1,037 dead birds. Here they are, the very creatures the Fatal Light Awareness Program scooped up from the base of T.O.'s skyscrapers during the recent fall migration. Every year more birds die in collisions with buildings than perished in the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Why aren't we turning out the lights on this ecological disaster?
Scraping the skies
• A staggering 100 million birds die in collisions with buildings during spring and fall migrations in North America each year.
• To put that in perspective, more birds die in collisions with buildings and other structures in North America each year than died in the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster of 1989.
• Naturalists now believe that collisions with buildings rank above habitat loss, pollution and over-hunting as the leading cause of bird deaths in North America.
The toll in T.O.
• More than 15,000 birds have been killed or injured in collisions with more than 70 buildings in the downtown core since 2000.
• More than 140 different species of birds regularly fall victim to T.O's lighted towers every year.
• Peregrine falcons, saw-whet owls, ruby-throated hummingbirds, red-headed woodpeckers, belted kingfishers and black-billed cuckoos are among the birds that have been retrieved at the bottom of our city's skyscrapers.
Why lighted buildings are such a nocturnal nemesis
• Birds are unable to see glass.
• Birds are strongly attracted to artificial light, especially in inclement weather.
• They will continue to fly toward sources of light until they either collide with them or fall to the ground exhausted from trying.
• Migrating birds by the hundreds or even thousands can be killed or injured in one night by one building.
Why casualty numbers are actually higher
• Many bird species that fly into buildings are known to be in long-term decline or have already been placed on the threatened list.
• Birds that are stunned or seriously injured are often eaten by predators (cats, dogs, hawks, raccoons) and are not counted in the casualty total.
Daylight double whammy
• One U.S. study found that glass in any form, even car windshields, is a potential killer, especially in broad daylight, because it reflects the natural habitat of birds (trees, skies), so birds are naturally drawn toward it.
• First thought to be less of a factor in bird deaths than cats or pesticides, houses are now believed to be taking a considerable toll on birds.
• Hints: draw drapes and blinds; move large leafy plants away from windows.
• Many corporations have agreed to turn off their lights at night during the crucial 13 weeks in spring and 15 weeks in fall when their buildings pose a threat to migrating birds. But some, for aesthetic reasons, are reluctant to add a film to make windows less reflective.
• The rapid rate of urban development continues to place more hazards - radio, TV and cellphone towers, power lines, emission stacks - in the way of migrating birds.