If you’re an urban dweller and have never heard a migrating bird bounce off a glass door or seen a feathered friend crash into a skyscraper, you’re in the minority. A conservative estimate is that a billion birds a year meet their demise after failing to dodge a human-made obstacle.
City officials in Toronto, where the annual death toll is between 1 million and 10 million, are in the process of building a new breed of bird-friendly structures, reports the Ontario-based environmental magazine ON Nature (Spring 2010). As of January, the city was the first in North America to require a majority of new buildings to incorporate window treatments, awnings, shades, and other elements to reduce reflection—no small feat given eco-architecture’s propensity for flight-risky glass.
Unfortunately, it’s not just buildings that interfere with migration patterns, which is why we must all remain vigilant. “To get back to their breeding grounds from the south, [migrating birds] have to go through all this [urban congestion],” Bridget Stutchbury, a biologist at York University, tells ON Nature. “These little birds . . . need little forest patches; they need good stopover habitat to fuel the journey. If they land in a place with little food, they have to stay on the ground a lot longer.” Extended stays make it less likely the birds will reach their final destination.
We humans can help by creating utopian stopover places for migrating birds. For instance, ON Nature suggests attracting traveling songbirds by “adding native plant species that furnish them with food (berries, seeds) and shelter,” providing a source of fresh water, and keeping lights off or shades down during migration season.