Selection and management of migratory bird sanctuaries


Photo of Blue loon" class="img-responsive
Photo: © Canadian Wildlife Service
Blue loon sign indicating the boundaries of an Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The management of Migratory Bird Sanctuaries is first guided by the Migratory Birds Convention Act, which allows for the promulgation of regulations for the protection of migratory birds from the taking, injuring, destruction or molestation of their nests or eggs, within any prescribed area, and for the control and management of that area.  This provision forms the basis of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations, under which Migratory Bird Sanctuaries are designated, established and managed.

Activities and entry

Although entry and access to most sanctuaries is not restricted, human activities are controlled as per the Migratory Birds Convention Act and Migratory Birds Sanctuary Regulations. The Regulations outline specific prohibited and permitted activities in Migratory Bird Sanctuaries.

Prohibited activities and authorizations

The primary purpose of Migratory Bird Sanctuaries is the protection of migratory birds from killing, harm and harassment during a critical part of their life cycle, such as breeding, nesting, moulting, or staging and stopover during their migration. Unless a permit has been issued by the Minister of the Environment authorizing such activity, the Regulations prohibit the following activities in a Migratory Bird Sanctuary:

  • no person shall hunt migratory birds
  • no person shall disturb, destroy or take the nests of migratory birds
  • no person shall have in their possession a live migratory bird, or a carcass, skin, nest or egg of a migratory bird (a resident of a Migratory Bird Sanctuary may have in their possession migratory birds lawfully killed outside a Migratory Bird Sanctuary)
  • no person shall have in their possession in a Migratory Bird Sanctuary any firearm; or any hunting appliance except as otherwise provided in these Regulations (does not apply to residents of a Migratory Bird Sanctuary)
  • no person shall permit a dog or cat to run at large in a Migratory Bird Sanctuary
  • no person shall carry on any activity that is harmful to migratory birds or the eggs, nests or habitat of migratory birds, except under the authority of a permit for those Migratory Bird Sanctuaries on provincial, territorial and federal lands
Banding of a Wood Duck (also Carolina Duck)
Photo: © Canadian Wildlife Service.
St. Clair National Wildlife Area, Ontario

Decision making when considering permitting or authorizing activities within a Migratory Bird Sanctuary is guided by the Environment and Climate Change Canada protected areas permitting policy. Other requirements for specified sanctuaries may also apply in accordance with the management plan conservation goals of each Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries on non-federal land

In the case of Migratory Bird Sanctuaries established on provincial/territorial land or private property, the prohibited activities under the Regulations have the force of law. However, requirements regarding authorizations or issuance of permits need to be verified with the appropriate authority (provincial/territorial) or landowner.


The Act and Regulations recognize Aboriginal or treaty rights, in accordance with Canada’s Constitution Act (section 25). In addition, permits might be required by Aboriginal peoples in accordance with the relevant land claim agreements.

Contact information

For more information on Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, please contact the Environment and Climate Change Canada office assigned to your province or territory as indicated in the list below. Please note that all requests must be made in writing through the Inquiry Center, email or to one of the following addresses:

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Atlantic Region Footnote1
Canadian Wildlife Service
17 Waterfowl Lane
Sackville, New Brunswick
E4L 1G6

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Quebec Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
1550 avenue d’Estimauville
Québec, Quebec
G1J 5E9

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Ontario Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
4905 Dufferin Street
Downsview, Ontario
M5H 5T4

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Prairie and Northern Region Footnote2
Eastgate Offices
9250 - 49 St NW
Edmonton, Alberta
T6B 1K5

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Pacific and Yukon Region Footnote3
Canadian Wildlife Service
5421 Robertson Road
Delta, British Columbia
V4K 3N2

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