Lookin’ for Louisiana Waterthrushes

Devil Lake Creek

In Canada, the Louisiana Waterthrush (Seirus motacilla) has a small range limited to southern Ontario and Quebec. The population is small, estimated at <200 pairs, and restricted to mature forested ravines with clear, gravel-bottomed streams and/or woodland swamps. Louisianas are considered “area sensitive”. According to a Maryland study (Robbins 1979) a minimum of 100 contiguous hectares of mature habitat is needed for successful breeding (McCracken 2006). In Ontario, the Louisiana Waterthrush is a rare but regular breeder in southwestern Ontario. Smaller numbers also occur in deeply incised valleys of the Frontenac Arch where mature forest is present.

Playback equipment

The Frontenac Arch sits at the northern limit of the continental breeding range for Louisiana Waterthrush. Here, annual occupancy and productivity of breeding sites are probably influenced by weather cycles and periodic expansion/contraction of the source population further south, possibly upstate New York. It is suggested that north wandering immigrants cause a “rescue effect” for the Canadian population. There is also evidence of the species expanding its range northward, likely in response to maturing second growth forest cover. Climate change, beavers and water quality are also important influences on the status of the species in the Frontenac Arch.

We have started an inventory of Louisianas in Frontenac Provincial Park and in accessible habitats immediately surrounding the park. Louisianas will breed in woodland swamps and along clean creeks and streams, both of which occur in abundance in these areas. Potential nest sites have been identified from several sources and will be surveyed in May 2010 to determine occupancy and breeding status. This information will improve our knowledge of the local population’s size, demography and habitat preferences. The work will also enable monitoring through comparative analysis in future years.

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