Acting on behalf of Canada, Great Britain implemented the convention for the protection of migratory birds in tandem with the United States back in August of 1918. A historical piece of legislation, the statute was drafted in a time where the majority of bird species were threatened by commercial trading, habitat destruction and unregulated harvest and was one of the original federally enacted environmental laws.
“It’s hard to imagine the North American continent without egrets, ducks, hawks or songbirds, but at the turn of the 20th century, that’s the way things were looking. This treaty marked a turning point in the fate of our shared bird life, and it continues to this day to unite efforts in the United States and Canada to protect birds across our international boundaries.”
– Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The treaty’s main goal was simply to make it illegal for any individual to hunt, harm or sell any migratory bird, its parts, nests or eggs without the necessary permits. Today, hunters here in Canada are not only required to have a small game license to hunt migratory bird species, but they also must have the accompanying migratory bird permit and follow daily limits and reporting where required.
While the treaty is undoubtedly important and has been proven to do wonders for migratory birds in Mexico, the United States and Canada, there are still challenges that remain for many migratory bird species.
The recently released State of North America’s Birds 2016 highlights additional problems facing today’s birds. The report, published by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative compiled a vulnerability assessment for all 1,154 bird species native to North America.
While the news is not all bad, it does highlight the fact that approximately 37 percent, or one third of North America’s birds are at risk of extinction from a number of different factors including habitat destruction, pesticide use and global warming.
As avid birders, we all know the ecological significance of our feathered friends, connecting us to nature right in the comfort of our own back yards. While pieces of legislation such as the Migratory Bird Treaty are integral to the continued success of bird species here in North America, we must remain vigilant in ensuring their protection over the course of the next 100 years as well.