Prairie Warbler
(Setophaga discolor)


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

The Prairie Warbler is an extremely rare bird in Canada, occurring only in southern Ontario where there are likely fewer than 300 pairs. The only information on its population status comes from the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario which shows little change in the probability of observation for the species between the two Atlas periods (1981/85-2001/05). However, extrapolating these now dated results to the current situation is difficult and, for this reason, it is considered that there are insufficient data to assess the population status of this species in Canada. In 1999, the Prairie Warbler was re-assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as Not at Risk (from Special Concern) because of its apparently stable population and the continued availability of its primary habitat (Sutherland and Harris 2007). A species of early-successional habitats, the Prairie Warbler was likely never common in Canada and probably existed only in rocky barrens with sparse, scrubby shrubs and sand dunes. 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)Not at Risk1999 
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Partners in Flight (North America)Watch list - yellow D2017 
Wild Species (Canada)Vulnerable2015 
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
CanadaData DeficientData DeficientData Deficient

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada< 1,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Long-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population
CanadaVery Low

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts in late May and ends in mid-July, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

The small Prairie Warbler population in Canada is at the extreme northern edge of its range and is disjunct from the main breeding population in the United States. Although COSEWIC reassessed this species as Not at Risk in 1999, the small population may be vulnerable if significant changes to its rocky barrens habitat occur (Sutherland and Harris 2007). The Prairie Warbler population in the United States is declining.


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
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Conservation


  • Harris, C.G. 1998. Final Report on the 1997 Prairie Warbler Survey Along the Southeastern Shoreline of Georgian Bay, Ontario. Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre, Ontario.
  • Lambert, A.B. and R.B.H. Smith. 1984. The status and distribution of the Prairie Warbler in Ontario. Ontario Birds 2:99-115.
  • Sutherland, D.A. and C.G. Harris. 2007. Prairie Warbler. pp. 492-493 in: Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005. Cadman, M.D., D.A. Sutherland, G.G. Beck, D. Lepage and A.R. Couturier, Eds. Bird Studies Canada, Environment Canada, Ontario Field Ornithologists, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Ontario Nature, Toronto, Ontario.