On a wing and a prayer

Dead birds: four. Hurt birds: one.

Today is a good day for Michael Mesure. It’s 7 a.m. on a clear September morning and Mesure is patrolling Coliseum Place, a grouping of three buildings not far from Scarborough Town Centre. “Late September, early October is prime bird migration season,” says Mesure. “Toronto will see millions of birds from 214 species fly over and through it on their way south.”

Tragically, Mesure expects thousands of migrating birds to fly smack into office tower windows as they pass. “People just don’t realize how serious a problem this is,” he says. But he hopes, along with 60 other volunteers in Toronto’s Fatal Light Awareness Program, to find and rehabilitate about 3,500 of them.

I continue with Mesure on his patrol. The 42-year-old has been dedicated to birds all his life, and helped form FLAP in 1992, currently acting as its executive director. Over his shoulder he’s carrying a small net on a stick. He and another volunteer have picked up three decaying hummingbirds, though these birds likely struck the windows two nights ago along with a flock of 28 others and were missed by volunteers yesterday. Also tagged and bagged is a Louisiana water thrush. Today’s sole survivor is a Wilson’s warbler, tucked into a paper lunch bag until Mesure can reach one of the designated bird rehabilitation centres around Toronto to be checked out by a vet, treated and released.

Throughout the year, Mesure lobbies architects and property owners to improve the bird-friendliness of their buildings. He’s had success during migration season, when structures like the CN Tower and BCE Place now dim or turn off their lights at night, reducing the number of birds who think they can fly directly through windows or are attracted to city lights by mistaking them for the stars they use for navigation. But Mesure has a growing concern for a relatively new architectural phenomenon: mirrored glass. “Human beings look at mirrored glass as a symbol of productivity; it has a corporate look to it, but it is fatal for a bird.”

Right above us, a tiny bird swoops headlong towards its own reflection. It dekes at the last second, but proves the point.

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