When birds collide …

Fall is the time for many birds to head south for comfort and refuge. But for an increasing number, their journey ends early as they collide with glass-panelled buildings.

One such collision happened to a Nashville Warbler, a small migratory bird that rammed into Centennial College on Morningside Avenue this month. It was one of a million birds that crash into buildings in Toronto every year, according to the City of Toronto.

This particular bird lucked out,  as it was rescued by a student and later released. Most birds who meet this fate are not as fortunate.

“This is an issue that isn’t going away, in fact, it’s getting worse,” Michael Mesure, director of Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP), said. “Building collisions are the leading cause of bird deaths across North America.”

FLAP works with the city and has tracked bird deaths in Toronto for more than a decade. Mesure says one to 10 birds annually hit a single building on average. Toronto has roughly 940,000 buildings.

At the Morningside campus, bird collisions happen almost weekly, a staff member said. But the campus isn’t the only Scarborough building that leads to bird deaths.

The top two most lethal structures to birds in the GTA are at 100 and 200 Consilium Place, near Hwy. 401 and McCowan Road, according to FLAP. The Consilium towers have an especially high death count, as more than 800 dead birds surrounding the complex were recorded from 2008 to 2009.

The towers are 18 storeys high and covered in glass.  It is believed the birds attempt to fly through the complex due to the transparency and reflection of the glass. Commonly the birds die from fractured skills or spines upon impact.

Currently there is a legal case against the Consilium towers building management. Ecojustice — formerly the Sierra Legal Defence Fund — initiated a private prosecution under the Environmental Protection Act that to be brought to the courts in April 2011.

Consilium management, Menkes Property Management Services, say steps have been taken to address the problem since they purchased the towers in 2006. Lights are turned off at night and acoustic devices are used to deter the birds from the buildings.

However, none of these measures has been successful, Menkes vice-president Sonya Buikema said. The company continues to consult environmental organizations for options, she said.

One option the company is not interested in exploring, according to FLAP, is changing the aesthetics of the building.

“This has been the biggest obstacle to get any corporation to adopt, because aesthetically it changes the look of the building which many don’t want to do,” Mesure said.

Centennial’s Morningside campus has done just that to at least one panel of glass.

The college says they have put up markers to cut down on solar heating and to repel birds, but the remaining glass panels of the building still remain unmarked.

The migratory Nashville Wabler was reported to be in good health and released back into the wild by the Toronto Humane Society.