Common bird species

Many of the bird species in Canada are good to have around, thanks to their attractive plumage and birdsongs. However, some birds can become a serious nuisance in the wrong locations, especially pigeons and starlings.

Learn more below about common types of pest birds found across the country.

Canadian goose

(Branta canadensis)

Key facts

  • Appearance: 50 to 127cm long with a black and white head and neck and a light tan body
  • Location: Nest in low areas with lots of open water to provide them with safety such as islands or shorelines
  • Food: Feed on vegetation, grains, and aquatic plants
  • Habits: Migrate south when the ground begins to freeze in fall and then to their breeding grounds in spring — often seen flying in V-shaped formation
  • Life cycle: Goslings may leave nest as soon as 24 hours after they hatch

Collared dove

(Streptopelia decaocto)

Key facts

  • Appearance: 27cm long and a fawn-grey colour with a narrow black band at the back of the neck
  • Location: Nest in trees and canopies and perch on telephone poles, wires, and in large trees
  • Food: Feed at backyard seed feeders and on spilled grain in stockyards and around silos on farms
  • Habits: Can nest year-round in warmer regions and give incessant three-syllable coos
  • Life cycle: Young doves leave the nest after 15-20 days

House sparrow

(Passer domesticus)

The House sparrow is a significant pest to the food industry because of the risk of contamination from their droppings and the damage done to packaged goods.

Key facts

  • Appearance: Males have a grey crown on their heads and black throat ‘bib’, while females and young are mostly plain brown — both less than 15cm long
  • Location: Found indoors and any small, tight protected openings such as those in corrugated steel, dryer vents, building signs and lighting
  • Food: Mostly eat seeds but will also eat insects, fruits, and plants
  • Habits: Can be aggressive when defending their nest, which is used every year, resulting in a build-up of nest debris and insects
  • Life cycle: Breeding season runs through spring and summer and young sparrows leave the nest at about 2 weeks of age


(Columba livia)

Also known as city doves or street pigeons, they are descended from wild rock doves.

Key facts

  • Appearance: 32cm long and blue-grey in colour (although other colours are common)
  • Location: Thrive in an urban environment, nesting on ledges, pipes, beams, rooftops, HVAC units, behind signs, under bridges, or in barns and grain silos
  • Food: Feed on seeds and domestic scraps in and around cities, near roosting sites
  • Habits: Nest all year long and do not migrate in winter but are able to adjust their diet to whatever is available
  • Lifecycle: Young pigeons leave the nest at 4-6 weeks of age


(Family – Laridae)

Only a small number are recognized as being pest birds, such as Silver Gull (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae), the Lesser black–backed gull (Larus fuscus) and the Herring gull (Larus argentatus).

Key facts

  • Appearance: 43-66cm long with a white head, tail and underparts, a light grey back and black-tipped wings; adult birds have bright orange-red bills, legs and eye-rings
  • Location: Found in coastal towns and cities and nests in colonies on cliffs and building roofs
  • Food: Commonly eat fish, crustaceans, eggs, and insects away from their roosting sites
  • Habits: Can be aggressive scavengers
  • Life cycle: Young seagulls leave the nest at 4-8 weeks of age


(Sturnus vulgaris)

Key facts

  • Appearance: 20-23cm long and appear to be plain black at first sight, but become iridescent green or purple when feathers catch the light; recognized by their pointed wings and short tail
  • Location: An agricultural pest of standing crops, but will also flock into cities in large numbers, nesting in tree cavities or buildings
  • Food: Largely feed on insects but will also eat seeds, grains, nuts, and berries
  • Habits: The concentration of droppings from a large roosting flock provides a good medium for pathogenic fungi, but can be harmful or even fatal to humans
  • Life cycle: Breed in April and May and young starlings leave the nest at about 3 weeks of age

Next steps

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