It is estimated that 1 in 10 birds die in collisions with buildings in North America each year. FLAP, (Fatal Light Awareness Program) the first organization of this kind in the world to bring awareness to this issue was founded in Toronto over 20 years ago.
Today an army of volunteers, lead by Michael Mesure still collects dead and injured birds during spring and fall migration seasons. Once a year, FLAP invites the public and media to come and see for themselves. Ninety-two different species were collected and laid out in the Earth Rangers bio-diversity room at the Royal Ontario Museum, where this archive photo was taken in 2013.
FLAP patrols various parts of Toronto including the Financial District. In Ottawa, a second wing of this bird rescue organization has been operating for almost a year. Many of the dead birds FLAP volunteers recover are from daytime window collisions at commercial structures of various heights. Buildings that have a lot of transparent glass or mirrored glass (that reflect the surrounding habitat) are the most problematic, because birds cannot perceive glass the way we do. The birds see a reflection of the landscape they are in, expect it to continue, resulting in deadly collisions.
In Toronto there was a precedent setting legal case a couple years ago, against some buildings where bird window collisions were a huge problem. It is now essential for owners to do what they can to knowingly prevent collisions. Some structures have even had their windows retrofitted with a protective ‘feather friendly’ film which the birds can see, detect, so it greatly reduces collisions. Mesure says these buildings are saving birds lives as they now have 70% less collisions.
This year’s annual FLAP bird layout at the ROM will be on Friday March 20. Visit the FLAP website to find out more about what you can do to prevent collisions and what to do if you find an injured bird too.
Watch an excerpt from FLAP from the film, SongbirdSOS airing on The Nature of Things on March 19.
PHOTO: Mark Thiessen, National Geographic photographer