Glass windows can be a bird's worst enemy: Nature Regina

·3 min read
A dead bird is shown below the a glass walkway at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. Glass structures and buildings with glass windows are a hazard for many North American birds.  (Safe Wings Ottawa - image credit)
A dead bird is shown below the a glass walkway at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. Glass structures and buildings with glass windows are a hazard for many North American birds. (Safe Wings Ottawa - image credit)

With winter weather around the corner, bird-lovers in Regina are hoping to keep their feathered friends safe during their yearly migration.

Glass windows are a major hazard for migrating birds, says Jeffrey Gamble, a board member with Nature Regina. An estimated 25 million birds die in Canada every year due to collisions with windows.

"I generally have a love of nature and a love of birds, and I get a very visceral pain in my heart when I hear that dull thud of a bird hitting one of my windows," said Gamble. "It's heartbreaking. It's tragic."

For the last two years, Gamble has been running Nature Regina's Bird Safe initiative. Twice a year — once during spring migration and once during fall migration — he co-ordinates groups of volunteers who go out and search for dead or injured birds in the city.

They collect information on where the bird fell and log it into the Global Bird Collision Mapper, a national database which tracks bird collisions with buildings throughout Canada.

The dead birds get bagged up and donated to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum.

"If you are out walking around and you find a dead bird … you could log that bird with where you found it and your name and the date, put it into a bag and drop it off at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum," said Gamble.

"They would love to have that donation and it would give a purpose to that bird's death."

Dr. Ryan Fisher, curator of vertebrate zoology at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, said those donations mean the museum can store and study the birds, as well as use them in exhibits.

"If people do find any dead things, we'd ask that they just bring it to us right away rather than keeping it in their freezer, because technically it is illegal for people to house bird parts," he said.

"We have all the necessary permits to keep the birds, to handle the birds and to get them from organizations like Nature Regina."

Easy ways to prevent collisions

Over the years of running the Bird Safe initiative, Gamble has been surprised by the biodiversity volunteers have managed to capture in just a few mornings of searching a year.

"In the … programs we've run, we've found about 80 birds in total, and about 20 different species of birds," said Gamble.

"And that's only between the hours of 6 and 7 in the morning, one day a week for two weeks of the year. So if we can broaden the program, I'm anticipating we'll find a lot more birds."

And while Gamble says it's not common for volunteers to be able to save an injured bird, it can happen.

"It gives the whole day purpose and meaning," he said. "You can't help but feel good when you have an opportunity to find a bird and immediately rescue it and release it."

If your home has a window that seems to keep attracting bird strikes, Gamble says there are easy solutions to make it safer.

Nature Regina sells window tape, which can help the birds see that there is an obstacle in their flight path.

"Most of the solutions coming out now are attractive — they look good," said Gamble. "Gone are the days of hanging CDs and dollar-store stickers from your windows."

As this migratory season continues, Gamble hopes to keep the Bird Safe initiative growing "one bird at a time."

"It's in its infancy," he said. "We're very excited to see where the program goes from here."

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