Waterfowl’s Habitat Protection

Currently, large waterfowl populations have grown and been conserved due to actions taken to preserve their habitats. These actions are directed by the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) and executed in collaboration with many (international) partners across the North American continent. The conservation activities focus on specific areas/habitats or on species of concern in Joint Ventures.

The main issues that occur are attributed to rising conflict between wildlife preservation and the increasing human need of land use. These lead to habitat loss or disadvantageous compromises for the waterfowl.

Territory Based Conservation Activities

Pacific Birds Habitat Joint Venture

The Western coast of British Columbia (BC), Canada, hosts over 440 estuaries. These prove to be excellent and important habitats for waterfowl as they provide food resources for wintering and migrating birds. The waterbird use of each these estuaries can be estimated using habitat-species models based on aerial survey data. Furthermore, for the BC area, a breeding bird atlas is made with free online information (birdatlas.bc.ca). The problem that arises in the BC coastal area is that near urbanized areas, the floodplains haven been modified for agricultural uses, taking away the habitat of the waterfowl. Through knowledge-based decisions, the correct balance between agricultural grounds and waterfowl territory should be determined and constructed as so.

Canadian Intermountain Habitat Joint Venture

The Canadian Intermountains have, among other types of waterfowl habitats, numerous waterfowl productive wetlands that are subjected to pressure from developing land use. The necessary habitats need to be secured with land donations and conservation agreements and riparian restoration has to be done where necessary. The conserved wetlands should be protected from domestic livestock using fencing. In case of fluctuating water levels in a lake, weirs should be built or rebuilt to provide a constant water level,. These measures ensure preservation of breeding and feeding habitats for all kinds of waterfowl species.

Prairie Habitat Joint Venture

The Prairie habitat is an enormous land area (64.1 million ha) lying in central Canada. It is split up in the prairie & aspen parklands on one hand, providing habitat for most North American duck species, and the western boreal forest on the other.

In Manitoba, the largest conservation habitat was established on the Big Grass Marsh. Several donations ensured the pristine habitats to be saved. The area is now considered as “Marsh of Great Significance” and even as a “Globally Significant Bird Area”. Saskatchewan mostly deals with bird habitat-agricultural conflicts. Through management, habitat extension, stewardship activities and working close with farmer organisations, win-win solutions are made to balance out the economical value of the land against the ecological importance of the birds habitats. Alberta has lost vast amounts of wetland areas due to drainages of them. Currently they are being restored, benefitting both the waterfowl habitat and the grazing animals as the grass quality increases dramatically as well as the stock water distribution and availability.

Eastern Habitat Joint Venture

The Atlantic site of Canada is characterized by a multitude of coastal bays, salt marshes, lakeshore marshes and floodplain wetlands. All of these are of critical importance as waterfowl territory, especially for migrating American Black Ducks and Canada Geese. However, the eastern Canadian coastline area coincides with the country’s busy harbours and large urban areas such as Halifax. The human induced stress on the environment has to be limited by securing the waterfowl’s habitat as natural environment.

Species Specific Joint Ventures

Black Duck Joint Venture

The black duck population is a social and economical important species and should be for those reasons and recreational purposes be conserved as much as possible. Inter-partnership studies have shown a decrease of the Black duck population on traditional wintering habitats. Preliminary studies have shown that changing weather systems cause the birds to redistribute over northern Canada. As such, we should educate ourselves and the general public about these habitats shifts so that efforts to aid the black duck population growth are put into the correct locations.

Sea Duck Joint Venture

These cavity nesting birds depend on shallow waters where they feed on mussels over the winter. However, little to no information (in some places) is known about the link between specific breeding, molting and wintering areas used by these birds. The preliminary results of an ongoing study already point out that these birds have high site fidelity.

Arctic Goose Joint Venture

Whilst for most other species the main issue is to maintain or revive their population, for the Arctic Goose however an overpopulation causes many disturbances in plenty of habitats. During the mid 1990’s, conferences started discussing if geese overabundance was a real posing threat. From 2005 onwards, it has been recognised and widely accepted that overabundant geese populations together with current climate changes poses an up and front issue to be addressed regarding bird habitats.

Waterfowl’s Habitat Preservation: Conclusion

Currently, habitat protection measurements are being taken actively (e.g. fencing, building weirs, restoration of riparian environments etc.) as well as geo-politically (e.g. land donations, securing land as waterfowl habitats etc.). Both these actions are taken in Habitat specific Joint Ventures. Species specific research is conducted under Species Joint ventures. This perspective allows to study the birds in terms of their migration patterns and connection with different habitats and the therein found other wildlife.

North American Waterfowl Management Plan. September 2015. Habitat Matters. 2015 Canadian NAWMP Report. Available at : http://nawmp.wetlandnetwork.ca/Media/Content/files/Habitat%20Matters%202015_english.pdf [Accessed 03/2021].


  • Source North American Waterfowl Management Plan. September 2015. Habitat Matters. 2015 Canadian NAWMP Report. Available at : http://nawmp.wetlandnetwork.ca/Media/Content/files/Habitat%20Matters%202015_english.pdf [Accessed 03/2021].