Thursday, March 09, 2006

Turn off the damn lights!

2,000 dead birds displayed in lights-out campaign
Last Updated Wed, 08 Mar 2006 17:03:43 EST
CBC News
A Toronto-based group that collects the bodies of hundreds of dead birds each morning is urging highrise owners to turn off their buildings' lights at night.

Birds migrating north in the springtime often fly into the illuminated windows of office buildings, confusing their brightness with the starlight they use to navigate.

Michael Mesure is the executive director of the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP), which is launching an education program about the problem.

It's aimed at convincing building owners and managers that they could save energy costs as well as birds' lives by urging their corporate tenants to turn out the lights at night.

Mesure and his 60 or so volunteers collect the dead or injured birds in the morning – some days collecting as many as 500.

"You can stand at the side of a structure and see the birds hit, one after another, and you're catching these birds as they fall," Mesure told a news conference Wednesday. "And you bend down to pick some up and they're dropping on your back."

Laid out in the room at the Royal Ontario Museum where the news conference took place were the corpses of about 2,000 of the birds affected, including woodpeckers, thrushes, blue jays, sparrows and ruby-throated hummingbirds.

Collecting dead birds is a grim task but there are some happy moments, said FLAP volunteer Wendy Hunter.

"There was one day when I looked down and two birds were lying on their backs, and I thought, 'Oh, they're dead.' So I put the dead ones in my pocket," said Hunter.

"And then I was going to work and all of a sudden I felt my pocket jerking. The birds had actually just been stunned and [were] very cold, and the warmth from my body had warmed them up.

"So things like that are really rewarding."

Joining the FLAP fight, Toronto Hydro has been encouraging the CN Tower and more than 100 other buildings, including the Toronto Dominion Centre and BCE Place complexes, to turn off unneeded lights during migration season.

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