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The Value of Our Volunteers

Our rescue volunteers are the strength and inspiration behind the Fatal Light Awareness Program. They sacrifice sleep and leisure time, often huddling against cold, wind and rain, to search for migrating birds that have been stunned, injured or killed by collisions with windows, mirrored buildings or office towers lit at night.

flap volunteers
Some dedicated FLAP volunteers. (Photo: FLAP)

Some mornings rescuers find nothing and they're left hoping that thousands of birds passed safely overhead that night and reached their destination. Sometimes, they find live birds that quickly recover from their ordeal… and both bird and rescuer cannot wait for that joyous moment of release. And then there are the mornings when volunteers find nothing but dead birds littering the pavement.

At times like that it all seems a terrible waste – and their work appears to be in vain. Nothing could be further from the truth. All rescue patrols yield valuable information.

When no birds were found – but we know from bird migration monitoring websites that tens of thousands of birds flew over the city that night – we learn more about the circumstances that allow for safe migration. How injured birds respond to emergency treatment reveals a great deal about the needs of their species. Even the dead birds have something to teach us: researchers at the Royal Ontario Museum learn more about migration patterns and bird physiology.

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Michael Mesure, FLAP's co-founder, releasing a Wood Thrush.
(Photo: Toronto Star)

What's more, the data gathered by rescue volunteers enables FLAP to approach office buildings where the bird strikes occur and encourage them to remedy the situation. It also helps us deduce which other buildings would be a serious danger to birds. Volunteer-gathered data is also shared with organizations such as Ecojustice and the Canadian Wildlife Service who assess the records to hopefully improve the chances of migratory bird survival.

The ultimate reward to our rescue volunteers is to see birds, fortunate enough to survive their encounter with a hostile urban environment, celebrate their renewed freedom as they are released back into the wild.

Thanks to all our volunteers!

FLAP's rescue volunteers have the saddest and most thrilling job, but others who volunteer their time and talents to bird conservation are no less valuable. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who sits on FLAP's Board of Directors, writes or illustrates for our newsletter, provides photographs for our website or display, makes presentations to school groups or professional organizations, organizes fundraising events, compiles data, trains new rescue volunteers, transports birds to rehab or performs the many tasks necessary to keep our organization vital and effective.