Toronto Buildings Retrofitted to Reduce Bird Strikes

After legal action from Ecojustice and Ontario Nature, two of Toronto’s most lethal buildings for birds have been retrofitted to reduce bird strikes.

“Our objective has been to reduce the preventable carnage of bird strikes against the mirrored windows of office complexes,” said Albert Koehl, staff lawyer at Ecojustice. “After charges were brought, the buildings were retrofit — action that has dramatically decreased bird deaths.” But charges that reflected light from an office complex, owned by a major Toronto property developer, caused the death or injury of hundreds of birds were dismissed today.

Justice of the Peace William G. Turtle found that 900 birds were killed or injured in 2008 and 2009 after striking the windows of the Consilium Place office complex, then owned by Menkes Developments and related companies. He noted the value of migratory birds and the threat posed by glass buildings with highly reflective windows that can kill or injure birds that mistake the windows for open sky and trees. In his judgment, however, the Justice of the Peace found that it could not have been the intent of the Environmental Protection Act to include reflected light as a “contaminant” that harms animals, one of the main charges filed by Ecojustice and Ontario Nature in March 2010. He further found that cruelty under the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act had to be deliberate, which he said was not the case here.

Ecojustice and Ontario Nature are considering an appeal. “There are simple and effective measures to prevent many of the estimated one million bird deaths that occur from collisions with buildings in Toronto alone,” said Caroline Schultz, executive director at Ontario Nature. “Preserving migratory birds will benefit all Ontarians — from the free pest control services they provide in our forests to the direct economic benefit of the birding industry, Canada’s second-biggest outdoor leisure activity.”

This image captures the mid-way installation of CollidEscape at the Toronto Zoo.
(Photo: FLAP)

The Fatal Light Awareness Program, a non-profit group aiming to prevent bird strikes, documented that at least 7,000 dead and injured birds were collected from Consilium Place over a 10-year span. The City of Toronto developed its Bird-Friendly Development Guidelines in March 2007 and requires any building built after January 2010 to include measures to reduce bird strikes. It also recommends the use of window films to provide visual cues to birds about the danger. Consilium Place has since been sold to Kevric Real Estate Corporation, which has been completing the installation of window films. The films were installed to the height of the tree line as recommended by Toronto’s Bird-Friendly Development Guidelines. “We hope that other owners will take similar action and that tenants will spur their landlords to install available, effective solutions,” said Koehl.

Ecojustice is awaiting a decision from a separate bird strike case against Cadillac Fairview for its Yonge Corporate Centre buildings. That case involves charges under the Species at Risk Act, the Environmental Protection Act and the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Judge Melvyn Green will give his decision on Dec. 4, 2012 at the Old City Hall Court House.

For more information, please contact: Pierre Hamilton, Communications Associate | Ecojustice 416-368-7533 ext. 526, phamilton@ecojustice.ca, or John Hassell, Communications Coordinator | Ontario Nature 416-444-8419 ext. 269

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