Recent research suggests that 44% of Canadian bird species are declining, including one-third of the species found in the Maritimes. Habitat loss, pollution, and climate change, as well as human-related causes of individual mortality, all negatively affect our bird populations.
The Ecology Action Centre’s Bird Conservation Committee, established 2007, engages in research, education & policy change to reverse these declines of migratory and non-migratory bird species in Atlantic Canada. We work to educate the public about preventable causes of bird death.
We also advocate for legislative change that will help protect local bird populations. Our committee is made up of representatives from organizations including the Nova Scotia Bird Society, Bird Studies Canada, and Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, individuals with expertise in bird biology, veterinary science, and graphic design, as well as students and members of the public. Birds play an important role in Canadian ecosystems. We rely on them as an indicator species to tell us about the state of our environment. They control insect and rodent populations and help distribute seeds.
They are also enjoyed by many Canadians, particularly gardeners, bird-watchers, and naturalists. In fact, bird watching is one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities in Canada
Responsible Pet Ownership
The Ecology Action Centre and our partners have been working to improve awareness and build support for programs and initiatives in Halifax which address the critical issue of the impact of outdoor and free-roaming cats on birds. The rationale for this work arose from studies published in 2013 by Environment Canada which identified cats as the number one cause of human-related direct mortality (habitat loss, for example, is considered an indirect cause) to birds across Canada, with estimates of bird deaths from 1.7 - 4.1 million in Halifax alone.
Many jurisdictions have addressed the multiple issues that have stemmed from cat overpopulation, with the implementation of ‘responsible pet ownership’ programs for owned cats, which have positive impacts for human, and environmental health, wildlife populations, and which benefit the welfare of domestic cats by incentivizing and promoting education of responsible care for the owned cat population. These programs protect cats from becoming stray, lost, or abandoned, and from entering feral populations in the first place.
Through this work, we aim to build support for a multi-pronged, collaborative approach that addresses this critical issue long term. Most populous municipalities across Canada have adopted municipal level education, and incentivized program measures including identification, registration and supervised outdoor access provisions. We promote similar programs to be adopted in Halifax, where these programs can provide for improved value and responsibility towards owned cats. Without identified owners, such municipal measures don’t apply to un-owned cats, but work conjunctively to complement programs for the feral or stray populations (such as spay/neuter and adoption programs). We promote comprehensive solutions that can make HRM a safe and healthy community for humans, the environment, domestic pets, and wildlife.
Research by Environment and Climate Change Canada found that the top human-related impacts on birds are due to predation by free-roaming cats (feral and owned outdoor cats). The Allied Cats project, funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada’s EcoAction and Habitat Stewardship Programs, is aimed at generating a network of cats that lead healthy, safe, and happy lives indoors, or with controlled outdoor access via a "catio" or on a leash, under the watchful eye of their humans.
Allied Cats are helping to protect millions of birds and other wildlife that are otherwise injured or killed in Canada each year by free-roaming cats. Keeping your cat indoors protects your cat and, in turn, protects our community birds and other wildlife that are vulnerable to outdoor cats. Learn more about this project, and how you and your cat can become a bird ally here.
Safe in the City
Safe in the City, funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada's EcoAction Community Funding Program, worked directly with cat owners to reduce the threats that free-roaming cats pose to birds in urban centres. We worked with cat owners and local community leaders and vets to identify positive ways to help address the issues. This project allowed us to better understand how community members are keeping cats and wildlife safe in the city. The project also provided cat owners with Cat Cam and GPS opportunities for cats interested in showing their humans where they go.
Discover resources that help keep both cats and birds safe in our resources section.
Birds and Coffee
Many of our songbirds travel long distances each year to overwinter in Central and South America, returning here each spring to nest. The sad news is that many songbirds are declining in numbers. JUDES and the Ecology Action Centre hosted discussions across the province about coffee farming practices that can help conserve our songbirds, including screening the film Birdsong and Coffee: A Wake-up Call.
In the spring and fall migration seasons of 2009, our team of volunteers set out to see how many bird fatalities were caused by downtown office buildings. Read about our findings here.
Birds in the Park
It has been shown that exposure to outdoor activities and to nature greatly reduces ADHD, stress levels, obesity, asthma, and general health problems in children. It has also been shown that children are smarter when they spend time outside: a study in California found that children who spent class time in the outdoors scored about 25% higher on science tests. With this in mind, Point Pleasant Childcare asked us to create an information booklet on some of the species that live in Point Pleasant Park. The booklet focused on focused on species that are easily seen, and also included information on mammals, insects, amphibians and plants found in the park. It was tailored to a four-year-old’s mentality with the intention of helping educators give their students a positive nature experience to be carried into adulthood. The publication has since been adapted for use by other daycares.
Birds are Back Celebrity Challenge
Each spring, migratory birds make an epic journey from their wintering grounds in places such as Brazil, Trinidad, and Texas, back to Nova Scotia. To welcome them, EAC organized the Birds are Back Celebrity Challenge in the Spring of 2009, a public education program to raise awareness about the decline of migratory birds.
For Our Birds Conference
In order to better understand the state of birds in Nova Scotia, the EAC helped organize For Our Birds 2008 Conference in November 2008 (the conference outcomes are available here). Over 140 participants identified a number of actions to reverse the declines. The birds need your help, too!
The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States (Nature Communications)
- Patti Green, Bird Conservation Outreach Coordinator
- Helene Van Doninck, Science Advisor and Provincial Partnership Development
For media interviews or to arrange a presentation on the issue of cats and birds, contact Helene Van Doninck via Email
You can also visit us on Facebook.
We work closely with a number of community partners to help preserve Nova Scotia's resident and migrating bird species. Partnering with Bird Studies Canada, Nova Scotia Bird Society, Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, and Nature Nova Scotia, and Nature Canada, our projects aim to address the joint issue of declining bird species and cat welfare through education, policy change, and community outreach.
- Learn nine simple actions you can take to protect birds.
- Learn how to keep your cat healthy and safe while preventing bird deaths.
- We welcome new members! If you are interested in joining the Bird Conservation Committee please contact us by email.