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Frequently Asked Questions

Having troubles with the FLAP Mapper? Visit the FLAP Mapper Frequently Asked Questions page.


Why do birds collide with windows during the day?

Migratory birds live in forests, meadows or wetlands, and do not understand the concept of glass. To a migratory bird, glass is an invisible and dangerous obstacle. They see the landscape reflected in windows and mirrored building exteriors and mistake the reflection for shelter. Or birds see beyond the glass to interior potted plants or trees inside the building. Where windows meet at the corners, or line up with each other front and back (i.e., glass walkways, solariums, greenhouses) birds perceive clear passage and try to fly through to the trees they see on the other side.

Any reflective or transparent surface used in construction—from windows in modest city homes, to bus shelters, to mirrored exteriors on high-rise buildings—can be the site of fatal bird collisions. Daytime collisions often occur the morning after a bird has been drawn to buildings by excessive night-time lights. They get trapped by the maze of building reflections in this cycle of confusion and unnecessary death.

Why do birds collide with buildings at night?

Most species of songbirds migrate at night. They rely, in part, on the moon and the constellations to guide them along their migration route. The overnight lighting used in dense urban areas confuses migratory birds, and especially on foggy or rainy nights when cloud cover is low. Under these conditions, birds migrate at lower altitudes and are drawn to lights shining from office towers and other structures. Where spotlights are used to illuminate a building, birds fly “into” the beams of light and are reluctant to fly back out into the darkness. Often, they collide with the buildings or drop to the ground from exhaustion.

When day breaks, birds that managed to survive the night-time lighting hazards find themselves trapped in a maze of tall buildings with reflective surfaces. It is extremely difficult for migratory birds to escape this maze without striking windows and building exteriors, often with fatal results.

How many birds die in collisions with buildings each year?

An estimated 1 to 10 birds die per building, per year. The City of Toronto has over 950,000 registered buildings that could potentially kill over 9 million birds each year. Across North America, the estimated number of migrating birds killed annually in collisions with buildings ranges from 100 million to 1 billion birds.

What other kinds of human-built structures are responsible for bird deaths?

Any human-built structure that incorporates glass or reflective building material into the design can be the site of bird collisions during the day. This includes bus shelters, car windows, houses, greenhouses, solariums, office towers, restaurants, and any other structures where windows and/or reflective surfaces are present. At night, transmission towers, office towers, monuments, lighthouses, oil rigs-virtually any tall illuminated structure can be responsible for bird deaths. Collisions with buildings are a leading cause of migratory bird death, second only to habitat loss.

What is the impact of wind turbines on migratory birds?

The number of bird fatalities due to collisions with wind turbines sits well below the number of bird fatalities from collisions with buildings; however, birds are killed by wind turbines.

The National Wind Coordinating Collaborative fact sheet recognizes two types of impact on birds at wind facilities: direct mortality from collisions, and indirect impact from habitat disruption, habitat avoidance, habitat abandonment and the changes in instinctive bird behaviours due to the presence of wind turbines. Most of the bird fatalities are songbirds, but raptors are also killed when wind turbines are erected in open areas where these birds hunt for prey.

We believe in the development of renewable energy sources, but we are highly concerned about the bird fatalities documented at the locations of wind turbines. We encourage a thorough, independent, environmental assessment of proposed wind turbine sites. We encourage that those proposed sites be well away from migratory bird routes and rest areas. We encourage wind turbine developers to take full responsibility to protect migratory birds and other wildlife from injury and death.

When do birds migrate?

birds migrate in the spring to their summer nesting grounds in northern Canada. In the fall, they fly south, back to their winter feeding areas. Depending on the species, winter feeding areas might be anywhere from southern Canada to the southern tip of South America.

Migration is triggered by an increase (in the spring) or a decrease (in the fall) in the phototropic period: the number of hours of daylight. The onset of both spring and fall migration fluctuates mildly, but generally spring migration begins in mid-March and continues until the beginning of June. Fall migration begins in early August and continues until mid-November.

What should I do if I find an injured bird?

When a bird hits a building it needs a quiet, dark, safe place to rest and recuperate. If you find a bird on the ground by a building, gently place the bird inside an un-waxed paper bag or a small cardboard box. Handle the bird as little as possible. Make sure that the bag or box is closed. If you’re using a cardboard box, poke a few air holes so the bird can breathe. Use clean tissues or paper towels, rolled into a donut shape, as a perch for the bird to sit upright. Never feed the bird or give it water.

If the bird recovers after one hour, you will hear it fluttering inside the bag or box. Take the bird to a park, a ravine or another open area far away from windows and buildings. Slowly open the bag or box and let the bird fly out. You have just saved the life of a migratory bird.

If the bird remains unresponsive after one hour, take it to your local wildlife rehabilitation facility.

What should I do if I find a baby bird?

Some tiny birds, such as wrens and warblers, look like baby birds even though they are mature. If you find a bird sitting under a window and it does not move when you approach, most likely the bird is an adult bird that has hit the window. Follow the above instructions on what to do when you find an injured bird.

If you find a featherless baby bird, and you know where the nest is, place the baby bird back in the nest. The parent birds will not smell your scent and reject the bird. If you cannot find the nest, make one out of a small basket or flowerpot lined with leaves or dry grass. Place the substitute nest close to the area where you found the baby bird.

If the baby bird is feathered and has just left the nest, it may be on the ground waiting for its parents. The best thing to do is leave the bird for the parents to care for and feed. If you believe the bird is in danger from roaming cats or other predators, place it high up on a tree branch where it will be safe. If you are still concerned (perhaps the parents have not returned for a long time) contact your local wildlife rehabilitation facility for advice.

How can I make my home safe for birds?

Make your home safer for birds by making your windows visible to birds. Install screens or netting on the outside of your windows to alert birds to the presence of your windows as an obstacle. Or apply CollidEscape, an opaque window film that adheres to the outside of your window and mutes reflection while preserving the view from the inside of your home.

window decals in any shape or color can be effective visual cues for birds, but only when you use lots of decals applied close together, in a dense pattern, according to the following rule-of-thumb:

  • No more than 5 cm. (2 inches) apart horizontally or no more than 10 cm. (4 inches) apart vertically.

Single applications of window decals and other items will not work. The idea is to cover as much surface area as possible to make your windows visible to birds. Ribbons, strings, streamers, whitewash, pine cones, sun catchers: virtually anything that you apply or hang on your windows can help prevent bird collisions as long as you follow the above rule-of-thumb. These dimensions are supported by ornithological research into bird vision.

Visit our Collision Prevention page for easy and inexpensive strategies to help prevent bird collisions at your home including: suggested locations for bird baths and feeders, closing curtains and blinds, keeping your cat indoors, moving houseplants back from your windows, landscaping ideas, and more.

birds are hitting the building at my workplace. What can I do?

Contact your building management and make them aware that birds are colliding with their building. Encourage them to call us at (416) 366-3527 (FLAP) or email us at flap@flap.org for an assessment of their building’s potential to harm birds. We can suggest easy and affordable bird collision prevention strategies to suit the needs and aesthetics of any building. Refer your building management to our Collision Prevention webpage.

As an employee or tenant of the building, you can help with night-time collision prevention by turning off lights at night except for those necessary for safety. Use a desk lamp at your work station when working into the evening hours, and keep blinds and/or curtains closed.

Will a black hawk silhouette stop a bird from hitting my window?

No. A single black hawk silhouette affixed to a window is not effective at all in deterring birds from colliding with a window. But you can use multiple black hawk silhouettes, as well as any other window decal, in any shape or color, placed close together in a dense pattern according to the following rule-of-thumb:

  • No more than 5 cm. (2 inches) apart horizontally or no more than 10 cm. (4 inches) apart vertically.

The shape and color of a window decal is unimportant in preventing birds from hitting windows; it is the use of multiple window decals in any shape or color, applied in a dense pattern that helps make windows visible to birds. The idea is to cover as much of the surface of your window as you can.

Why should I keep my cat indoors?

A 2010 study conducted by The Wildlife Society refers to domestic cats as “the most abundant carnivore in North America.” Even well-fed domestic cats instinctively hunt birds and small wild animals. In the US alone, cats kill an estimated 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds every year, including many species at risk. The majority of these birds are stalked, caught, and “toyed with” but not killed outright. They are left to die from injuries, infections or fright.

Keeping your cat indoors saves birds and small wild animals, but it also protects your cat from harm. Veterinarians, humane societies and animal protection agencies all strongly advocate keeping your cat indoors. An outside cat faces many dangers including: getting hit by cars, getting lost, stolen, or poisoned, contracting infectious or fatal diseases, and getting attacked by other cats, dogs or wild animals. Outdoor cats have a considerably shortened lifespan compared to indoor cats.

Where should I place my bird feeders?

The ideal location for a bird feeder is right up against the window surface, or no more than 1 meter (3 feet) from the window. This positioning significantly reduces the likelihood of injury should a bird hit the window before or after feeding. The one meter or less distance does not give birds the opportunity to build up any momentum when they fly from the feeder, but it gives you the opportunity to enjoy watching birds up close.

birds keep tapping and pecking at my window. What can I do to discourage them?

Many people become alarmed or annoyed when a bird taps or pecks at their window in the spring. When a bird pecks at your window, it is fighting what it perceives to be an intruder. The bird doesn't understand that it is attacking its own reflection; it is simply defending its territory. This territorial reaction may be so strong that the bird exhausts itself or sustains mild abrasions, but the behaviour usually doesn't result in fatal injury

Both males and females birds may exhibit this behaviour, especially those species that nest close to our homes such as American Robins, Northern Cardinals, Chipping Sparrows, and Song Sparrows.

Here are some tips on how to stop birds from tapping at their reflection in your window:

  • Cover the outside of your window with netting or fabric to obscure the bird’s reflection.
  • Shine a lamp out through the window during the day to create a bright glare and mute reflection.
  • Cover the outside of your window with CollidEscape

How can I volunteer for FLAP?

We rely on a team of dedicated volunteers for bird rescue patrols, driving injured birds to wildlife rehabilitation centres, writing articles for our newsletter Touching Down, fund development, serving on our Board of Directors, and many other important positions. Our comprehensive volunteer program guarantees a good fit for your interests, skills and availability. Please contact us at (416) 366-3527 (FLAP) or email flap@flap.org if you are interested in a rewarding volunteer opportunity that helps save migratory birds

How can I join FLAP’s Board of Directors?

Our Board of Directors offers a great opportunity for you to share your ideas for fund development, program management, and research and education initiatives. Contact us at (416) 366-3527 (FLAP) or email flap@flap.org to find out more about available positions on our Board.

I would like to start a program like FLAP in my city. Where do I begin?

Start by contacting local naturalist groups or bird banders and find other interested people to join you in this initiative. Contact municipal councillors to discuss the possibility of starting a Lights Out public awareness campaign in your city during migration seasons. Ask your municipal councillor what resources they can offer such as financial support, rescue equipment, office space, or transportation for injured birds. Start a Neighbourhood Bird Watch on your street and enlist the help of your neighbours and friends to watch for injured and dead birds that have collided with windows. For more ideas, contact us at (416) 366-3527 (FLAP) or email flap@flap.org.

How is FLAP funded?

The majority of our financial support comes from individuals, foundations, corporations, and government funding. Other sources amount to less than 1% and include interest, sales of FLAP merchandise, and miscellaneous, individual initiatives. Fund development presents an ongoing challenge, but one that we meet with enthusiastic and creative efforts that keep the issue of bird-building collisions salient in the public and corporate realms. Every dollar that we raise brings us closer to realizing our vision to safeguard migratory birds through our urban environment. We appreciate any and all donations.

How can I donate to FLAP?

Your gift helps us carry forward with our mission for the rescue, treatment, release and conservation of our beautiful migratory birds.

You can send a cheque or money order, made payable to FLAP to: The Fatal Light Awareness Program, Box 199,123 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario, M5H 3M9.

Or make a secure donation online at CanadaHelps.

Click here to learn more about all of our donation plans including: monthly giving, tribute gifts, gifts in memoriam or planned gift giving. Or call us at (416) 366-4527 (FLAP) or email flap@flap.org.

How will my donation help?

Your donation directly supports the four key programs cited in our mission statement: rescue, rehabilitation, education and research. Through these programs, we work together with our volunteers toward our vision to establish a 24-hour, collision-free urban environment for migratory birds in the city of Toronto, and in other cities along migration routes.

Your donation funds our volunteer bird rescue teams, the drivers who rush injured birds to wildlife rehabilitation centres, and research into more effective solutions for the problem of birds hitting windows and buildings. Your gift helps fund our public awareness campaigns aimed at educating building owners, building managers, architects, developers, window manufacturers, designers, builders, planners, and all levels of government. We feel that if we can make a difference at the level of building design and planning, we can save a lot of migratory birds. Our education program also informs the public about the enormity of the issue and guides them toward the available solutions that can help make homes bird-safe.

Is my health at risk if I touch a wild bird?

birds are much more likely to contract diseases from humans than the other way around. For this reason, and to protect yourself from any remote health risk, we suggest that you wear hand protection such as latex gloves, and wash your hands before and after handling birds. This is simply good practice when handling any wildlife or unknown plant material.

Is West Nile Virus a concern for FLAP volunteers?

The risk of contracting West Nile Virus from birds is minute. The best way to protect against West Nile Virus is to protect against mosquitoes. Bites from infected mosquitoes are the main transmission route of West Nile Virus to humans. Even then, the chances of you becoming extremely ill from the bite of an infected mosquito are extremely small: less than 1%.

Volunteers with the Fatal Light Awareness Program always wear gloves to prevent direct contact when handling live or dead birds, and follow-up with thorough hand washing or the use of hand sanitizer. This is simply good practice whenever handling birds or any other wildlife or unknown plant material.

If you see a dead or injured bird that has collided with a building, please pull on some gloves (or use other protective barriers) and rescue the bird or remove the body before predators do. Report your finding to FLAP and help us with our database of bird collision statistics. Our database is now used worldwide in ornithological and environmental research.

Visit the Centre for Disease Control for up-to-date facts and frequently asked questions about West Nile Virus.

Is Avian Flu (HPA1, H5N1) a concern for FLAP volunteers?

According to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care (MOHLTC) “the HPA1, H5N1 virus has not been detected in Canada, and at this time, there is no reason to believe that backyard birds or wild birds are a threat to the public.”

Avian Flu infections in humans are almost all traceable to direct contact with infected poultry, surfaces contaminated by poultry, or consumption of infected poultry. Those infected have most often been working in close contact with infected poultry in unsanitary conditions.

Injured or dead birds found around buildings most likely did not succumb to Avian Flu or any other infectious diseases and pose no threat to humans.

If you see a dead or injured bird that has collided with a building, please pull on some gloves (or use other protective barriers) and rescue the bird or remove the body before predators do. Report your finding to FLAP and help us with our database of bird collision statistics. Our database is now used worldwide in ornithological and environmental research.

Visit the Centre for Disease Control for up-to-date facts and frequently asked questions about Avian Flu.

How do birds benefit us and our environment?

birds provide a critical link in native ecosystems. They pollinate plants, distribute seeds, and eat billions of insect pests every year. These behaviours help to maintain healthy wetlands, lush forests and fertile agricultural land. This contribution makes birds one of the world’s most valuable natural resources.

birds provide an accessible connection to the natural world, especially for city dwellers. Their beautiful bird song, remarkable feathers and interesting flight patterns immeasurably enrich our lives. It is hard to imagine an early spring morning without the rejuvenating sound of bird song.

birds attract bird watchers and enthusiasts who contribute to multiple local economies. In the most recent 2006 US Fish and Wildlife Survey on birding in the United States, 48 million birders spent $12 billion on trip expenditures and $24 billion on equipment expenditures in pursuit of this leisure activity. Birders generated 671,000 jobs related to bird-watching and bird-related recreational travel.