Canada’s Boreal Forest: Why We Should Care

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Why should we care? Nearly 3 billion migratory songbirds migrate to the Boreal Forest each breeding season, and on their way they eat insects, pollinate our plants, and sing lyrical songs in our yard.

The Canadian Boreal provides undeveloped and nearly roadless habitat for more than 30% of North America’s ENTIRE bird population. It offers breeding habitat for more than 80% of the birding population of these 14 species:

  • Palm warblers
  • Tennessee warblers
  • Black-backed woodpeckers
  • Connecticut warblers
  • Northern shrikes
  • Smith’s Longspurs
  • Spruce grouse
  • Yellow-bellied flycatchers
  • Philadelphia vireos
  • White-throated sparrows
  • Lincoln’s sparrows
  • Cape May warblers
  • Bay-breasted warblers
  • Swamp sparrows


  • 80% of the waterfowl species of North America, 63% of the finch species, and 53% of the warbler species.


Cape May Warbler 


  • For nearly 100 species, 50% or more of their entire breeding populations occur in the Boreal.

Atlantic Puffin                                Northern Spotted Owl


Beyond the birding experience, this impressive forest is a huge carbon reservoir, capturing and holding over 10% of the world’s carbon, second only to oceans.

Just how big is the Canadian Boreal? It stretches through most of Canada, most of central Alaska, parts of the Rocky Mountain range in northern Montana, reaching into New England and the Adirondack Mountains of New York. Throughout the Northern Hemisphere, the Boreal Forest blankets 2.3 million square miles, an area bigger than the remaining Brazilian Rain Forest! The vastness of the Boreal Forest makes it one of the few remaining places on earth where entire ecosystems function.


Canadian Boreal is in the darkest color.

Only 8% of the Canadian Boreal Forest is protected. Over 30% has already been set aside for logging, energy and development, mostly within the last decade. (The U.S. is the leading importer of Canadian wood products primarily pulped and turned into disposal products such as junk mail and catalogs.) In Ontario alone, in 2001, 44,000 migratory bird nests were lost due to these activities.

Given future plans in almost every Canadian province and territory, the future of the Boreal and the birds that breed there will be largely determined over the next 5 to 10 years. Until recently, most birding and naturalist groups have focused their attention south, which is important of course, but now our attention needs to be focused equally to the north, to the northern breeding grounds: THE CANADIAN BOREAL FOREST.

If we’ve piqued your interest and you would like to learn more or explore more about the Boreal, visit and head to The Boreal Forest Region: North America’s Bird Nursery Report.

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