Each year, tens of millions of birds make their way over and through the city of Toronto on their annual spring migration in April and May. It is estimated that during this migration, 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. They prefer to fly during the night, using natural light from the moon and stars to assist them with navigation. Light pollution obscures the natural light and draws them into urban environments. As the birds try to make their way out of the city, they often lethally collide with windows as they cannot see glass.
Torontonians can help minimize the risk of injury or death to migratory birds by taking the following steps:
- Turn off unnecessary lights at home and at work – especially when leaving work at the end of the day.
- Place visual markers on window glass five cm apart from each other, or hanging ribbons or strings outside of your windows 10 cm apart.
- Residents of apartment or condominium buildings can speak with their property manager about using building light fixtures/switches that turn off automatically and/or installing special film on windows to reduce reflection.
- Place bird feeders less than half a metre from your windows so birds leaving the feeder do not attain enough speed to injure themselves should they hit the glass.
Everyone can play a part in reducing the number of bird fatalities during migration season. More information is available on the Toronto Green Standard website at http://bit.ly/1JtcWUf.
In downtown Toronto, where many of the collisions with glass occur, a designated holding station for injured birds is located at the security desk at Metro Hall, 55 John St. From there, volunteers with Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) Canada, transport the injured birds to the Toronto Wildlife Centre. More information is available at www.flap.org.
If you see a bird collide with a window and fall, or you find an injured bird on the ground, gently place the bird in an unwaxed paper bag or cardboard box, temporarily keep it in a quiet, safe location and do not give it water or food. Contact the Toronto Wildlife Centre at torontowildlifecentre.com for further instructions.
The City of Toronto is currently working on a document, Best Practices for Effective Lighting, which is expected to be published this spring. Another pertinent document, released in 2016, is Best Practices for Bird-Friendly Glass. It is available on the City website at http://bit.ly/2n5Fh2f.
Toronto’s Bird-Friendly Development Guidelines are available at http://bit.ly/1ca2BBv.