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A "bird-safe" decal featured on a UM campus building, with green trees and grass out of focus in the background.

Indigenous Birding Club hosts Safe Windows event

June 25, 2024 — 

Birds around the Fort Garry campus will be flying a bit safer around Migizii Agamik –Bald Eagle Lodge thanks to the help of a UM birding club.

Earlier this month, the UM Indigenous Birding Club (UMIBC) hosted a Safe Windows event on campus to raise awareness about how many birds die due to striking windows on campus.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada FAQs webpage on bird collisions with glass, windows kill 16 to 42 million birds per year and UMIBC is hoping to demonstrate how easy it is to make windows safer for our feathered friends.

“If you stand outside a building, on most days you will see that the windows reflect the surrounding environment just like a mirror would,” says UMIBC co-founder Justin Rasmussen. “Instead of seeing a window, birds see more trees, grass, shrubs and sky and think it is safe to fly toward the window. Unfortunately, they end up colliding with the window and are often fatally injured from the impact.”

Rasmussen says he hopes the event will inspire more people to consider the impact windows have on birds and take action to make their own windows bird-safe.

“We started with two windows, but our goal is for this tiny initiative to lead to many more bird-safe windows throughout our community,” he says.

Two people facing away from the camera placing decals on a window.Decals were applied to the windows at Migizii Agamik, breaking up the reflection. They were installed at distances that are less than 5 c.m. apart, according to best practices, so the birds don’t think they can fly between them.

This set of decals at Migizii Agamik is the third set of bird-friendly windows on campus to be installed that will prevent window collisions.

Rasmussen says the event was held to support the outstanding efforts of Dr. Emily McKinnon, Dr. Nicola Koper and Dr. Kevin Fraser who have worked to raise awareness and enhance bird safety on the UM campus for years.

UMIBC co-founder Bailey Hendry says these decals are important because they don’t just prevent the loss of birds at the Fort Garry campus, they also create a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly space for everyone.

“Birds provide us with so much joy and care, and it’s our responsibility to care for them in return,” says Hendry. “We can’t abide by birding ethics without advocating for the conservation of the species we spend time finding on our walks, and this is just one step towards making sure our campus buildings are safer for birds so we can continue to enjoy them.”

Members of the Student Experience and Development (SEAD) team came and helped UMIBC with placing the window decals.

SEAD staff and birding club member Safron Blais was introduced to UMIBC last September at Indigenous Orientation and joined the event because she wanted to help.

“Justin and Bailey have forged a space that is supportive, accessible and wholly welcoming,” says Blais. “By being Indigenous-led, the club allows space for decolonized ways of teaching and learning. Through this, I have come to better understand my place in the cycle of the world. More plainly, I am now obsessed with our feathered friends. I have become an acolyte ornithologist, and more importantly, I feel a strong sense of belonging thanks to the birding club.”

Rasmussen and Hendry recommend that people report bird collisions on the Global Bird Collision Mapper website.

You can also check out this Government of Canada resource for more information about birds colliding with windows.

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