How we can keep birds from crashing into windows and dying

Bird Safe Buildings Across Canada and other organizations are working hard to encourage building owners to take bird-saving measures

Geoff CarpentierEver since European settlers occupied North America, our influences on avian populations have varied between positive and devastatingly negative. I would love to just write about the good stuff, but an important issue needs to be discussed: windows and how they can be deadly to birds.

A new grassroots organization has been founded by a friend of mine, Pearl Shore, who has spent her life caring about wildlife and the environment. The organization is called Bird Safe Buildings Across Canada (BSBC).

Bird Safe was born from a single event. Coming out of the subway at Finch and Yonge Street in Toronto in the fall of 2018, Pearl saw a pair of dead golden-crowned kinglets, which had just hit the reflective windows at the Manulife building. She picked up their still-warm bodies and took them home to her freezer.

Pearl already knew about the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP). It’s dedicated to safeguarding migratory birds in the built environment through education, policy development, research, rescue and rehabilitation.

But she needed to learn more about these daytime strikes with reflective and transparent windows. So she did the research, learned from experts, and her appetite was whetted.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: Prying into the private lives of birds in love by Geoff Carpentier


But what could she do?

Anyone who knows Pearl knows she wouldn’t simply stand by and say, “What a shame.” She would do something to make a difference.

As she learned about the seriousness of millions of birds colliding with windows across North America and that bird-deterrent markers could be applied to existing windows to prevent the vast majority of these needless deaths, she decided to do more.

She attended a webinar with Future Ground Network at the David Suzuki Foundation and found talented and intelligent individuals who wanted to work with her on this important conservation project.

Sheri Ellenberger, Ariel Greenblat and Pearl began a journey to share information about bird window strikes and how to prevent them. They also wanted to encourage large commercial establishments that exist along migratory pathways to upgrade their buildings to save thousands of birds at skyscraper hotspots.

Part of their motto reads, “BSBC aims to educate the public on the issue and to encourage change in troublesome structures, both residential and commercial, until every building in Canada is bird safe.”

Their first campaign was to encourage Toronto-Dominion Bank in Toronto (anchor tenant of TD Centre) to work with commercial real estate investment firm Cadillac Fairview (owners of TD Centre) and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (owners of Cadillac Fairview) to apply bird-saving window treatments to their high-collision facades. Those window treatments can help save hundreds and perhaps thousands of birds from fatal strikes with the towers each year.

According to Pearl, this complex is considered among the worst for bird collisions in Toronto. Their reflective windows confuse birds since they act as mirrors, showing trees and habitat that isn’t really there, particularly in low light conditions. The result is that birds fatally strike the glass.

Despite the 2013 court ruling in Liat Podolsky (“EcoJustice”) versus Cadillac Fairview Corp. et al. that required them to retrofit another set of buildings in Toronto, Cadillac Fairview has only applied bird deterrent markers to the TD linkway. The remaining towers still need to be done.

Pearl relentlessly took them to task and forced them to reconsider their position, citing in part their own corporate documents claiming they cared about the environment. But did they?

People care and are listening to BSBC – over 60,000 people have signed their petition to encourage the owners and operators of TD Centre to retrofit the necessary windows so birds, including some species at risk, can be saved.

For the average homeowner, BCBS also offers advice about bird deterrent markers that can be applied to troublesome windows and prevent birds from dying in our yards.

To find out if your home is likely to have bird strikes, visit www.birdsafe.ca, an excellent source of information for homeowners who care.

Geoff Carpentier is a published author, expedition guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff online at www.avocetnatureservices.com, on LinkedIn and Facebook.


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