Nature Canada

Other Threats

Other human-related threats that contribute to bird mortality are vehicles, communications towers and wind turbines.

Vehicles

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.

Vehicle collisions are responsible for the deaths of more than 13.8 million birds each year across Canada, and likely higher numbers of mammals, reptiles and amphibians. At least eighty bird species are impacted by this threat. On average, more than 34 birds fall victim to vehicle collisions for every kilometer of 1- to 4-lane roads in Canada each year. The majority of species affected are songbirds

What can we do?

Simple things we can do to avoid this problem include:

  • Slow down on rural roads, especially sections that bisect wetlands or open water, and especially during the breeding and fledging seasons (May to August). Driving the speed limit not only saves lives, it also reduces fuel consumption, resulting in lower carbon emissions (and saves you money).
  • Keep your eyes out for animals just as you would for people – pay attention to wildlife signs, scan the shoulders of the road, look out for shining eyes at the side of the road at night, and watch for brake lights ahead that might alert you to the presence of wildlife (or some other hazard!).
  • Should you spot an animal beside the road, slow down and watch for more animals to follow.
  • Brake firmly, but avoid swerving, which may confuse wildlife more than warn them.
  • Sound your horn in a series of short bursts to frighten it away.
  • Don’t litter – animals are often attracted to the side of the road by food, and predators may be drawn to the area by those animals.
  • Never stop on the road for a bird or other animal. Instead, pull well over onto the shoulder and never put yourself at risk to save an animal on the road.   Shoo it off the road only when the coast is 100% clear.

Communications Tower

As many as 7 million birds are killed each year at communications towers across North America. 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.

Preventing bird deaths from tower collisions can be as simple as changing a light bulb! By switching from steady-burning lights to strobe lights, bird kills can be dramatically reduced without sacrificing aviation safety.  Also lights in the blue-green spectrum are less likely to attract birds than white or red lights.

Wind Turbines

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. In 2013, Environment Canada estimated that on average 8.2 birds were killed per year per wind turbine from collisions at the 43 wind farms sampled. As well 1.23 hectares of bird habitat was lost per turbine as a result of vegetation clearing.

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;
  • Use best practices (such as shutdowns during peak migration periods) to mitigate impacts of existing and future projects; and
  • Allow third-party monitoring of certain projects.

Nature Canada has adopted the Bird Smart program developed by American Bird Conservancy which calls for mandatory standards on the wind energy industry to protect birds. Bird Smart calls for careful siting of wind projects, operation and construction mitigation, bird monitoring, and compensation, to reduce and redress any unavoidable bird mortality and habitat loss

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