Migratory Birds Act: One century later

by James Palmer | October 20, 2016

Migratory Birds Act

One of the greatest conservation initiatives ever — the Migratory Birds Convention Act — is now 100 years old. 

“Hunters were instrumental in the creation of the Migratory Birds Convention, now celebrating its centennial,” said Helene Gaulin, the Canadian Wildlife Service’s Coordinator of the milestone.

The revolutionary initiative was signed in the midst of the First World War, which was also a time of crisis for native birds. “Alarm bells began ringing in the late 19th century that nature is not infinite, that North Americans were over-using our natural resources, and that many species were in trouble. By the time the convention became official on Aug.16, 1916, the great auk and the Labrador duck were lost. Martha, the last passenger pigeon, died in captivity in 1914,” she said. 

The Convention provided the framework for our hunting seasons today through The Migratory Birds Convention Act (1917). Canada signed this with the United States, in response to unregulated market hunting for food and feathers.


Learn to carve your own duck decoys here.


Now migratory bird seasons range between Sept. 1 and March 10. No season lasts more than 107 days, except for birds defined as “over-abundant” (Greater snow geese, for example.)

Of particular interest to Ontarians: the trumpeter swan population has grown from 100 nation-wide since the 1930s to over 2,000 provincially. Sandhill cranes, once nearly extinct, have risen to a migration count of about 8,000 in our province. Last, but not least, wood ducks, which had nearly disappeared at the time of the convention, rose to about 30,000 in the 1970s, and an estimated 70,000 at last count. In the past decade, their population has grown at the rate of 11% per year.

To learn more, visit www.ec.gc.ca/bird-conservation.

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