Pelee Island Natural Areas (ON013)
Southwest Lake Erie, Ontario
Altitude 174 - 185.5m
Pelee Island is the largest island in the western Lake Erie archipelago. It has an average frost-free period of 195 days longer than any other part of Ontario and most of Ohio. This climate allows for a growing season equivalent to that of West Virginia, which results in a mix of plant communities that are found nowhere else in Canada or in any of the adjacent U.S. states. Large areas of Chinquapin Oak alvar-savanna (a vegetation community of global significance) are located in many of the remaining natural areas. Other vegetative communities, such as the deciduous forests and marshes at Lighthouse Point and Fish Point Provincial Nature Reserves also support significant natural communities, with over 50 rare plant species being present. In addition to rare plants, numerous rare animals are also present including: the nationally endangered Lake Erie Water Snake and Blue Racer, nationally threatened Eastern Fox Snake, nationally vulnerable Smallmouth Salamander, and Grey Fox.
Pelee Island supports one of the largest concentrations of nesting Yellow-breasted Chats (nationally vulnerable) in eastern Canada. At least 10 to 20 nesting pairs are present on an annual basis. This estimate would represent about one-third of the eastern Canada population.
Pelee Island also supports large concentrations of songbirds during both the spring and fall migrations, especially in the Fish Point and Lighthouse Point Nature Reserves. In addition to the more abundant species such as warblers and sparrows, several threatened species, such as Henslows Sparrow (near threatened globally, nationally endangered), Prothonotary Warbler (nationally endangered), and Hooded Warblers (nationally threatened) are present. Both Prothonotary Warblers and Hooded Warblers have nested on the island but not in large numbers and not on a regular basis. Other common nesters in the islands natural areas include Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Carolina Wren.
Several waterbird species often congregate in the marshes, on the sandbars, and in the waters off the island. Thousands of Double-crested Cormorants are regularly observed, along with various shorebird, gull, and heron species such as: Dunlin, Herring Gulls, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, and Black-crowned Night-Herons. Many of the herons, cormorants and gulls likely originate from the nesting colonies on the other small islands in the archipelago (Middle Island, East Sister Island, etc.). These nesting colonies have also been identified as IBAs. Formerly, a very large Black-crowned Night-Heron colony was located at Fish Point (900 pairs in 1971), but this colony appears to have shifted to Middle Island (to the south of Pelee Island) in 1980.
The greatest threat to the Yellow-breasted Chat habitat is succession. In the later part of the 20th century, the number of island farmers has plummeted, while the size of farms have increased, resulting in the abandonment of many farmsteads and traditional farming practices (cattle grazing, widespread and small-scale burns etc.). Additionally, a significant portion of the Yellow-breasted Chat habitat remains unprotected and could be threatened by aggregate resource extraction.
Potential or Ongoing Threats