Waterbird species face numerous threats and many are declining globally, but knowledge of distribution, abundance, and trend remains poor for many species. Five species of marsh-nesting colonial waterbirds are poorly monitored in Canada, and especially so in the core of their range in the Canadian Prairie Provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba). We summarized published and unpublished data on abundance and distribution of breeding colonies of Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis), Franklin's Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan), Black Tern (Chlidonias niger), Forster's Tern (Sterna forsteri), and Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. We also examined the degree of overlap in nesting phenology (egg dates) and summarized survey methods that have been used to monitor the species during the breeding season—information that may be useful for the development of a multispecies monitoring program. For all species, the largest number of records of breeding colonies occurred in Alberta, with records declining eastward through Saskatchewan and Manitoba. We identified a number of breeding colonies occurring outside of currently defined species ranges, especially for the poorly studied Forster's Tern. Of 137 waterbodies hosting a colony of at least one species over the past 10 yr, 57 (41.6%) hosted colonies of at least 2 species, and 3 (2.2%) hosted colonies of all 5 species. Species tended to be reasonably synchronous in their breeding phenology, but Franklin's Gulls and Black-crowned Night-Herons tended to initiate nesting slightly earlier than the other species. We conclude that a multispecies survey timed in late May or early June to count nests and/or incubating adults, using either ground-based or aerial surveys, would likely be the most appropriate for monitoring all species jointly in the Prairie Provinces. The approach we take to compiling data from multiple sources on species occurrence and breeding phenology may be applicable to others wishing to examine the feasibility of a multispecies monitoring plan.

You do not currently have access to this content.