Torontonians encouraged to help protect migrating birds

Tens of millions of birds make their way over and through Toronto on their annual spring migration in April and May. It is estimated that more than a million of them end up injured or dead from collisions with windows in the Toronto area.

Many of the birds come from Central and South America and travel as far north as Canada’s boreal forest, which in Ontario extends north from Lake Superior, mostly north of the 50th parallel. They prefer to fly during the night, using natural light from the moon and stars to assist them with navigation.

Light pollution from urban areas obscures the natural light and draws them into the urban environments. As the birds try to make their way out of the city, they can be distracted by, and collide with, windows. Birds cannot distinguish between real and reflected habitat.

Residents can help minimize the risk of injury or death to migratory birds by taking steps such as the following:
• Turn off unnecessary lights at home and at work — especially when leaving work at the end of the day.
• Bird feeders that are close to a window should be set up within half a metre of the glass so birds leaving the feeder do not attain enough speed to injure themselves should they hit the glass.
• Residents of apartment or condominium buildings can speak with their property manager about taking measures such as using building lights that turn off automatically and installing a special film on windows to reduce reflection.

Urban planners, policy makers, developers/builders, homeowners, tenants and businesses, including business improvement area organizations, can all play a part in reducing the number of bird fatalities. More information is available on the Toronto Green Standard website at bit.ly/1JtcWUf.

Downtown, where many of the collisions with glass occur, the security desk at Metro Hall, 55 John St., is a designated holding station for the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP). FLAP volunteers transport the injured birds to the Toronto Wildlife Centre.

FLAP works to safeguard migratory birds in the urban environment through education, research, rescue and rehabilitation, with the vision of creating a 24-hour collision-free urban environment for migratory birds. More information about FLAP is available at flap.org.

Should a member of the public see a bird collide with a window and fall, or find an injured bird on the ground, the bird should be gently placed in an unwaxed paper bag or cardboard box, temporarily kept in a quiet, safe location and not given water or food.

The City of Toronto is currently working on two documents – Best Practices for Bird-Friendly Glass and Best Practices for Effective Lighting – that are expected to be published in advance of this year’s fall migration.

Toronto’s Bird-Friendly Guidelines are available at bit.ly/1ca2BBv.