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  • Writer's pictureDan Malinsky

Protocol for Protecting Migrating Birds during Construction

On an active construction site, it is crucial to be aware of the legal and ethical obligations when it comes to the protection of migratory birds in Canada. A little bit of planning in advance can help minimize the risk of detrimental effects on migratory birds (and complying with the law and avoiding fines is always nice too).

What is the law?

The Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 (MBCA) and its regulations protect migratory birds and prohibit the disturbance or destruction of migratory bird nests and eggs in Canada. The legislation and regulations apply to all lands and waters in Canada, regardless of ownership. Environment Canada is responsible for administering the MBCA on behalf of the federal government. In our most recent case in Abbotsford, BC, the federal migratory bird's convention act, 1994, and the provincial wildlife act prohibited the disturbance or destruction of active nests and eggs. The owner is responsible for ensuring that physical works are compliant with both of these acts.

The process

The next step involves determining the likelihood of the presence of migratory birds, their nests, or eggs when planning activities to be carried out considering the available bird habitats, what migratory bird species are likely to be encountered in such habitats, and the possible periods when they would be present.

When preparing for cleaning and grubbing (removal of trees, shrubs, stumps & rubbish from a site) of a property, you would typically restrict vegetation clearing during the critical bird breeding window (March 1 to August 31). If raptors (eagles, hawks, osprey, owls, etc.) or herons are nesting on or are near the development/project site, the breeding window can be as early as January 1 and can extend to September 31, as shown below:



Bald Eagle

Jan 1 - Aug 31


Apr 1 - Sep 14


Jan 16 - Sep 14

Other Raptors

Mar 1 - Sep 31

Passerines (perching birds)

Mar 1 - Aug 31

If the clearing cannot be avoided during the critical bird breeding period, a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP) has to be involved. The QEP will conduct a nest survey to identify active bird nests and apply appropriate site and species-specific buffers and/or time windows.

In a nutshell

  • Develop and implement appropriate preventive and mitigation measures to minimize the risk to migratory birds.

  • Avoid engaging in potentially destructive or disruptive activities during the breeding periods and periods of high usage, such as migration or feeding periods.

  • Remember that, in many circumstances, conducting active nest searches before industrial or other operations is NOT typically enough to reduce these risks.

  • Consider incorporating these measures into policies, procedures, and plans for your project.


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