The Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) Canada’s ‘Annual Migratory Bird Layout‘ at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is an art piece made out of dead birds.
A leading cause of death to migratory birds is collision into buildings. Over a million birds die each year during the spring and fall migration in the Greater Toronto Area due to bird-building collision. Environment Canada estimates that “more than 25 million birds fatally collide with windows at low, mid and high-rise buildings annually,” according to FLAP Canada.
In Canada, birds are protected by federal and provincial laws:
“the Migratory Birds Convention Act; Section 32(1) of the Canadian Species at Risk Act (SARA); and, Section 14 of the Ontario Environmental Protection Act (EPA) whereby it is an offence to kill or injure birds by reflective light/windows on buildings.” – FLAP Canada.
Migrating birds navigate by starlight. Bright glows interfere with their natural navigational instincts. They get confused and follow bright lights from buildings at night or reflective surfaces during the day.
During the 2005 fall migration, FLAP volunteers found 3,400 injured birds in the few locations that they check in Toronto and 2,100 of them were dead. Rehabilitated birds were set free and on March 8, 2006 the dead birds were displayed in the Rotunda at the ROM.
FLAP volunteers continue to collect deceased and injured birds. The 2014 display had over 1,700 birds of 90 different species. Some were at risk of extinction and many were ‘neotropical migrants’ that FLAP Canada donated to the ROM for educational and research use. Specimen from the collection are exhibited in ‘Life in Crisis‘ in the Schad Gallery of Biodiversity and others are given to external research facilities. The most recent laying-out of the birds was on April 21, 2017.
The ROM annual two-hour exhibit is just one of the ways that FLAP tries to save birds. They work with cities to implement policies to build BirdFriendly buildings. They also track bird migration patterns via the FLAP Tracker using live weather radar technology. They encourage the public to report bird-collision incidents through the FLAP Mapper, an app that shows where the incidents occur and is essentially a global database of bird-building collisions.
The information they gather helps to inform FLAP’s main work, which is to prevent the death of millions of birds from crashing into glass windows, doors and walls of homes and office towers. We can help them do that by obstructing transparent structures with a pattern and by turning off our lights at night.