By Amanda Bichel

Birds Canada is a non-profit, charitable organization built on the enthusiastic contributions of thousands of caring members and volunteer Citizen Scientists. Our mission is to drive action to increase the understanding, appreciation, and conservation of birds in Canada. Data (observations) collected by Citizen Scientists, alongside targeted research projects, are used to identify significant bird population changes and help direct conservation planning.

Some examples of programs coordinated by Birds Canada are the Important Bird and Biodiversity Area Program, the Ontario Forest Birds at Risk Program, Toronto Bird Celebration, the Piping Plover Conservation Program, SwiftWatch, Breeding Bird Atlases, and the Christmas Bird Count in Canada.

Some impressive statistics from our 2020 Annual Report are:

  • 165 peer-reviewed studies and postgraduate theses published
  • Motus Wildlife Tracking System: 400+ migration studies benefit from our 1200+ telemetry stations around the world.
  • Birds Canada processed a record 20,000 requests for bird data through our main data portal, Nature Counts
  • 40,000+ viewers participated in 162 virtual presentations!
  • 4,820 people in Canada participated in Project FeederWatch (53% increase over 2019-20)


You may be familiar with Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs). In Canada in the late 1990s, the IBA designation was given to areas that host impressive congregations of birds, and/or species at risk of extinction. Since then, important work has been done in IBAs, including conservation planning, on-the-ground stewardship through the IBA Caretaker Network, bird monitoring, and, more recently, surveys documenting all species found in a particular IBA in a short period of time (BioBlitzes”).


PEC South Shore IBA March 2017 (Photo: Amanda Bichel)

Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory is the official Caretaker of the Prince Edward County South Shore IBA, and they’ve done some amazing work including a lot of what is mentioned above. They hold IBA surveys for waterfowl, Whip-poor-will, and shorebirds, and write up a great report each year (check them out on their website: They also educate the public about bird banding and conservation in the area.

Red-breasted Merganser (Photo: Amanda Bichel)

The bird observatory is part of the South Shore Joint Initiative (SSJI), along with Birds Canada, Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC), and many other local groups. Together, these groups work tirelessly to protect and preserve the South Shore. SSJI recently achieved a very exciting win when the Government of Ontario announced that the Point Petre Provincial Wildlife Area and Ostrander Point Crown Land Block are under review to become a new Conservation Reserve!

In 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) unveiled a vision for a program that would include all biodiversity and ecosystems. Along with BirdLife International and 11 partner organizations, they introduced the concept of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), building on the long-standing success of IBAs.

The Prince Edward County South Shore IBA was originally designated for Bonaparte’s Gulls, Double-crested Cormorants, Greater Scaup, and other aggregating waterbirds, and for that it will already become a global KBA. However, as we know, this IBA is important for heaps of other species, so we’re looking forward to that knowledge officially being added to the site. Species like Blanding’s Turtle, Four-leaved milkweed, and Eastern Pondmussel (all species at risk) depend on the habitat in the IBA.

The transition from IBAs to KBAs presents a huge opportunity for targeted conservation in Canada. It allows sites to be recognized as being crucial for the persistence of bird populations, and shines a light on the fact that more than birds depend on these key habitats. Adding other organisms to the picture will deepen our understanding of the ecological value of each site.

There are many ways to get involved. If you are interested in monitoring in this or other IBAs, contact me at [email protected], and if you would like to support South Shore Joint Initiative, sign up here I had the pleasure to visit the IBA a few times in the past, and it is instantly clear as you step out anywhere on the shores that this is a place worth protecting.