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Migratory Birds Convention Act: Safeguarding Nature's Winged Travellers

Updated: Aug 26, 2023

Migratory Birds Convention Act 
Migratory Birds Convention Act 

Migratory Birds Convention Act

The world is home to a diverse array of bird species, and many of them embark on remarkable journeys across vast distances every year. These extraordinary travellers, known as migratory birds, play a crucial role in maintaining the ecological balance and biodiversity of various ecosystems. However, the survival of migratory birds faces numerous challenges due to habitat loss, climate change, hunting, and other human activities. To protect these magnificent creatures and ensure their continued existence, several countries, including Canada, have enacted legislation such as the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

What Are Migratory Birds

Migratory birds are species that undertake regular, seasonal movements from one location to another. These movements are often triggered by factors such as the availability of food, suitable breeding grounds, or favourable climatic conditions. Migratory journeys can span thousands of kilometres and involve crossing national borders, making them a matter of international concern.

Definition of Migratory Birds

Migratory birds encompass a wide range of species that exhibit migratory behaviour. These include waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds, raptors, and many others. Their movements can be categorized into three main types: latitudinal migration (north-south movements in response to changing seasons), altitudinal migration (vertical movements within mountainous regions), and longitudinal migration (east-west movements across continents).

Importance of Migratory Birds

Migratory birds play an integral role in the various ecosystems they inhabit. They contribute to seed dispersal, pollination, and pest control, thus promoting plant growth and maintaining the health of habitats. Additionally, they serve as indicators of environmental changes, acting as sentinels for detecting alterations in ecosystems caused by pollution or habitat degradation.

Threats to Migratory Birds

Despite their remarkable adaptations and abilities, migratory birds face a multitude of threats throughout their journeys. Loss of habitat due to urbanization, deforestation, and agricultural expansion disrupts their nesting and feeding grounds. Climate change poses challenges as altered weather patterns affect the availability of food and disrupt migration timing. Furthermore, pollution, collisions with man-made structures, and illegal hunting exacerbate the risks faced by migratory birds.

Migratory Birds Convention Act: An Overview

The MBCA is a significant piece of legislation enacted in Canada to protect migratory birds and their habitats. The act is rooted in international cooperation, as it stems from the Migratory Birds Convention—an agreement between Canada and the United States, signed in 1916. The convention aims to conserve and manage migratory bird populations shared between the two countries.

Key Provisions of the Migratory Birds Convention Act

The MBCA outlines several provisions to safeguard migratory birds and their habitats. It prohibits activities such as hunting, capturing, or disturbing migratory birds without proper permits. It also regulates the possession, trade, and export of migratory birds and their eggs. The act grants authorities the power to

establish protected areas and enforce conservation measures.

Migratory Bird Regulations

The key points of Migratory Bird Regulations can vary depending on the specific country or region. However, here are some general points that are often covered in such regulations:

  1. Protected Species: Migratory Bird Regulations typically identify specific bird species that are protected due to their migratory nature. These regulations aim to conserve and manage these species and their habitats.

  2. Hunting Seasons and Limits: Regulations often establish hunting seasons for migratory birds, specifying the dates during which hunting is allowed. They also set limits on the number of birds that can be harvested by individual hunters or groups.

  3. Permits and Licenses: Migratory Bird Regulations usually require individuals who wish to hunt migratory birds to obtain permits or licenses. These permits may include requirements such as age restrictions, safety training, and adherence to bag limits.

  4. Prohibited Activities: Regulations may prohibit certain activities that can harm migratory birds, such as capturing, killing, or disturbing them, collecting their eggs, or destroying their nests or habitats.

  5. Hunting Methods: Specific hunting methods may be regulated to ensure ethical and sustainable hunting practices. For example, regulations may prohibit the use of certain types of weapons, baiting, or the use of electronic calling devices.

  6. Protected Areas: Regulations often identify protected areas, such as national parks or wildlife refuges, where hunting migratory birds is prohibited or restricted. These areas serve as important habitats and breeding grounds for migratory bird species.

  7. International Cooperation: Migratory Bird Regulations may include provisions for international cooperation and coordination between countries to protect migratory bird populations. This can involve the establishment of treaties or agreements for conservation efforts.

  8. Monitoring and Enforcement: Regulations typically include provisions for monitoring bird populations, enforcing compliance with the regulations, and imposing penalties for violations. This may involve wildlife agencies, conservation organizations, and law enforcement agencies.

It's important to note that the specific details of Migratory Bird Regulations can vary significantly between different countries or regions. It's advisable to refer to the specific regulations of the country or region in question for accurate and up-to-date information.

Key Amendments of the Migratory Birds Convention Act

The MBCA is a federal law in Canada that has undergone several key provisions and amendments over the years. Here are some notable provisions of the MBCA, listed by year:

  • 1916: The MBCA is initially enacted to give effect to the Migratory Birds Convention, a treaty between Canada and the United States for the protection of migratory birds. It establishes the legal framework for the conservation and management of migratory bird species in Canada.

  • 1927: Amendments are made to the MBCA, strengthening the protection of migratory birds and their nests. The act establishes penalties for offences related to the possession, hunting, capturing, or disturbing of migratory birds and their eggs.

  • 1960: The MBCA is amended to include provisions for the regulation of hunting seasons, bag limits, and hunting methods for migratory game birds. This amendment provides a framework for sustainable and responsible hunting practices.

  • 1994: Significant amendments are made to the Migratory Birds Convention Act 1994, introducing provisions to enhance the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats. The amendments expand the scope of the act to include the protection of nests, eggs, and sanctuaries. They also strengthen enforcement measures and increase penalties for violations.

  • 2000: Further amendments to the MBCA are introduced, focusing on the conservation of migratory bird species at risk. The act includes provisions for the designation of critical habitats and the establishment of recovery strategies and action plans for endangered and threatened bird species.

These are some of the key provisions and amendments made to the Migratory Birds Convention Act throughout its history. The act continues to be an important legislative tool for the conservation and protection of migratory bird species in Canada.

Is Illegal To Take Nests Or Eggs Of Migratory Game Or Insectivorous Or Nongame Birds

The legality surrounding the taking of nests or eggs of migratory game, insectivorous, or nongame birds is governed by various laws and regulations. In Canada and the United States, these birds are protected under national legislation such as the Migratory Birds Convention Act (Canada) and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (United States). These laws prohibit the disturbance, destruction, or removal of nests or eggs without proper permits or authorization.

It is important to note that these laws also recognize the rights and traditions of Indigenous peoples. In both Canada and the United States, there are specific provisions that respect the aboriginal and treaty rights of Indigenous communities. These rights often include traditional hunting and gathering practices, which may encompass the collection of bird eggs or nests for cultural, ceremonial, or subsistence purposes. However, these rights are subject to certain limitations and regulations to ensure the conservation and sustainability of bird populations.

Therefore, while the general public is prohibited from taking nests or eggs of migratory birds without proper permits, Indigenous communities may have specific rights and exemptions granted under aboriginal and treaty rights. It is essential to consult and respect the rights and regulations of the specific Indigenous communities in the region and adhere to any applicable permits or agreements when it comes to the collection of nests or eggs of migratory birds.

Is it Illegal to keep Feathers?

Keeping bird feathers is generally legal unless they are protected species or obtained unlawfully. Feathers collected from the ground or during molt are usually acceptable, but it's important to respect local regulations. Feather collecting can be a hobby for identification, crafts, or educational purposes, but selling feathers from protected species or endangering birds for their feathers is illegal and unethical. Additionally, feathers should be cleaned, stored properly, and not used in ways that harm birds or their habitats.

Purpose of the Act

The primary purpose of migratory birds regulations is to protect and conserve migratory bird populations and their habitats. By ensuring the sustainable management of these populations, the act helps maintain biodiversity, ecosystem integrity, and ecological services provided by migratory birds.

Protected Species under the Act

The act covers a wide range of migratory bird species, including but not limited to waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds, and birds of prey. Some notable examples of protected species include Canada geese, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and various species of ducks and warblers.

Whats The Difference Between Migratory Insectivorous Birds And Other Migratory Birds

Migratory insectivorous birds are a specific subset of migratory birds that primarily feed on insects as their primary source of food. They have adapted to rely on insects for their diet and often have specialized beaks, wings, and behaviours to help them catch and consume insects.

On the other hand, other migratory birds may have different dietary preferences. For example, some migratory birds are herbivorous and feed on fruits, seeds, or nectar. Others may be carnivorous, feeding on fish, small mammals, or other birds. Some migratory birds have a more varied diet that includes a combination of insects, fruits, seeds, and other food sources.

The distinction between migratory insectivorous birds and other migratory birds lies in their dietary specialization. Migratory insectivorous birds have evolved to rely primarily on insects as their main source of sustenance, which influences their migration patterns, habitat preferences, and behaviours. They tend to follow insect populations, migrating to areas with abundant insect prey during the breeding season.

It's important to note that while migratory insectivorous birds primarily feed on insects, they may also consume other food sources when insects are scarce or unavailable during certain times of the year or in different habitats.

Here Are 20 Migratory Birds That Can Be Found In Brampton, Ontario, Canada:

In Brampton, Ontario, you may have the opportunity to observe various migratory insectivorous birds during certain times of the year. Here are some migratory nongame birds you might encounter:

    1. Canada Warbler: A small songbird with a vibrant yellow underside and gray upper parts. It has a distinct black necklace across its chest.

    2. Baltimore Oriole: A striking bird with bright orange plumage and black wings. The male has a beautiful song and builds intricately woven nests.

    3. Ruby-throated Hummingbird: The smallest bird in North America, known for its iridescent green feathers and a brilliant red throat patch on the male.

    4. American Goldfinch: A small yellow bird with black wings and a conical bill. It undergoes a striking moult, changing from duller colours to vibrant yellow during the breeding season.

    5. Yellow Warbler: A small songbird with bright yellow plumage and reddish streaks on its chest. It sings a melodic, sweet song.

    6. Scarlet Tanager: The male sports brilliant red plumage with black wings, while the female is more subdued with olive-green feathers.

    7. Black-throated Green Warbler: A small, lively bird with olive-green upper parts and a distinctive black throat and face.

    8. Rose-breasted Grosbeak: The male has black and white plumage with a vibrant rose-red patch on its breast, while the female has streaked brown feathers.

    9. Eastern Kingbird: A medium-sized bird with black and white plumage, known for its aggressive behaviour in defending its territory.

    10. Eastern Wood-Pewee: A drab olive-brown bird with a white underside and a distinctive "pee-a-wee" call.

    11. Cedar Waxwing: A sleek bird with a crested head, brownish-gray plumage, and a black mask. It feeds on berries and emits a high-pitched trilling sound.

    12. Eastern Phoebe: A small, plain bird with a greyish-brown back and a pale yellowish underside. It has a habit of wagging its tail.

    13. Blue-headed Vireo: This small songbird has a blue-grey head and upper parts, with a white underside and distinct white eye rings.

    14. Gray Catbird: A slate grey bird with a black cap, known for its ability to mimic the songs of other bird species.

    15. Tree Swallow: A graceful bird with iridescent blue-green feathers and a white underside. It nests in tree cavities and feeds on insects.

    16. Yellow-rumped Warbler: A small warbler with a yellow throat, yellow rump, and a distinctive white patch on its wings.

    17. Northern Parula: A tiny warbler with blue-gray upper parts, a yellow throat, and a chestnut-coloured band across its back.

    18. Ovenbird: A small, ground-dwelling bird with a speckled brown back and a distinct orange crown bordered by black stripes.

    19. American Redstart: A striking black and orange warbler with bold patterns, known for its active foraging behaviour and distinctive tail flicking.

    20. Hermit Thrush: A medium-sized thrush with a reddish-brown tail and a beautiful, melodious song. It has a habit of flicking its wings downward.

The birds listed are primarily migratory nongame birds, songbirds and insectivorous species that are admired for their beauty and melodic songs rather than being targeted for hunting.

These birds are known to migrate through or spend their summers in Brampton, Ontario. Please note that bird migration patterns may vary from year to year, so it's always a good idea to consult local birding resources for the most up-to-date information.

Here Are 8 Migratory Game Birds That Can Be Found In Ontario, Canada:

In Ontario, there are several migratory game birds that are legally hunted during specific hunting seasons. Here are some examples of migratory game birds commonly pursued by hunters in Ontario:

  1. Canada Goose: A large waterfowl species that migrate through Ontario. It is known for its distinctive "honking" call and is a popular game bird among waterfowl hunters.

  2. Mallard: The most common duck species in North America, including Ontario. Mallards migrate through the province and are highly sought after by waterfowl hunters for their meat and challenging hunting experience.

  3. Wood Duck: A visually striking duck species with colourful plumage. Wood ducks are migratory and offer both a challenging hunt and prized table fare.

  4. American Black Duck: Another duck species that migrate through Ontario. Black ducks provide a rewarding hunting opportunity due to their wariness and adaptability.

  5. Blue-winged Teal: A small dabbling duck that passes through Ontario during migration. It is prized for its fast flight and delicious meat.

  6. Common Snipe: A migratory wading bird with long bills and a distinctive winnowing sound during courtship displays. Snipe hunting provides a unique challenge for hunters.

  7. Ruffed Grouse: A game bird is known for its drumming sound and swift flight. Ruffed grouse are primarily resident birds in Ontario but can exhibit some migration in certain regions.

  8. American Woodcock: A migratory bird that inhabits woodland areas. Woodcock hunting is popular in Ontario, and hunters often rely on skilled bird dogs to locate these elusive birds.

It's important to note that hunting seasons, bag limits, and other regulations for migratory game birds are determined by provincial and federal authorities and can vary from year to year. Hunters must adhere to the applicable hunting regulations and obtain the necessary licenses and permits before engaging in hunting activities.

Responsibilities of Individuals and Organizations

The Migratory Birds Convention Act imposes responsibilities on individuals, industries, and organizations to prevent harm to migratory birds. It prohibits the destruction or disturbance of nests, eggs, or habitats without authorization. It also places obligations on industries such as forestry, agriculture, and energy to implement practices that minimize the adverse impacts on migratory birds and their habitats.

Enforcement and Penalties

To ensure compliance with the act, designated enforcement agencies monitor and investigate violations. Penalties for offences range from fines to imprisonment, depending on the severity of the violation. These deterrent measures aim to discourage activities that harm migratory birds or contravene the provisions of the act.

Successes and Challenges

With migratory bird regulations in place, significant success has been achived in protecting migratory bird populations and habitats across Canada. Through conservation initiatives and public awareness campaigns, several species have experienced population recoveries. However, challenges remain, particularly in addressing the cumulative effects of habitat loss, climate change, and international collaboration to protect migratory birds throughout their entire range.

International Cooperation and Conservation Efforts

The conservation of migratory birds requires international cooperation, as these birds traverse multiple countries during their journeys. Canada actively collaborates with other nations, sharing scientific knowledge and best practices to enhance migratory bird conservation efforts. The Migratory Birds Convention Act serves as a framework for such collaboration and aligns with international agreements like the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Impact of the Migratory Birds Convention Act

The Migratory Birds Convention Act has had a positive impact on the conservation of migratory birds in Canada. It has contributed to the recovery of several species, protected important habitats, and raised awareness about the importance of these birds and the need for their conservation. The act has also fostered a culture of stewardship and responsible environmental practices among individuals and industries.


The Migratory Birds Convention Act stands as a testament to Canada's commitment to protect and conserve migratory birds. Bye enacting this legislation, the country recognizes the ecological importance of these remarkable travellers and strives to ensure their survival for future generations. Continued efforts to address the challenges faced by migratory birds, promote international cooperation, and engage communities in conservation actions will be crucial for the long-term success of these conservation efforts.


Q1. How does the Migratory Birds Convention Act contribute to international bird conservation?

The Migratory Birds Convention Act facilitates international collaboration by establishing frameworks for cooperation and knowledge sharing between countries. It aligns with international agreements, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, and enables joint efforts to protect migratory birds and their habitats across borders.

Q2. What are some notable migratory bird species protected under the act?

The act protects a wide range of migratory bird species, including Canadian geese, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, various ducks, warblers, and many more. These species benefit from conservation measures and habitat protection provided by the act.

Q3. How can individuals contribute to the conservation of migratory birds?

Individuals can support migratory bird conservation by creating bird-friendly habitats in their own communities, participating in citizen science initiatives, and advocating for responsible environmental practices. Respecting nesting sites, avoiding harmful pesticides, and promoting awareness are also essential actions.

Q4. Does the Migratory Birds Convention Act address climate change impacts on migratory birds?

While the act does not specifically focus on climate change, it indirectly contributes to mitigating its impacts on migratory birds. By protecting habitats, reducing disturbances, and promoting sustainable practices, the act helps create conditions that support bird populations in the face of changing climatic patterns.

Q5. Where can I learn more about the Migratory Birds Convention Act and migratory bird conservation efforts?

For more information about the migratory bird regulations and migratory bird conservation initiatives, you can visit the official website of the Canadian Wildlife Service or consult reputable environmental organizations focused on bird conservation.

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