We review characteristics of birds in boreal forests in the context of their ecological sustainability under both natural and anthropogenic disturbances. We identify the underlying ecological factors associated with boreal bird populations and their variability, review the interactions between boreal bird populations and disturbance, and describe some tools on how boreal bird populations may be conserved in the future. The boreal system has historically been an area with extensive disturbance such as fire, insect outbreaks, and wind. In addition, the boreal system is vulnerable to global climate change as well as increasing pressure on forest and water resources. Current knowledge indicates that birds play an important role in boreal forests, and sustaining these populations affords many benefits to the health of boreal forests. Many issues must be approached with caution, including the lack of knowledge on our ability to mimic natural disturbance regimes with management, our lack of understanding on fragmentation due to logging activity, which is different from permanent conversion to other land uses such as agriculture or residential area, and our lack of knowledge on what controls variability in boreal bird populations or the linkage between bird population fluctuations and productivity. The essential role that birds can provide is to clarify important ecological concerns and variables that not only will help to sustain bird populations, but also will contribute to the long-term health of the boreal forest for all species, including humans.