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Save Bird Lives

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Save Bird Lives

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“Every year, 270 million birds die in Canada because of people—our cats; our windows; our transmission lines; our cars, our decisions. Would you change some small thing in your life to save bird lives? Read on, think it over and consider what you could do. Please join me and my colleagues at Nature Canada in making Canada safer for birds.” – Graham Saul, Nature Canada

In 2013, Environment Canada published a series of papers describing bird mortality from various human activities.   The numbers are shocking.   Predation by owned and feral cats causes roughly 100 to 350 million bird deaths annually. Twenty-five million birds die from striking windows each year. A similar number die from colliding with transmission lines. Every year, vehicle collisions account for about 14 million bird deaths, communication towers 221,000, and wind energy turbines kill about 45,000. These activities are not intended to kill birds. Mortality is “incidental” to the activity.   These numbers are staggering and demand action, even though they are initial estimates and more scientific research would be beneficial.

Nature Canada believes that it is time Canadians understand how many birds die as a direct result of our choices and actions. Together, we can save bird lives, one action and one decision at a time, day by day. We can promote positive actions, and work with all levels of society to make Canada a safer place for wild birds.

Click through the tabs above to learn more about the issues threatening birds across Canada – and how you can help!


The way we treat our beloved cats gives rise to roughly 100 to 350 million bird deaths annually in Canada.  Domesticated cats have contributed to the extinction of 34 species of birds across the world, according to BirdLife International. Negative impacts of cats on other wildlife populations are well-documented.

We need to modify how we care for our cats, and not just for the birds’ sake. Cat populations are far from healthy in Canada. In 2011, more than half a million cats languished in shelters because no homes could be found for them. Twice as many cats are dumped in shelters compared to dogs, and whereas 30 per cent of dogs are reunited with their owners, less than one per cent of cats are returned to their homes. Cats are also frequently run over by vehicles. More than 1,300 dead cats were killed on the streets of Toronto in 2012!

According to “Cats in Canada,” a report from the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, Canada has about 10 million pet cats, and an additional two million stray or feral cats.

Estimates indicate that most of those cats – perhaps as many as 50% – are allowed to roam freely outside. Because outdoor cats are exposed to a variety of threats, including diseases (e.g., feline aids, rabies, feline cancer, heartworm), vehicle collisions, and fights with wildlife and other cats, they live a fraction of the lifespan of an indoor cat. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies is one of many organizations that urge cat owners to keep their pets indoors unless the cat is supervised, on a leash, or in an enclosure.

Unowned cats kill more birds per cat than their owned cousins, but since there are five times as many pet cats as feral ones, pet cats still kill a huge number of birds — somewhere between 40 and 140 million a year in Canada alone.

For the sake of cats, birds and nature, not to mention our own well-being, we need to change how we take care of our cats.

For information about what you can do, resources & useful products, visit www.catsandbirds.ca to go directly to our Cats and Birds webpages.

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Live in a house? Have a bird feeder?   Ever hear a thud from a window? Chances are that it was a bird collision.

Window collisions are the second-highest direct human cause of bird deaths in Canada (about 25 million annually) according to a published Environment Canada scientific paper. Ninety percent of these collisions are with windows in individual houses, about nine per cent from low-rise buildings, and less than one per cent from high rises and skyscrapers. The problem only gets worse for the 8 of every 10 of our birds that migrate south of Canada’s borders each fall.   In the United States, there is much more glass and buildings. Estimates of window casualties of birds in the United States are between 100 million and one billion birds annually.

This is an issue for homeowners, building owners and building tenants. Everyone has a role to play in reducing collision risk. Making windows visible to birds is the best solution.   Other solutions include mitigating factors that attract birds or put them at higher risk, such as escaped artificial light from windows, and for home owners, placing features that attract birds such as bird feeders a safe distance from the windows. FLAP Canada and American Bird Conservancy (ABC) have excellent resources to help save birds from window collisions.

A recent court ruling in Ontario determined that commercial buildings that emit light that results in killing birds are in violation of the law. This important ruling determined that owners of buildings that kill birds must mitigate the harm caused to birds. Does your building kill birds? Now is the time to act and start saving bird lives.

Learn more about this issue, and specifically what you can do to save birds from window collisions.

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If you drive a vehicle on a regular basis, chances are you have hit a bird or another wild animal. Of course it wasn’t on purpose, and may have seemed unavoidable, but vehicle collisions are responsible for the deaths of more than 13.8 million birds each year according to an Environment Canada study. That’s more than 34 birds for every kilometer of road in Canada.

Given the growing number of vehicles and the growing density of roads especially around the outskirts of cities, reducing the number of bird collisions with vehicles is a difficult challenge–but one for which drivers are ultimately in the driver’s seat. One obvious solution is to drive less, while another is to slow down to give birds a better chance to fly out of the way.

Find out more about how you can save bird lives when driving.

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As many as seven million birds belonging to at least 230 species are killed each year at communications towers across North America. Aviation warning lights on the towers disrupt the birds’ navigation and draw them into a halo of light. The birds then become ‘trapped’ in the light and circle for long periods, colliding with each other and the tower, or eventually dropping to the ground from exhaustion. The threatened Canada Warbler and Golden-winged Warbler are examples of declining species that are disproportionately impacted by towers.

Preventing needless bird deaths should be as simple as changing a light bulb from steady-burning lights to strobe lights, ideally the blue-green spectrum. But Canada lags behind the United States in dealing with this issue. In the United States,American Bird Conservancy proposed and helped design a study to measure the visibility of towers to pilots when steady-burning red side lights (AT10) are either turned off or made to flash. Modification to these most dangerous of tower lights would dramatically reduce bird deaths.

ABC has achieved an agreement with the telecommunications industry on the construction of new towers that would save bird lives without imposing major delays or costs to the industry. If accepted by U.S. regulators, the worst towers for birds would, for the first time, be subject to a true environmental assessment that should reduce impacts on birds.  Nature Canada will be looking to Canada’s federal government and major industry players to achieve similar results to save bird lives.

Find out more about the issues around communication towers and what you can do.

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Wind energy is a renewable energy source that can displace the need for energy generated from fossil fuel combustion and reduce greenhouse gases. Industrial wind energy currently relies on building massive turbines to capture the energy of wind, which is converted to electricity.

In 2014, Canada had approximately 5,500 wind turbines in operation according to CANWEA. This translates to roughly 45,000 bird deaths from collisions with turbine blades every year, and an annual loss of habitat for over 10,000 breeding pairs of birds.  Every year, 450,000 birds would die and habitat would be lost for 100,000 breeding pairs if the wind- energy industry increases ten-fold as expected in the next 10 to 15 years.

While wind farms contribute far less to bird mortality than many other collision-type human causes of bird mortality, certain bird species such as Purple Martin that are threatened or have declining populations are impacted more than others by specific projects.   Some wind energy projects located in high risk areas (with lots of bird traffic or nearby breeding or roosting colonies) have proven to cause population-level declines in species of eagle, vulture and tern in Europe, and Golden Eagles in California.

To stay on the green side of the colour spectrum, the wind energy industry needs to:

  • Avoid bird hotspots like Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas and the habitat of species at risk when siting projects;
  • Closely monitor the number of bird collisions with wind turbines as well as bird species affected and seasonality of collisions; and
  • Use best practices (such as shut-downs during peak migration periods) to mitigate impacts of existing and future projects
  • Allow third-party monitoring of certain projects

Find out more about Nature Canada’s efforts to save bird—and bat—lives from a few poorly sited wind-energy projects, and what you can do to help.

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Red Winged Blackbird

What can you do to start helping these birds? We have a few tips and as well as a white paper about keeping both your cat and local birds safe!

8 tips on how you can help birds:

1. Keep Cats Safe & Save Bird Lives
Cat-owners can help by keeping their cats safe, and thereby keep birds safer too. But everyone has a role to play in improving the welfare of cats and birds. Whether you’re a cat-owner, a nature-lover, or both, adding your voice to the chorus calling for change helps keep cats safe and save bird lives. To join the movement and learn more about the Cats and Birds initiative, please sign up for email updates. When you sign up you will receive updates on this initiative and on Nature Canada!

2. Reduce Window Strikes
Many are aware of the problem of birds hitting high rise windows, but few are aware that 90% of the bird-window collisions occur with homes. If this is a problem at your home, cottages or workplace, reduce the risks by making the window visible to birds, and moving attractants like bird feeders to a safe distance. Also, please enter information about bird casualties caused by your windows on the FLAP MAPPER. For more information, click here.

3. Avoid Bird – Vehicle Collisions
Slow down on rural roads, especially sections that are near wetlands or open water, and especially during breeding and fledgling season (May to August). Drive the speed limit, which saves lives and reduces fuel consumption and carbon emissions. Drive defensively, keeping an eye out for birds or mammals on the roadside in rural areas, just as you would for people in town. Avoid swerving – instead, use your horn, slow down and drive straight. Only try to shoo a bird or mammal off the road if the coast is entirely clear.

4. Better Consumer Choices
Support bird conservation by purchasing shade-grown or bird-friendly organic coffee and chocolate from Latin America. Shade coffee farms mimic native forests and support more bird species than sun coffee farms. Many songbirds born in Canada spend their winters in the forests of Latin America and the Caribbean Islands.
Purchase locally-grown organic food if possible. Transportation of food long distances contributes greenhouse gases. Organic foods avoid pesticide use which can harm some bird populations.
For wood or paper products, select those that are certified sustainable by the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) or the Forest Sustainability Certification (FSC). These certifications ensure that the companies are following management and harvesting practices that are beneficial to wildlife, including species at risk.
Reuse over recycle, and recycle over discard, as this uses less resources and energy.

5. Make your yard bird-friendly
Keep your pets under supervision/ control at all times.
Avoid using pesticides and herbicides in your yard as they are harmful to birds and the food they eat (as well as you, your children and your pets).
Provide birds with appropriate food, nest sites and cover. Plant native plants (plants that naturally grow in your region). Consider especially berry-producing trees and shrubs (e.g. Mountain Ash, Serviceberry, Chokecherry), perennials like asters, tubular flowers for hummingbirds (e.g. Bergamot), and shelter species like White Cedar. Keep feeders clean and disease-free by changing seed regularly. Place feeders either within one metre or beyond five metres from any large windows.
Leave fallen leaves on the ground beneath trees and shrubs – they make excellent foraging sites for ground feeding birds.
Provide and maintain a source of clean water (change it every few days).

6. Support your local Nature group and conservation groups
Local conservation / naturalist organizations add much to the community and are an invaluable source of knowledge of nature. These clubs are usually volunteer run, and as much about social interactions (people who love nature getting together), as about conservation or documenting natural history. Support your local club by becoming a member and participating in an activity. Find your local provincial/regional nature network partner here. Many clubs offer activities for children – or even have special kids’ nature clubs.

7. Bird with a purpose: citizen science
Join one of Bird Studies Canada’s citizen science programs to make your observations count – such as the Christmas Bird Count, the Great Back Yard Bird Count or Project Feeder Watch.
Contribute your daily observations to science by entering them on eBird.

8. Celebrate birds
Join Nature Canada and its partners in celebrating International Migratory Bird Day each year. Dozens of events take place across the country from May to October, to mark the return or departure of our migratory feathered friends. These events are also a way of raising public awareness of birds and their conservation needs. 2017 is the anniversary of Canada’s Migratory Bird Convention Act. Let’s celebrate!

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