The traditional knowledge of Cree hunters is helping Nature Canada map changing migration patterns

© Ted Chesky

The traditional knowledge that people living local to Important Bird Areas (IBA) can bring to monitoring is especially valuable in recognising and responding to changes in the environment. For example, in Canada, hunters from the Moose Cree First Nation community observed that the migration patterns of Canada Goose Branta canadensis were changing. Now they are working with researchers from Nature Canada (BirdLife in Canada) to help monitor other waterbird populations in the region.

When Nature Canada and the Moose Cree Lands and Resources Department held a workshop on Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in the Moose Cree Homelands, the 14 community members who attended were mostly traditional hunters. Like other Cree communities along the coast, they are very connected to the land and hunt primarily Canada Geese Branta canadensis and Snow Geese Chen caerulescens in the spring and autumn, as well as other wildlife such as caribou, moose and sturgeon.

Numerous globally significant IBAs are located along the James Bay coast, and many are recognised as staging areas for thousands of shorebirds on their epic migrations to South America. Other IBAs on the Hudson Bay and James Bay coasts are recognised for the waterfowl—mainly geese and some species of ducks—that they support. These birds breed, moult and feed there, fattening up for their long migrations. But they also provide an essential source of food to many families in the coastal communities.

Many of the hunters at the workshop observed that the Canada Goose migration pattern was changing. The birds were no longer migrating along some of the traditional routes, but much further inland. Nature Canada considers that respecting and incorporating traditional knowledge like this into Important Bird Area stewardship and monitoring is the key consideration in working with the Cree communities. In August 2011, a member of the Moose Cree First Nation spent one week in a coastal IBA with shorebird researchers, as part of on-going efforts to promote cross-cultural exchanges and integrate the local community more into the research and monitoring of shorebirds. There is a strong overlap between the goals of the IBA programme and those of the James Bay Cree, where conserving and protecting the traditional Cree culture in their homelands also means protecting and conserving the IBAs.


This case study is taken from ‘Empowering the Grassroots—BirdLife, Participation, and Local Communities’. To learn more about this publication and download the report in full click here.

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Compiled: 2011    Copyright: 2011   

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2011) The traditional knowledge of Cree hunters is helping Nature Canada map changing migration patterns. Downloaded from on 05/12/2023