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.


(Columba livia)

Also known as city doves or street pigeons, they are descended from wild rock doves. They thrive in an urban environment and only require the smallest amount of shelter on buildings.

What does a pigeon look like?

  • 32cm long.
  • Blue—grey in color (although other colors are common).


  • 2 – 3 broods per year, with 2 eggs in each clutch.
  • 17 – 19 day incubation period.
  • Young birds spend 35 – 37 days in the nest.


  • Feeds on seeds, green feed, domestic scraps in and around cities, near roosting sites.
  • Nests on ledges.


(Family – Laridae)

Seagulls are often found in coastal towns and cities. 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).

What does a seagull look like?

  • Silver Gulls have a white head, tail and underparts, with a light grey back and black-tipped wings.
  • In adult birds the bill, legs and eye-rings are bright orange-red.
  • Identification of gulls can be difficult due to seasonal variations in their plumage.


  • 1 brood per year, with 3 eggs in each clutch.
  • 25 day incubation period.
  • Young birds spend 35 – 42 days in the nest.


  • Feed away from their roosting sites; omnivorous.
  • Nests on cliffs and buildings.

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.

What does a house sparrow look like?

  • Less than 15cm long.
  • Males can be identified by the grey crown on their heads, and black throat ‘bib’.
  • Females and young are mostly plain brown.


  • Sparrows live for four to seven years, with up to five breeding seasons.
  • The breeding season runs through Spring and Summer, and up to three broods of 4–6 eggs may be laid in this time.


  • The same nest will tend to be used every year, resulting in a build up of nest debris, and insects associated with their nests.
  • It is a pest to the food industry in particular because of the risk of contamination from their droppings and the damage done to packaged goods.

Collared dove

(Streptopelia Decaocto)

What does a collared dove look like?

  • 27cm long
  • Fawn-grey colour with a narrow black band at the back of the neck.

Life Cycle

  • 2 - 4 broods per year, with 2 eggs in each clutch. A 14 - 15 day incubation period, with young birds spending 15 - 19 days in the nest.


  • Eats seeds and grains near roosting sites.
  • Nests in trees and canopies.


(Sturnus vulgaris)

What do starlings look like?

  • They are 20-23cm long, and can be recognized by their pointed wings and short tail when flying. At first sight they appear to be plain black, but the feathers catch the light and may appear iridescent green or purple.


  • Starlings can rear up to two broods a year, in April and May. Each clutch usually consists of 4–6 eggs, the young staying in the nest for about 3 weeks. 
  • Breeding can extend into June and July if conditions are favorable.


  • The concentration of droppings from a large roosting flock provides a good medium for pathogenic fungi, some of which can be harmful or even fatal to humans. 
  • It is an agricultural pest of standing crops, but will also flock into cities in large numbers.

Canadian goose

(Branta canadensis)

What does a Canadian goose look like?

  • 20 to 50 inches long.
  • Wingspan can be 50-68 inches.
  • Black head and neck, white cheeks and throat.
  • Brown back, upper wing and flanks.
  • Brownish-white breast and belly.
  • Short black tail.
  • Black legs with black webbed feet. 
  • Newly hatched look like ducklings with yellow and gray feathers and a dark bill for first 9-10 weeks.


  • Will breed fairly early in the year, with nesting usually happening around late Spring.
  • During the incubation period, adults lose their flight feathers, so they cannot fly until after their eggs hatch (25-28 days).
  • Females lay 4-8 eggs.
  • These geese are family-oriented and mate for life.
  • Their life span in the wild is 10-24 years.


  • Location - Low areas with lots of open water to provide them with safety. The Great Lakes has a particularly large population of Canada Geese. In urban areas they have become a common sighting in city parks.
  • Nesting - Typically on the ground on islands and shorelines. Generally a female will return to where her parents nested.
  • Feeding – Vegetation, grains, aquatic plants.
  • Migration – Migrate south when the ground begins to freeze in Fall. During Spring they migrate to their breeding grounds. Often seen flying in V-shaped formation whilst migrating.

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