Modernization of the Migratory Birds Regulations


Migratory Birds Regulations

The objective of the Migratory Birds Regulations (MBR) is the conservation of migratory birds, including their eggs and nests, in Canada. Enacted in 1918, the MBR were first developed to address the overharvesting of migratory birds. Since then, the world has evolved considerably and the modernization of the MBR was necessary to better respond to the current challenges facing migratory birds.

Main changes

Increase clarity and compliance

The MBR have been amended many times to address specific issues. However, issues such as lack of clarity and outdated language were not addressed. The MBR have undergone a comprehensive review and the regulations are now clearer, easier to understand, and will improve the government’s ability to effectively manage and protect migratory birds in Canada.

Recognition of Indigenous rights

Section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982 recognizes and affirms existing Aboriginal rights in Canada; however, the MBR had not been amended since then to reflect these existing rights. The modernized MBR will ensure that Indigenous Peoples are accurately represented and recognize existing Aboriginal treaty harvesting rights according to section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, specifically the right to use, gift, sell, or exchange feathers; the right to hunt, gift, or exchange migratory birds; and the right to harvest their eggs.

Protecting nests when they have conservation value

Nests play an important role in birds’ lives, most specifically for reproductive success and population viability. The former MBR protected the nests of all migratory birds (total of 393 species) at all times, for as long as they existed. For many species, this provided more protection than was required. This approach had limitations and its application lacked flexibility.

The modernized MBR protect nests when they are used by migratory birds, mainly during the vital nesting period. This means that the nests of most species may now be destroyed when they are not in use, that is, they do not contain a live bird or viable eggs. However, year-round protection will continue to be provided for the nests of eighteen species of migratory birds known to reuse them year after year. The MBR allow for the destruction, disturbance, removal, or relocation of these nests if the criteria set out in the regulations have been met.


Amendments have been made to the hunting rules to reduce the burden and provide clarity and flexibility to hunters, while ensuring the continued sustainable harvest of migratory game birds in Canada. For instance:

  • To reduce waste, the amended MBR prohibit hunters from abandoning harvested migratory game birds or letting the meat become inedible.
  • Harvested birds that have been preserved (with the exception of murres) no longer count in the hunter’s possession limit.
  • Labelling requirements have been reduced (one label for a group of birds instead of one label per bird).

The modernized MBR also introduce the Youth Migratory Game Birds Hunting Permit option for hunters who are minors (under the age of eighteen). This permit provides minors with the opportunity to practise their skills with their own daily bag and possession limits under the supervision of an adult mentor hunter throughout the open season. Offered free of charge to minors, this permit eliminates the need for Waterfowler Heritage Days, which will be repealed.

New Charity permit

Under the modernized MBR, it will now be possible to apply for a new permit for charity. Migratory game birds taken under an appropriate migratory bird permit may be gifted to the holder of the new charity permit. This permit will allow for preserved migratory game birds to be served at charitable events and soup kitchens, and to be given to clients at food banks.

Possession of migratory birds

The modernized MBR allow for the temporary possession of dead, injured, or live migratory birds in certain situations that can benefit migratory birds, such as bringing an injured bird to be rehabilitated or helping a bird that is facing an immediate threat to its survival.

Important changes to the scientific permit

The requirements regarding who may obtain a scientific permit are now more flexible, which will allow more qualified applicants to get this permit.

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