Throughout North America, studies estimate that anywhere between 100 million to 1 billion migrating birds die from colliding with buildings annually. North America is home to four of the world’s most active migratory bird corridors, including the Pacific, Central, Mississippi and Atlantic Flyways. Toronto and the Great Lakes region are home to the Mississippi and Atlantic Flyways.
Coastlines offer visual cues for rest and feeding stops for birds throughout the migratory process, yet the vast urban development along the highly prized coastline has resulted in disoriented migrating birds. Other species migrate at night via constellations. However, the bright lights from urban centers at night result in increased building collisions. The primary issue with buildings is reflective glass and windows. The majority of ornitologists estimate that the leading cause of death for migratory birds in North America is collision with buildings.
The Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) is a non-profit organization manned with approximately 100 dedicated volunteers. They have numerous programs and initiatives that make them leaders in bird conservation. FLAP is the first organization globally to specifically address the ways in which birds collide with buildings. To date, FLAP volunteers have collected tens of thousands of wounded and dead birds in Toronto. Approximately sixty percent of the birds recovered are received dead, while eighty percent of wounded birds recovered are able to be rehabilitated and released through FLAP’s programming.
While FLAP does a lot of emergency bird first response work, it is also a leader in urban bird protection and prevention. FLAP works with corporate and residential communities to help create policies within buildings. FLAP, via research, has developed collision prevention guidelines that are easily available for interested businesses and residents.
FLAP has also developed extensive primary data on bird collision that is presently a heavily cited source of statistical data for ornithological research internationally.
One of FLAP’s most successful programs is Lights Out Toronto, a program that brings awareness to night migrating birds. FLAP is encouraging people to tweet with the hashtag #LightsOutTO. They have since replicated this program across the Great Lake Region with the Great Lake Lights Out initiative.
FLAP has numerous partnerships with a multitude of environmental organizations, business associations, industry groups, post-secondary institutions, and all levels of government in Canada and the United States. FLAP seeks to work via their partnerships to develop progressive and innovative programming to protect migrating birds. In particular, FLAP advocated and worked with the City of Toronto to develop Bird-Friendly Development Guidelines. FLAP’s programming has garnered a lot of international attention. FLAP has shared its programming and its model has been replicated in New York, Chicago, and Minneapolis/St. Paul.