Prothonotary Warbler
(Protonotaria citrea)


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

In Canada, the Prothonotary Warbler breeds exclusively in the deciduous swamp forests in the Carolian forest of southwestern Ontario, at the northern limit of its breeding range. Annual surveys indicate the species has experienced a large decrease in population since about 1970. In 2003, the species was listed as Endangered under the Species at Risk Act due to its very small Canadian population (less than 30 individuals) and restrictive habitat requirements, which make it susceptible to habitat loss on both its wintering and breeding grounds (confirmed in 2016; COSEWIC 2016d). 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)Endangered2016 
SARA (Canada)Endangered2003 
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Partners in Flight (North America)Watch list - yellow D2017 
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
CanadaLarge DecreaseHighBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada< 50 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 between mid-May and 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 Prothonotary Warbler is thought to be mainly affected by loss and degradation of its primary breeding habitat, deciduous swampland, wintering habitat and coastal mangrove forests in Latin America (COSEWIC 2007). Threats on the species breeding grounds have increased and invasive species such as the Emerald Ash Borer and European Common Reed have affected the quality of breeding habitat (COSEWIC 2016d). Other threats to the population include: nest site competition from other bird species, high predation and emerging concerns related climate change (Environment Canada 2011g). A rescue effect from the larger populations in the United States, though possible, is unlikely (COSEWIC 2007). 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
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Conservation