By (Blog & Images): Safe Wings
Every Spring, organizations like Safe Wings experience a significant increase in the number of reported bird-window collisions as large numbers of migrating birds return to their breeding grounds in Canada. Raising awareness of window collisions and the need to rescue survivors is just one of the ways Safe Wings Ottawa is helping to reduce bird deaths through research, prevention and rescue. These efforts are important because North America has lost one-third of all its birds in the last 50 years, and window collisions are one of the main reasons for this decline.
Prevention involves educating the public about collisions, advocating for bird-safe building
design, and convincing building managers to apply visual markers or other measures to
hazardous windows. Volunteers also monitor buildings for collisions, rescue birds, and collect
data on each collision to demonstrate the extent of the problem, identify collision patterns, and
determine which buildings pose the highest risk. Members of the public can also submit collision reports on their website. Some volunteers are licensed to provide short-term care to injured birds until they can be released or, more often, transferred to a rehabilitation facility. Many people also contact Safe Wings for help with birds that are hit by cars, attacked by other animals, tangled in fishing line, and every other reason you can imagine.
Safe Wings began researching bird-building collisions in 2014. In that first year, volunteers documented 550 collisions from 68 species. The total continues to grow every year thanks to an increase in volunteers and public support, not to mention new glass buildings. In 2019, Safe Wings documented 3,322 window collisions across 110 species. Almost 70% these birds were found dead, while 20% were captured alive (of which only about 62% recovered and were released). The rest were seen but not captured, or they left only an imprint on the window as evidence.
If those numbers seem high, consider that Safe Wings only monitors a few dozen buildings, and only finds 5 to 15% of the victims; the rest are scavenged, preyed on, swept up, or they die where they won’t be found. They believe the actual number of birds killed by collisions in the Ottawa area is 250,000 annually, just a fraction of the one billion birds estimated to die in collisions every year across North America.
Progress is Slow but Sure:
While the statistics are dire, Safe Wings is making progress. The federal government, the National Capital Commission and the City of Ottawa are all developing bird-safe design guidelines. Residents are applying Feather Friendly and other solutions to prevent collisions at home. Safe Wings continues to engage building owners and operators to make changes to their buildings, and to support monitoring efforts. Until bird-safe design is the norm, new glass buildings will continue to go up without regard for the birds they will kill.
Visit safewings.ca to learn more about effective solutions to prevent bird-window collisions.