIC 2013b), but recent local knowledge indicates it has since declined (Jacobs and Johnson 2016). The population has decreased substantially since the 1970s despite several introduction attempts across the province. The Northern Bobwhite shows little sign of recovery, and is at risk of being extirpated (Risley 2007). The species was assessed as Endangered in 1994 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, and reaffirmed in 2003 and 2013 (COSEWIC 2013b). 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)Endangered2013 
SARA (Canada)Endangered2005 
IUCN (Global)Near threatened2018 
Partners in Flight (North America)Common birds in steep decline2017 
Wild Species (Canada)Critically imperiled2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLarge DecreaseHighBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada< 500 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence


Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population
CanadaVery Low

Conservation and management

Habitat fragmentation and loss of native prairie and fallow fields following agricultural intensification and suburbanization are major conservation concerns for the Northern Bobwhite, as are losses due to harsh winter weather (Brennan et al. 2014, COSEWIC 2013b). Additionally, because so many reintroduction attempts have been made over the years, genetic incompatibility between captive-bred and wild stocks is a concern (COSEWIC 2013b, Brennan et al. 2014). The species is more susceptible to predation in fragmented landscapes, and with the increasing occurrence of these landscapes, predation from wildlife and domestic cats threaten the species (ECCC 2017b). While the species is a popular game bird in the United States, hunting is not an issue in Canada as it is no longer permitted in Ontario, with the exception of game bird hunting preserves (Province of Ontario 2014). A Recovery Strategy for Northern Bobwhite has been proposed (ECCC 2017b). For information on the legal status of this species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and to view available recovery documents, 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
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Conservation