top of page
iStock-591823076 DUCKS ICE BOBBING 600X400 . HEADER.JPG

The latest from Dr. Bird


Want to do something that not only helps reduce carbon emissions in the fight against climate change, but also minimizes the number of needless bird deaths in our cities?

Lobby the politicians in your city or town to enact bird-safe building standards so that migrating birds can pass through unharmed.

Hundreds of millions of migratory birds travelling at night become disoriented by the bright lights of city buildings and end up colliding with the structures. Even in broad daylight, birds crash into buildings composed of large expanses of reflective glass. In some cases, birds unfamiliar with these concrete environments attempt to pass through windows at street level seeking out a perch on the potted plants in the lobbies. Such mortality is totally indiscriminate, killing both weak and fit birds alike. In Canadian cities, the majority of victims are warblers and sparrows.

We need to turn off non-emergency lighting at night, especially during bird migration season from February to May and August to November, as well as get rid of unnecessary up-lighting and spotlights on buildings. Architects have to lose the mindset of designing buildings with large areas of transparent or reflective glass. And why not go one step further by incorporating bird-friendly features into building design? The 82-story Aqua Centre in Chicago actually offers balconies that interrupt its smooth, reflective surface to provide birds a perch. Building owners themselves can minimize collisions by strategically locating vegetation to reduce reflection and views of foliage through glass. Most important, the use of ‘fritting’, i.e. the placing of ceramic dots or lines on glass or some form of pattern that birds can detect, not only reduces collisions, but also lowers air conditioning costs by lowering heat gain in windows and allows people to enjoy the healthy benefits of natural light. As for those working in high-rise buildings, simply turn off your office lights when you leave and use task lighting and draw the blinds when working late.

Several North American cities have recently adopted ordinances to make their skies more friendly to our birds. This year, San Jose became the fourth city in California to do so, after San Francisco in 2011, Oakland in 2013 and Sunnydale in 2014. You can find out more about these citywide guidelines at the American Bird Conservancy’s web site:

New York City has been organizing its “Lights Out” program since 2005, with more than 90 of its buildings, including the Rockefeller Center, the Chrysler Building and the Time Warner Center. Now, with the backing of New York governor Andrew Cuomo, each spring and autumn, which are peak migration seasons, bright outdoor lights are being turned off between 11pm and dawn.

In Canada, our largest city, Toronto, also initiated its own “Lights Out Toronto” program as a result of collaboration among several stakeholders such as the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP), Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), Environment Canada, and various bird advocacy groups. For more information, visit the FLAP website:

To me, this is a no-brainer for a win-win situation for those wanting to create healthy living environments for both birds and humans alike, reduce carbon emissions, and save energy.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
bottom of page