nicole February 12, 2006

From the American Bird Conservancy listserv:
Bird-friendly legislation from Toronto Fatal Light Awareness Program | (FLAP)

Toronto City Council yesterday adopted the recommendations which would see "Bird-Friendly" design elements incorporated into the site plan review process for all new construction in the greater Toronto area, as well as a public awareness campaign targeting existing structures with regard to turning off lights, installing blinds, timers, etc. to prevent the escape of light into the nightsky. To the best of our knowledge this is the first time a city has ever taken a step like this (making it policy) and sets a great example for other cities across North America to do the same to benefit migratory birds in urban areas.

From INSIDE TORONTO.COM: Councillors in flap over birds hitting windows STUART GREEN Apr. 8, 2005

Two city councillors are hoping their colleagues give a hoot about the senseless death of thousands of confused migratory birds killed every year when they fly into office tower windows at night. And if the political birds of a feather flock together, the city could become a leader in taking steps to curb the massacre. "This is a huge step in the right direction, said Michael Mesure, executive director of Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP). The volunteer-driven organization has been retrieving dead and injured birds around the city during spring and fall migrations for the past 12 years. FLAP estimates that in that time they have collected 27,000 birds, about half of which were dead. But that, Mesure said, is only a fraction of the 20,000 birds that are killed or injured by flying into windows of tall buildings every year in Toronto. Of the 158 species identified, 64 are classified as having declining populations, Mesure said. "We're dealing with some very vulnerable species and we cannot afford to see this continue," he said. Now, Ward 38 Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Scarborough Centre) and Ward 21 Councillor Joe Mihevc (St. Paul's) want the city to take action through legislation and education to make building owners more aware of the problem. "It's not going to change the world but it is going to make it a better place for Torontonians so that we can do the bird watching and contribute to the survival of the species," Mihevc said. De Baeremaeker said the target is to cut in half the number of bird deaths and he said the city should lead by example. Already at Metro Hall a program is in place that has not only saved the lives of hundreds of birds, but has saved the city $200,000 in hydro costs each year simply by shutting off lights. In Chicago, a program was implemented and in one building alone shutting off lights or drawing the blinds resulted in an 85 per cent reduction in bird fatalities. But making the initiative fly like the proverbial eagle is going to require the co-operation of the private sector as well. The motion before council will ask for advice on how the city could require bird-friendly development through design controls on new buildings or retrofitting old buildings with devices that would ward off birds. Then there's the simple matter of turning off the lights. The councillors hope the city might consider an education campaign that will preach both the bird-friendly and cost-saving aspects of turning off lights overnight in vacant office buildings. "With the flip of a switch we're hoping the owners of large office towers can save thousands of birds by doing some simple conservation measures," De Baeremaeker said. "When you say to people you're going to save a lot of money at the same time we think it'll be a pretty easy sell to landowners." And as Mesure noted, the problem is not limited to downtown. In De Baeremaeker's Scarborough ward, the mirrored faade of the Consilium Place office towers near the Scarborough Town Centre may have been responsible for hundreds of bird deaths this spring. On Tuesday morning, FLAP volunteers found 50 dead birds near the shiny buildings. The problem, FLAP said, is the same anywhere in the city where there are concentrations of tall towers whether it be downtown, Scarborough, North York or Etobicoke. The program would have building owners shut off lights between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. from mid-March to early June and mid-August to early November.