Winnipeg provides an important habitat for migratory birds. Our city provides trees, water, protection, and supplemental food, helping many birds survive their journeys.
The way buildings are designed causes approximately 25 million bird deaths in Canada each year, according to research by Avian Conservation and Ecology.
Preserving bird populations contributes to environmental sustainability and reduces human-induced environmental impacts. Birds help control insects and rodents; pollinate flowers, gardens and agricultural crops; and disperse seeds, while serving as a bio-indicator for the health of an ecosystem (according to Nature Conservancy Canada).
The City of Winnipeg is committed to being bird-friendly. We have developed solutions and suggestions to create a more positive environment for birds, including reducing bird collisions with buildings.
The following resources provide ways to help keep birds safe, including policy, building design, and things you can do at home and at work.
Lights out Winnipeg!
On March 24, 2022, Council approved the Lights Out Winnipeg Bird-friendly Policy. This policy formalizes the steps needed to make sure lights in municipal buildings are turned off at night, which in turn will help to minimize building collisions for night migrating birds. The also policy acknowledges that exterior lighting exists to maintain personal safety and protect property from theft or vandalism. Therefore, when replacing exterior light fixtures on municipal properties, the City will ensure that light fixture choices are safe for both people and birds.
The policy encourages all Winnipeg residents to turn off or dim lights at night, use task lighting, and draw blinds – at the office and at home.
Light from buildings can attract and disorient migrating birds, confusing and exhausting them, making them vulnerable to collisions with structures. The exhaustion also makes them more vulnerable to other urban threats like cats. This is why reducing energy use by shutting off lights for peak migration season (mid-March to early June, and late August to early October) makes both environmental and financial sense.
When building owners turn off excess lighting during the months when migrating birds are flying overhead, this helps provide birds with safe passage between their nesting and wintering grounds. Here are other suggestions that can help:
- Turn off exterior decorative lighting
- Extinguish pot and flood-lights
- Substitute strobe lighting wherever possible
- Reduce atrium lighting wherever possible
- Turn off interior lighting, especially on higher storeys
- Provide task and area lighting for workers staying late, or pull window coverings
- Install automatic motion sensors and controls wherever possible
- When converting to new lighting, assess quality and quantity of light needed, avoid over-lighting
Bird-Friendly Design Standard for new and existing buildings
The way buildings are constructed can help reduce collisions between birds and buildings. Design interventions can also help existing buildings be more bird-friendly.
In September 2021, the City adopted the Bird-Friendly Building Design Standard, developed by CSA Group. We recommend it be thoughtfully considered by businesses, residents, designers, and builders before beginning any building project.
Bird-friendly building and site design involve design interventions intended to reduce collisions between birds and buildings. As birds are unable to recognize glass as an impermeable surface, interventions can include: treatments of glazing glass, integrating structures like screens and shades into the building, making exterior lighting safe for birds at night, and turning off interior lights.
CSA Group is a global organization dedicated to standards development and testing, inspection and certification around the world including Canada, the U.S., Europe, and Asia. CSA Group developed the Bird-Friendly Building Design Standard and published it in compliance with Standards Council of Canada as a National Standard of Canada. The Standard covers bird-friendly building design in both new construction and existing buildings and is intended to reduce bird collisions with buildings.
What residents can do
- Use task lighting
- Turn off lights at night at home and in the office
- Treat windows with screens, netting, decals, or installing external shades and other items to block the reflection of sunlight
- Make your yard more bird-friendly by planting native plants, trees and shrubs in clusters
- Provide birds with access to food by ensuring seeds from flowers and plants are left in the yard
- Install ultraviolet-reflective film on your windows
- Learn more about being bird-friendly at BirdSafe
What other cities are doing
Cities across North America (including Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Ottawa) have adopted guidelines to promote bird-friendly design. These cities also provide additional web resources to residents about how to help preserve bird populations, particularly during peak migration seasons.