Fact sheet: Nest Protection under the Migratory Birds Regulations, 2022


Previously, the Migratory Birds Regulations (MBR) provided year round protection for nests from being disturbed, destroyed or taken, anywhere in Canada where they were found, for as long the nest existed, for all 395 migratory bird species that are included in the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

The Migratory Birds Regulations, 2022 (MBR 2022) change protection from all nests of migratory birds always being protected to most nests being protected only when they contain a live bird or viable egg. This supports conservation benefits, as the nests of most migratory birds only have conservation value when they are active (contain a bird or viable egg), and also provides flexibility and predictability for stakeholders to manage their compliance requirements as they undertake activities on the landscape that may affect migratory bird nests.

Overview of key change to nest protections

Effective July 30th, 2022, under the MBR 2022 it is now prohibited to damage, destroy, disturb or remove migratory bird nests when they contain a live bird or viable egg.

For 18 species of migratory birds identified on Schedule 1, the MBR 2022 provide year-round nest protection until they can be deemed abandoned. The Schedule includes certain migratory birds who either re-use their own nests from one year to the next, or whose nests are commonly re-used by other species of migratory bird species, like Pileated Woodpeckers. If the nest of a Schedule 1 species has not been occupied by a migratory bird for the entirety of the waiting time indicated in the MBR 2022, it is considered to be abandoned, and to no longer have high conservation value for migratory birds.

Schedule 1 species and the designated waiting period before the nest can be disturbed, damaged, removed or destroyed include
Species of migratory bird Waiting period (months)
Pigeon Guillemot 12
Rhinoceros Auklet 12
Atlantic Puffin 12
Tufted Puffin 12
Horned Puffin 12
Manx Shearwater 12
Northern Gannet 12
Fork-tailed Storm Petrel 12
Leach’s Storm Petrel 12
Cassin`s Auklet 12
Ancient Murrelet 12
Great Egret 24
Great Blue Heron 24
Cattle Egret 24
Green Heron 24
Snowy Egret 24
Black-crowned Night Heron 24
Pileated Woodpecker 36

Schedule 1 species: Damage, destruction, disturbance or removal of abandoned nests

If there is a need to damage, disturb, destroy, or remove a nest of a species listed in Schedule 1, this can be done when:

ECCC only needs to be informed, through a notification, if there is a desire to damage, destroy, disturb or remove an abandoned nest of a Schedule 1 species.

Otherwise, the nest can be left undisturbed and then there is no requirement to submit a notification.

For more information on identifying Pileated Woodpecker nesting cavities, please visit Pileated Woodpecker Cavity Identification Guide.

Schedule 1 species: Notifying ECCC of an unoccupied nest

All notifications for unoccupied nests of Schedule 1 species are to be submitted through the Abandoned Nest Registry. Registrants will need to provide basic information about themselves and about the unoccupied nest:

Schedule 1 species: Designated wait time

The waiting period established in Schedule 1 starts on the day that the unoccupied nest notification is submitted through the Abandoned Nest Registry portal. The prohibitions are lifted once the designated time-period has passed (12, 24 or 36 months depending on the species), and if the nest has not been reused by migratory birds during this time, The nest are no longer protected from being damaged, disturbed, removed or destroyed. There is no requirement to inform ECCC of this action.

It is the responsibility of the proponent to ensure that verifications of nest occupation/abandonment must occur during a period when such a nest could reasonably be expected to be in use.

It is the responsibility of the proponent to inform ECCC, by sending an email to AvisNid-NestNotifications@ec.gc.ca, informing that the nest has become occupied again by a migratory bird, which would cancel the abandonment notification. If the nest again becomes unoccupied, and the proponent still wishes to destroy the nest, they must submit a new notification, which would start the time clock over again.

Permits for Migratory Bird nests: Permits to relocate or destroy Migratory Bird nests

There are permits available under the MBR 2022 in some limited circumstances.

If you are not able to wait the designated period to destroy or relocate a nest of a species listed on Schedule 1, or need to destroy or relocate a nest of another species of migratory bird when it contains a live bird or viable egg, and have taken appropriate mitigation, a permit may be available. The MBR 2022 continue to allow for the issuance of Damage and Danger as well as Scientific permits, which may apply in specific limited situations.

The MBR 2022 maintains a permit for nest relocation (section 71), and expands the activity eligibility under section 70 from egg removal and destruction to now also include nest removal and destruction. These permits may be available in certain limited situations, when due diligence can be demonstrated, to relocate or destroy a nest when it contains a live bird or egg, or, for species listed on Schedule 1 of the MBR 2022, to do so before the designated waiting period has ended.

In certain situations, where it has been demonstrated that appropriate research informing migratory bird conservation will be conducted, a Scientific permit to relocate or destroy a nest may also be available.

For more information

For more information on nest protection and what permits might be available, please consult:

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