TORONTO sits in the middle of the Atlantic Flyway, one of four ancient North American bird migration routes. Every spring and fall, day and night, hundreds of thousands of birds overfly the city, to and from the southland. Unobstructed until they reach the Greater Toronto Area, these tiny spirits are suddenly confronted by hundreds of reflective glassed buildings – some 70-80 storeys high, and oftentimes illuminated. 1-9 million birds annually plummet to their deaths from these structures.
<The four North American bird flyways. TORONTO is in the Atlantic Flyway> FLAP (or the Fatal Light Awareness Program) is a TORONTO-based organization. It’s been valiantly fighting to save the birds, and appears to be having some success. Through research, education, rescue, rehabilitation, and now the courts, FLAP is challenging developers to be much more environmentally friendly.
<NY Times article, “Toronto Looks to Save Casualties of Urban Skies”, October 28/2012> Ian Austen, in a lengthy article in the Sunday New York Times: “There is no precise ranking of the world’s most deadly cities for migratory birds, but TORONTO is considered a top contender for the title . . . (Professor Daniel Klem Jr., an ornothologist at Muhlenberg College in Allentown Pa.) was quick to say that the city also leads North America when it comes to addressing the problem.”
FLAP volunteer “early birders” arise before dawn every day, and head down to the Financial District or elsewhere in the GTA, carrying butterfly nets and paper bags. They rescue injured birds before commuters arrive in the area for the start of another business day. The dead are wrapped in paper, and taken to FLAP headquarters, provided by a sympathetic city councillor. The injured are treated, and later released on the shores of Lake Ontario. FLAP has documented more than 164 species that have collided with GTA buildings over the last 15 years.
<An injured Ovenbird being treated. It will eventually be released.> To find out more about TORONTO’s Fatal Light Awareness Program (or FLAP), call 416-366-3527 or check their website http://www.flap.org/volunteer.php. Volunteers and contributions are always welcome. <PHOTOS – J. P. Moczulski>