Virginia Approves Groundbreaking Migratory Bird Protection Regulation

A straightforward process will protect birds as major developments are planned

Media Contact: Jordan Rutter, ABC Director of Public Relations, 202-888-7472 | | @JERutter

UPDATE (August 26, 2021): Virginia's groundbreaking migratory bird protection regulation went into effect on August 1, 2021, and was published in the Virginia Register of Regulations on August 16. This sets the stage for development of required best practices for key industries to reduce or avoid incidental take. ABC is grateful to the Commonwealth of Virginia for leadership on this important issue, and encourages other states to take similar steps to protect migratory birds.

The Cerulean Warbler is among many species better protected thanks to groundbreaking steps taken by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Photo by Jacob Spendelow

(Washington, D.C., March 19, 2021) Virginia's Department of Wildlife Resources has approved a groundbreaking new regulation, setting a major precedent for the protection of migratory birds. The approved regulation aims to reduce the loss of migratory birds from “incidental take” — the unintended but predictable killing of birds.

“The new system is the first of its kind in the country, providing a model for other states to follow,” says Joel Merriman, American Bird Conservancy's (ABC's) Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign Director. “The conservation benefits are clear, and the rule also provides clarity to industry on the circumstances under which unavoidable incidental take is allowed. This all occurs through the use of established industry-specific best practices aimed at reducing impacts.”

The federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, now over 100 years old, provides clear protections for migratory birds. Discussions about strengthening its implementation and enforcement have been underway for many years, leaving an opportunity for leadership at the state level.

“Virginia has really stepped up and shown others how this can and should be done,” says Steve Holmer, ABC's Vice President of Policy. “The straightforward, commonsense approach in this regulation provides a much-needed model for other states to follow. This provides protection for birds and long-sought regulatory certainty for industry.”

Virginia's actions follow on the heels of three years of regulatory rollbacks at the federal level. The current Administration has begun steps to restore lost protections for birds; in the meantime, declining birds are at greater risk.

“Each year, up to 1.1 billion birds are killed by industrial activities in the U.S.,” Holmer continues. “We applaud the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources for taking this important step toward a solution to this massive toll on bird populations, and strongly encourage other states to follow their lead.”

“This is a terrific step forward for birds, and we applaud the Commonwealth of Virginia,” says Mike Parr, ABC's President. “It is especially encouraging to see this on the heels of restoring habitat for waterbirds in the Hampton Roads area last spring.”

Implementation of the new regulation will begin on July 1 of this year, marking a major milestone for migratory bird protection.


American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).