Bird Protection Law

Bird Protection Law

What Is The Bird Protection Law?

Most species of birds in Canada are protected by the bird law under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 (MBCA). The MBCA was passed in 1917, and updated in 1994 and 2005, to implement the Migratory Birds Convention, a treaty signed with the United States in 1916. As a result, the Canadian federal government has the authority to pass and enforce regulations [Migratory Birds Regulations (C.R.C., c. 1035)] to protect those species of birds that are included in the Convention. Similar legislation in the United States [Birds Protected By The Migratory Bird Treaty Act] protects birds species found in that country, though the list of bird species protected by each country can be different.

“Migratory birds” are defined by Article I of the Convention which names the families and subfamilies of birds protected, and provides some clarification of the species included. This list is provided as a policy interpretation of Article I. Bird species not listed here may, or may not, be protected under provincial or territorial legislation, the Convention on Biodiversity, or the Species at Risk Act (2002). Persons making any decisions regarding the protected status of a bird species in Canada should consult these other statutes. Environment and Climate Change Canada requires that all three criteria below be met to qualify a species for the list of bird species protected in Canada under the MBCA.

Protected Birds

Most Common Protected Birds

  • Swallows.These birds generally have a short bill, long pointed wings, and a deeply forked tail. They arrive seasonally and build their mud nests under eaves and patio covers. Swallows fly to and from their nests thousands of times a day and employ “aerial foraging” to capture flying insects in their beaks.
  • Woodpeckers. These sharp-billed birds tap trees and wood surfaces an average of 8,000-12,000 times per day, leaving deep, round holes 3 to 5cm in diameter. They generally have a very long tongue (up to four inches) with a glue-like substance on the tip for catching insects. They also have bristle-like feathers over their nostrils to keep wood particles from being inhaled.
  • Canada Geese. These large birds feed on grasses, sedges, waste grain and berries. They can see more than 180 degrees horizontally and vertically, and they can travel more than 1,000 kilometers a day while migrating. Some geese live up to 24 years in the wild. The birds can cause major damage to turf grass due to foraging and fecal contamination. A single goose can defecate every 20 minutes and leave up to 1.5 pounds each day.
  • Gulls.These large, clever birds can drink both fresh and salt water. They vary in size from the Little Gull (120 g and 29 cm) to the large Great Black-Beaked Gull (1.75 kg and 75 cm). They will eat seed, fruit and leftovers of human meals. The mounds of gull droppings can damage boats, streetlights and coastal rooftops. The bacteria, fungal agents and ectoparasites found in gull droppings can carry such diseases as histoplasmosis, encephalitis, salmonella and meningitis.

Unprotected Birds

Unprotected birds include the Pigeon, House Sparrows, & European Starling. They are not covered in the bird law

Pigeons are the largest of the 3 species, at about 12 inches long, and weigh 12 to 17 ounces. They typically are blue-gray with 2 black bands on the wings, and a black band on the tail that contrasts with its white rump (Figure 3). Color ranges from all white to mottled brown to sooty black. They are larger than the tawny-brown mourning doves that are native to the US and protected by federal and state regulations.

House Sparrows are the smallest of the unprotected birds at about 6½ inches long and weighing less than an ounce (Figure 1). Both genders are mostly brown with black streaks above and grayish below. Males have a black throat-bib flanked by white spots. Immature male house sparrows look like females. Do not confuse house sparrows with native sparrows (i.e., chipping sparrow, grasshopper sparrow, song sparrow) that are beneficial and protected by federal and state regulations.

European starlings are robin-sized, short-tailed black birds about 8½ inches long, and weigh about 3 ounces. Plumage color changes with gender and season (Figure 2). In summer, adults are glossy black with light speckles. In winter, birds have larger speckles, making them look browner from a distance. The dark pointy beak becomes bright yellow in spring. Both males and females have pinkish-red color on their legs. Other native “blackbirds” (e.g., red-winged blackbird and common grackle) and are protected by federal and state regulations


Species Range

All 3 species of unprotected birds are found throughout the northeast, especially where there are people and human-altered environments.

Health and Safety Concerns

These birds can carry and transmit diseases that are infectious to humans.  Diseases of particular concern include aspergillosis, histoplasmosis, psittacosis, and salmonellosis. In addition, all 3 species may pose significant hazards with bird-aircraft strikes at airports.

General Biology, Reproduction, and Behavior


Female house sparrows lay 3 to 9 eggs in a single clutch, and may nest twice a year beginning in early April. Female starlings lay 4 to 6 eggs per clutch and can also nest twice a year. Pigeons mate year-round, but most of their 5 to 6 broods produced annually are raised during the spring and summer, when temperatures are above freezing. Females usually lay 2 eggs per clutch.

Nesting/Denning Cover

Nests of house sparrows are messy piles of grasses, string, paper, and twigs that fill a void or crevice where the nest is placed


House Sparrow Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology


About Pigeon Patrol:

Pigeon Patrol Products & Services is the leading manufacturer and distributor of bird deterrent (control) products in Canada. Pigeon Patrol products have solved pest bird problems in industrial, commercial, and residential settings since 2000, by using safe and humane bird deterrents with only bird and animal friendly solutions. At Pigeon Patrol, we manufacture and offer a variety of bird deterrents, ranging from Ultra-flex Bird Spikes with UV protection, Bird Netting, 4-S Gel and the best Ultrasonic and audible sound devices on the market today.

Contact us at 1- 877– 4– NO-BIRD, (604) 585-9279 or visit our website at

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