Breeding Birds of Pelee Island

PIBO has been surveying the number of species that breed on Pelee Island since 2004, when, with initial funding from the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Township of Pelee, we began the Breeding Birds of Pelee Island (BBPI) program.  The number of breeding bird species on Pelee Island in 2011 was 52; it is now down to 35.

Every year throughout the breeding season—April to September—PIBO conducts surveys and censuses on more than 100 sites in five major breeding areas on the island, including marshland, cedar forests, and the Stone Road Alvar.  

A “survey” provides a reliable estimate of the population size of a particular species in a given area. A complete count within a survey is called a “census.” “Monitoring” is a step beyond a survey: by undertaking repeat surveys, population trends of particular species can be monitored and estimated over time. In a survey, a census, and monitoring, consistency is crucial to measuring genuine population fluctuations—which is vital since these statistics determine which species are highest on the conservation priority list.

Field Coordinator Sumiko Onishi doing the spring bird census.

Acadian flycatcher  | Photo by Mike Burrell

Breeding Birds of Pelee Island is part of the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), a joint effort between the US Geological Survey and Environment Canada, begun in 1966. At BBS, PIBO’s data is analyzed by professional data managers who work closely with researchers and statisticians to compile and deliver population data and population trend analyses on more than 400 bird species across the continent. As part of our Breeding Birds of Pelee Island surveys, we report the presence of Species at Risk — Acadian flycatchers used to nest on the island but have not been seen since 2016 — to government ministries and conservation authorities, and advise them on measures to preserve crucial breeding habitat. PIBO’s Annual Report 2020 provides a recent overview of the birds and sites in the BBPI survey conducted that year by our staff and volunteers.