A Silent Season for the MCFC

According to a study released by Avian Conservation and Ecology is estimated that between 616 thousand to 2.09 million nests are destroyed by industrial forest harvesting during bird breeding season in Canada per year. This number of destroyed nests is demonstrated to result in a loss of approximately between 308 thousand to 1.04 million future breeding adults (Hobson, Wilson, Van Wilgenburg, & Bayne, 2013). As mentioned in the Independent Review of Forest Practices, it is estimated of the number of nests destroyed by forestry operations ranges annually between 18,700 to 159,000, with the large range being attributed to the imprecise estimate of the amount of harvesting that takes place during breeding season (Lahey, 2018).

Nova Scotia has a particularly high density of forest birds which indicates that there is likely a high quantity of nests destroyed every year. The main factor that determines the health of forest bird communities is the ratio between births and deaths in the population. With the destruction of nests birth rates go down which negatively effects bird populations (Lahey, 2018).

The Olive-sided Flycatcher is a threatened aerial insectivore that is known to nest in the MCFC license area.

The Olive-sided Flycatcher is a threatened aerial insectivore that is known to nest in the MCFC license area.

The Migratory Birds Convention Act prohibits the destruction of migratory birds, their young, and their active nests at any time of year. The best way to avoid the destruction of birds and nests is to avoid harvesting during the breeding season (MBCA, 2017).

The topic of restricting forestry operations during migratory bird nesting season has recently been hotly debated Nova Scotia. As with all Crown Land forest managers, the MCFC is required to complete a careful walk-through of forest stands when completing our pre-treatment assessments, and record any species at risk or possible habitat for species at risk. Additionally, when we submit our harvest areas for approval, the Department of Lands and Forestry completes screening for known nesting sites using data from various sources including the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre (ACCDC). Although this informs the modification of many harvests, the MCFC has taken an extra step in ensure that nests aren’t damaged or destroyed during the peak nesting season and has implemented a ‘silent season’, ceasing all forestry activities (excluding tree planting).  

A closed season or silent season can be adopted by foresters as a best management practice to avoid the destruction of nests and birds and prevent auditory disturbances during peak breeding season. Breeding season varies by bird species but is mostly concentrated around the late spring/early summer. As advised by Bird Studies Canada, the MCFC silent season is currently during the month of June to capture the highest density of migratory birds nesting in the region.  However, as we’ve seen in 2019, there should be room to be adaptive, such as in years with unseasonal weather conditions when birds might be nesting outside of their typical window. Like so many things we’re testing here at the MCFC, we need to be constantly adapting due to the effects of a changing climate.




Government of Canada. (2017). Migratory Birds Convention Act. Ottowa.

Hobson, K. A., Wilson, A. G., Van Wilgenburg, S. L., & Bayne, E. M. (2013). An Estimate of Nest Loss in Canada Due to Industrial Forestry Operations. Avian Conservation and Ecology.

Lahey, W. (2018). An Independant Review of Forest Practices in Nova Scotia . Halifax: Government of Nova Scotia.

Mary Jane Rodger