Help for an endangered songbird

July 10, 2017
Napanee, ON


Nature Conservancy of Canada saves globally significant habitat for grassland birds, including the endangered eastern loggerhead shrike

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has announced the expansion of an important conservation area in eastern Ontario. The non-profit group has purchased 16 hectares (40 acres) of key habitat on the Napanee Plain Alvar Nature Reserve.

The property is an important breeding and feeding area for many grassland birds, including the endangered eastern loggerhead shrike. The site also has globally rare alvar habitat and lies within the Napanee Limestone Plain Important Bird Area. 

One of the fastest-declining bird species in North America, the migratory shrike is a classic example of an “area-sensitive species” in that it requires large areas of open terrain before it is comfortable enough to nest. Few regular, protected nesting areas remain for the eastern loggerhead shrike. It is believed that there are less than 30 breeding pairs remaining in the wild in North America.

One of North America’s great limestone plain landscapes, the Napanee Plain is a rich complex of wetlands, forests, lakes, grasslands and alvars, the latter of which are found in just a handful of places in the world. It is also one of the areas where NCC partners with Wildlife Preservation Canada to assist with shrike recovery efforts.

The Napanee Plain natural area is home to several species at risk, including Blanding’s turtle, eastern milksnake, least bittern and butternut. It also supports three globally imperiled plant community types found in alvar habitats.

This Nature Conservancy of Canada project was generously supported by funding from the Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation Program. Private donors, including the Kingston Field Naturalists, provided crucial matching funds for the project. To date, NCC has protected more than 747 hectares (1,846 acres) in the Napanee Plain area.


“The Napanee Plain and its globally rare alvars are incredibly important to Ontario. It’s critical that we strive to conserve its biodiversity, not just for the species that it supports, but for the benefit of current and future generations.” James Duncan, Nature Conservancy of Canada Vice-president, Ontario Region

“I want to congratulate the Nature Conservancy of Canada and thank the many donors including the Kingston Field Naturalists for helping make this initiative a reality. The Government of Canada is proud to support their conservation efforts through the Natural Areas Conservation Program. Together, we will protect the natural beauty of the Napanee Plain for generations to come.” Mike Bossio, Member of Parliament for Hastings-Lennox and Addington


  • Alvars are naturally open habitats with a thin to non-existent covering of soil over a base of limestone or dolostone. Because of the limited soil, fewer plants grow on alvars, resulting in naturally open habitats that are perfect for grassland birds, including the eastern loggerhead shrike.
  • Sometimes referred to as the “butcher bird,” the eastern loggerhead shrike is one of North America’s few predatory songbirds. Using its strong, hooked beak, the shrike impales its prey, typically large insects, on thorns or barbed wire of fences. As the shrike does not possess the strong grasping legs of a raptor, this technique allows it to tear apart and consume its prey or leave it for later consumption.
  • The Napanee Plain Alvar Nature Reserve provides valuable habitat to captive-reared, released eastern loggerhead shrikes and aids in the species’ recovery.


The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the nation's leading land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect more than 1.1 million hectares (2.8 million acres), coast to coast with more than 74,400 hectares (184,000 acres) in Ontario.

The Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP) is a unique public-private partnership led by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). To date, $277.5 million has been invested in the NACP by the Government of Canada to secure our natural heritage. Additionally, more than $500 million in matching contributions has been raised by NCC and its partners. 

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