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Waterfowl is the general term used for members of the Anatidae family, which is made up of ducks, geese and swans.

Canada hosts more than 35 species of ducks, geese and swans for at least part of each year.

Waterfowl and Migratory Game Birds

We have federal laws in Canada to protect migratory birds to ensure healthy populations are conserved.

Most species of waterfowl are considered game birds, so waterfowl conservation includes both monitoring and regulatory activities to ensure that hunting is managed sustainably (Swan hunting is not permitted in Canada).

Celebrating 100 years of bird conservation

“A century ago, birds were in trouble. Overuse of natural resources was the norm: habitat destruction and unregulated harvest for restaurateurs and feathers for the millinery trade devastated migratory bird populations. The Great Auk and the Labrador Duck disappeared for good, followed in 1914 by the species that had once been the most abundant bird species in North America: the Passenger Pigeon.”

“Realization slowly dawned that the growing demand for birds exceeded what their populations could sustain. Thus, a conservation movement was born that led to the signing of one of the first international treaties on wildlife conservation, opening a new era of international collaboration in protecting wildlife and its habitat.”

“Signed on August 16, 1916, the Canada-United States Migratory Birds Convention aimed to regulate the hunting of birds and ensure the “preservation [of such birds] as are useful to man or are harmless”.

Legislation enacted in 1917 implemented the Convention in Canada by protecting migrating birds for their nutritional, social, cultural, spiritual, ecological, economic, and aesthetic values.”

“The treaty was the first international agreement forged to protect wild birds, and among the first to protect any wildlife species.”

“Canada and the US Celebrate 100 Years of Migratory Birds Protection.” Government of Canada, 16 August 2016, http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1111789.
“Celebrating 100 years of bird conservation,” Environment and Climate Change Canada, 28 August 2016, http://ec.gc.ca/nature/default.asp?lang=En&n=7DDD9435-1#_02

North American Waterfowl Management Plan

The North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) is an international partnership that conserves and protects wetland and upland habitats, and associated waterfowl populations by connecting people with nature.

In 1986, the Canadian and United States governments signed this international partnership agreement, laying the foundation for international cooperation in the recovery of declining waterfowl populations. Mexico became a signatory to the Plan with its update in 1994. As a result, the NAWMP Partnership extends across North America, working at national and regional levels on a variety of waterfowl and habitat management issues.

The Plan was revised in 2012 to add a new call to action for the waterfowl conservation community. The NAWMP Revision of 2012 outlined revised objectives for waterfowl populations, waterfowl habitat, and those who enjoy and actively support waterfowl and wetlands conservation:

  • Goal 1: Abundant and resilient waterfowl populations to support hunting and other uses without imperiling habitat.
  • Goal 2: Wetlands and related habitat sufficient to sustain waterfowl populations at desired levels, while providing places to recreate and ecological services that benefit society.
  • Goal 3: Growing numbers of waterfowl hunters, other conservationists and citizens who enjoy and actively support waterfowl and wetlands habitat conservation.

Read the Plan here.

“What is NAWMP.” North American Waterfowl Management Plan (Canada), 2013, http://nawmp.wetlandnetwork.ca/what-is-nawmp/.
“NAWMP Revision 2012.” North American Waterfowl Management Plan (Canada), 2013,

State of Canada’s Birds, 2012 Report

This report was released by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) in 2012 and represented the first-ever comprehensive picture of the current health of Canada’s birds.

Waterfowl Overview:

  • International cooperation through the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) has led to more sustainable management of waterfowl hunting and the protection or restoration of many wetlands.
  • In the Eastern Boreal forest, waterfowl and other water bird populations have increased slightly (on average) relative to 1970. Some species, such as the Hooded Merganser, Sandhill Crane and Canada Goose, have shown substantial increases of more than 100%; however, other species, such as the American Bittern and Common Goldeneye, have declined strongly.
  • The Western Boreal forest plays a critical role in supporting continental bird populations of many species of songbirds, water birds and waterfowl. In drought years, many of the ducks that typically breed in the Prairie Region move to the Western Boreal.
  • The Prairies support the highest density of breeding waterfowl in Canada and provide critical stopover sites for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds.

Read the report here

State of North America’s Birds 2016

This 2016 report was also released by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI), representing the first-ever conservation vulnerability assessment of all 1,154 native bird species that occur in Canada, the continental U.S. and Mexico.

  • Birds Connect the Continent: More than 350 bird species are truly tri-national, living in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico over the course of the year.
  • Waterfowl have benefited from careful harvest management and wetland conservation, but positive trends may not last if wetland loss continues.

Read the report here.