Willet
(Tringa semipalmata)

Summary

Picture of bird
© Jukka Jantunen (flickr.com/photos/jukka_jantunen)
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

There are two subspecies of Willets in Canada. Most Willets breed in the Prairies near wetlands (T. s. semipalmata); a less abundant eastern subspecies (T. s. inornata) breeds in the coastal marshes of Atlantic Canada. Results from the Breeding Bird Survey in Canada (primarily from the prairies) indicate a moderate decrease in abundance relative to about 1970. It should be noted, however, that the eastern population shows a stronger decline (~50% loss of the population). Habitat loss and disturbance are the primary threats for this species. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.

Designations

Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Partners in Flight (North America)Watch list - yellow D2017 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2015 
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
CanadaModerate DecreaseHighBelow Acceptable Level
 

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada100,000 - 500,000 adults (includes birds breeding and migrating within Canada)
 

Distribution maps

 

Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population
CanadaModerate

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between early May and mid-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

Willets are threatened by disturbance and habitat loss throughout their range. Historically, market hunting and harvesting of eggs and young dramatically reduced the abundance of Willets along the Atlantic coast, so that by 1890, only a remnant population in Nova Scotia remained in Canada (Erskine 1992). The eastern population has since regained some of its former abundance and distribution (Erskine 1992). Disturbance and degradation of coastal wetlands threaten eastern breeding birds, as well as non-breeding birds of both subspecies. The loss of prairie grasslands and wetlands to agriculture threatens breeding birds of the western subspecies (Lowther et al. 2001). Aquaculture has led to widespread conversion and deterioration of critical migratory habitat. However, shrimp aquaculture provides feeding areas during the shrimp harvest (Navedo et al. 2017).

 

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
Gulf of St. LawrenceGulf of St. Lawrence, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NB -- Conservation
Gulf of St. LawrenceGulf of St. Lawrence, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NL -- Other
Gulf of St. LawrenceGulf of St. Lawrence, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NS -- Conservation
Gulf of St. LawrenceGulf of St. Lawrence, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, PE -- Conservation
Prairie PotholesPrairie Potholes, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Conservation & Stewardship
Scotian ShelfScotian Shelf, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NB -- Conservation
Scotian ShelfScotian Shelf, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NS -- Conservation
 

References