Cerulean Warbler
(Setophaga cerulea)


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The Cerulean Warbler is found in small numbers in southern Ontario and Quebec during the breeding season. There are few data to examine the current population status of this species in Canada, but the Breeding Bird Survey suggests a large decrease in abundance within Canada and throughout the species' continental range since the early 1970s. The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario also suggests a decrease in occurrence between the early 1980s and the mid-2000s. The species was first assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada as Special Concern in 2003 (COSEWIC 2003), and was upgraded to Endangered in 2010 due to its small population and recent declines (COSEWIC 2010f). It was uplisted under the Species at Risk Act in 2017. 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)Endangered2010 
SARA (Canada)Endangered2017 
IUCN (Global)Vulnerable2018 
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
CanadaLarge DecreaseMediumBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada< 5,000 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 early July, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

Current causes of decline in the Cerulean Warbler population are thought to be loss, fragmentation, and degradation of its preferred habitat, mature deciduous or montane forest, particularly on its wintering grounds, but also at migration stop-overs and on its breeding grounds (Buehler et al. 2013, COSEWIC 2010f). In Canada, an extensive portion of habitat in eastern Ontario's Frontenac Arch is protected by Ontario Parks and Queen's University, but remaining habitat in the Carolinian Region of southwestern Ontario is highly fragmented and less secure. 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
Boreal Hardwood TransitionBoreal Hardwood Transition, sub-region and priority type: Ontario and Manitoba -- Conservation
Boreal Hardwood TransitionBoreal Hardwood Transition, sub-region and priority type: Quebec -- Other
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Conservation
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Quebec -- Conservation