News Local

Vancouver bird-proofing buildings

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

The city is trying to prevent birds from crashing into windows. 
(City of Vancouver photo)

The city is trying to prevent birds from crashing into windows. (City of Vancouver photo)

We want to, as much as we can, take advantage of birding tourism, attract bird conferences here. It’d be a very important part of the economic sector. — Sadhu Johnston, City of Vancouver

A local bird — perhaps a black-capped chickadee, the city’s official flying critter — flaps through Vancouver’s skyline, zipping by the tall apartments alongside the waterfront as it dives towards the edges of Stanley Park - smacking right into the transparent glass walls of the city’s Park Board building.

The ill-fated bird would be among an estimated 16 to 42 million birds that collide into buildings each year in Canada and potentially die because of the animals’ inability to identify glass barriers.

Plans are being examined now to measure how many of these collisions occur annually in Vancouver and which buildings are considered hazards.

The city is examining asking building managers to report dead birds found at the sides of buildings each morning, according to deputy city manager Sadhu Johnston, or even organizing annual teams that would go out and do a dead-bird count.

One facility that was just bird-proofed was the Park Board building on Beach Avenue.

“The Park Board facilities, they’re right there on English Bay and because of the design of the building — done very long ago — the building is a little transparent. They’ve actually had issues with birds colliding,” Johnston said.

“They’ve added something called fritted glass, which has dots — it’s not very visible (to humans) but it’s very visible to birds so they don’t collide ... what we did recently on the Park Board is put these stickers on the windows where they’re having issues.”

The city is rolling out its “bird strategy,” designed to reduce bird fatalities in the city and encourage more native species — such as the green heron, peregrine falcon or barn owl — to remain home, all tied to the economic goal of turning the city into a bird-watching destination.

“The glass is a primary concern ... there’s lots of other little things, like you have ventilation pipes that you might install for a heater or a dryer ventilation stack, and birds often fly into those looking for a little place to nest. And then they can’t get out,” Johnston said.

“They’ll end up dying in there — the design guidelines would call for a bit of mesh for those ventilation points, so birds can’t fly into them.”

Another problem is the tendency for both residents and businesses alike to furnish the insides and outsides of windows, glass walls and doors with greenery.

This confuses the birds and actually encourages them to drive into the windows, Johnston said.

“It’s best to move that back from the window a bit,” he said.

Currently, the city is calling on developers and architects to keep bird-proofing in mind when designing new buildings. Johnston pointed to public-private partnerships in places such as Chicago, where residents in highrises turn off lights at night during migratory seasons to avoid confusing birds.


Is it worth spending tax dollars to bird-proof public buildings

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