Protection of Nesting Birds

If you are proposing the removal of, or disturbance near, vegetation, it is important to understand your obligations under provincial and federal legislation regarding breeding birds. 

Active bird nests are protected under the BC Wildlife Act. Active nests may not be removed, injured, molested, or destroyed. The nests of some species, including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, osprey, and heron, are protected year-round, whether active or not. The nests and eggs of some species are also protected under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act and/or the Species at Risk Act. 

Note: This legislation does not just apply to nests in trees as some birds nest in other low vegetation or in man-made structures. Activities that cause nest failure, whether in vegetation or not, are prohibited. 

To help you understand the provincial regulations during the nesting season, the District is providing the following information, for your reference. 

To avoid contravention of the above acts, least-risk windows have been developed by the province as best management practices.

It is highly recommended that work involving potential disturbance to nests occur within the least-risk windows, and it is expected of contractors to plan construction activities in order to minimize impacts to active nests on or adjacent to a subject property.

Least-risk windows are based on breeding activity including courtship, nest-building, and active nesting, as follows: 

Species Least-Risk Window for BC
Bald eagle September 1–December 31*
Osprey September 15–March 31
Heron September 15–January 15
Other raptors October 1–February 28
Passerines (songbirds) September 1–February 28

*The District maintains an inventory of active bald eagle nests and works with partners to monitor these nests. The least-risk window for each eagle nest varies slightly. Should you request to complete work near an active eagle nest, staff will coordinate a more accurate timing window and provide guidance. You can view whether your work falls within 100 metres of a known eagle’s nest on WestMap (under the Environment – 100 metre Nesting Site Buffer layer). Also refer below to the Breeding Season ‘Quiet’ Buffer.

If your activities cannot occur during the least-risk windows, the province requires a nest survey, by a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP), to confirm that active nests will not be affected, prior to the completion of any tree work. 

During the nesting season, if you apply for a Municipal Tree Permit for full tree removal on boulevards or road allowances, there are two options: 

  1. Wait until the end of the songbird nesting season. District staff will issue your permit on September 1. 
  2. Have a QEP conduct a survey of the work area to assess risk to breeding birds no more than 48 hours prior to the anticipated start of tree removal. The District will require written confirmation from your QEP that the proposed tree removal has a low risk of disturbing breeding birds prior to permit issuance. 

Please note that for any District-led tree work on boulevards or road allowances, a bird survey will be completed by staff prior to the completion of the work.

Breeding Season ‘quiet’ Buffer

The Province also recommends a 100 metre or more breeding season ‘quiet’ buffer around raptor nests, measured from the base of the tree. Construction, or any unusual or sudden loud activities (e.g., blasting, tree falling, chain saws, concrete cutting, large trucks, whistles, cranes, or banging devices) should be avoided within the quiet buffer during the active nesting season. The District has mapped 100 m buffer distances around known eagle nesting sites on Westmap, and will not issue tree permits within these areas during the eagle nesting season.