Protect Nova Scotia Birds

Reference Number

A recent meta-analysis indicated that North America has lost 3 billion birds since 1970, with the most alarming declines in species that inhabit forested areas (Rosenburg et al., Science Sept., 2019).  Unfortunately, Nova Scotia is seeing this decline as evidenced by the growing list of birds included in Nova Scotia’s list of species at risk.  Currently, there are 17 bird species at risk of extirpation from the province.  Virtually all of these bird species are migratory and are therefore protected by the Migratory Bird Convention Act (MBCA).  


The Nova Scotia Bird Society (NSBS) has been directly involved in conservation efforts for more than 65 years. Recently, the NSBS has become even more determined to protect birds and their habitats before it is too late to prevent extirpation or extinction.  To this end, we are writing in regard to the recent proposal to establish a gold mine at Fifteen Mile Stream.


In reading the environmental impact assessment, it is clear that the survey methods used to estimate birds at Fifteen Mile Stream are not robust. That is, the number of surveys conducted (two to three per season) is inadequate to provide an accurate count.  In addition, the survey methods did not include radar and acoustic studies and only these methods provide adequate seasonal coverage and reliable population estimates.  Therefore, there is a risk that the presented bird data may underestimate the number of bird species and individuals that rely on the area for breeding and migratory staging.  


Despite these methodological challenges, the summary of birds in the environmental assessment does show that the proposed mine will likely result in bird deaths and will destroy habitat for several threatened species (i.e., Canada Warbler, Rusty Blackbird, Common Nighthawk) and many more at-risk bird species.  The included mitigation plan is sorely lacking for several reasons.  First, the mitigation plan relies on locating bird nests. This may be possible for large birds such as eagles and hawks, but nests of smaller birds, such as the threatened species noted above, are virtually undetectable (even with binoculars and spotting scopes).  Second, as correctly noted in the report, Common Nighthawks lay eggs on open rocky areas, so it is not possible to discourage nesting nests by “limiting large piles or patches of bare soil during the breeding season.”   Third, lowering speed rates may decrease but will not eliminate vehicle-bird collisions.  Clearly, the proposed mine will result in bird deaths or ‘incidental take”, which is prohibited by the MBCA.  


To better estimate the baseline of birds in the area and to mitigate the risk of bird deaths, NSBS requests the following:


  • The proponent should conduct radar and acoustic surveys for three years prior to clearing the FMS area or developing the proposed mine.  This is needed to provide an accurate baseline of the number of bird species and individual birds that rely on the area for survival and breeding.
  • The proponent should not conduct any clearing of trees or lands during nesting season (April to August, inclusively). 
  • The proponent should provide a plan for reducing and reporting incidental take from vehicle accidents and other unforeseen accidental bird deaths.


The NSBS is a collaborative organization that works with industry, conservation groups, and regulatory agencies to protect birds and habitat.  We appreciate the opportunity to respond to this impact assessment.


Best regards, 

Diane LeBlanc, PhD

President, NSBS



Submitted by
Nova Scotia Bird Society
Public Notice
Comment Tags
Migratory Birds Species at Risk Wildlife / Habitat
Date Submitted
2021-04-30 - 8:15 AM
Date modified: