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The Globe and Mail

Activists, builders look for ways to stem bird carnage

Collisions with tall buildings claim up to 10-million birds a year in Toronto

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Detail of a window at 775 King St. W., Toronto. Dots on the glass are designed to alert birds and prevent collisions. Every year between March and May and again in late summer/early autumn, migratory birds passing through the city meet their demise. Brian Banks, writing in Ontario Nature magazine, estimates that ‘one- to ten-million birds [are] killed every year in Toronto due to collisions with buildings and other structures.’

Dave LeBlanc/The Globe and Mail

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Michael Mesure, co-founder of Fatal Light Awareness Program, says bird kills have become a 24-hour problem. The ‘Light’s Out Toronto!’ awareness campaign has, since 2006, encouraged building owners, tenants and private homeowners to turn off unnecessary lights to allow birds proper navigation. While the program has been successful, nighttime confusion isn’t the only problem, and activists are pushing for further measures to help birds disoriented in the daytime.

Dave LeBlanc/The Globe and Mail

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Display at the Royal Ontario Musuem - birds killed in collisions with Toronto buildings. Michael Mesure, who co-founded FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program) in Toronto in 1993, says daytime collision are caused by reflections of trees and other vegetation in the city’s myriad glass walls; moving from tree to tree, birds stopping over to refuel on Toronto’s insects find out too late that some leafy perches are just a mirage.

Dave LeBlanc/The Globe and Mail

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FLAP brought the issue to Toronto city council in 2005. Two councillors Glenn De Barermaeker and Joe Mihevc, ‘took the issue under their wings’ says Mr. Banks, and a “bird-friendly” working group was created and tasked with producing voluntary guidelines for building owners.

Dave LeBlanc/The Globe and Mail

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‘You have to do something that causes the bird to realize it’s not a fly-through; you can put lattices, scrims, netting,’ says architect John Robert Carley. ‘People ask me why this wasn’t a historic problem. Well, first of all, we didn’t have curtain walls of glass in the past; [they] were broken up with brick, so that would mitigate it, but any window that was operable usually had a screen on the outside, and a bird would perceive a screen.’

Dave LeBlanc/The Globe and Mail

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Patterned Venetian blinds at 33 Yonge St., Toronto. Guidelines suggest the application of a laminate with a simple, opaque pattern placed close enough together to disrupt reflections on glass balcony enclosures, windows, or shiny spandrel panels up to treetop level, or 12 metres. Other solutions, such as stripes or, for new construction, placing panes at various angles, are offered as well.

Dave LeBlanc/The Globe and Mail

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