Two artists involved with the upcoming Vancouver Bird Week say they hope the city will require new real-estate developments to incorporate design features that deter birds from flying into buildings.
Geneviève Raiche-Savoie and Jesse Garbe, who together compose the Department of Bird Safety artist collective, are members of the city’s bird advisory committee and the artists-in-residence at the Queen Elizabeth Park field house. They’ve curated an exhibition about the city’s voluntary Bird Friendly Design Guidelines for buildings and landscapes, which were adopted by council in January.
Raiche-Savoie, a communication designer who teaches at Emily Carr University of Art and Design and Langara College, told the Georgia Straight bird-collision deterrents are mandatory for new developments in Toronto.
“I think it’s the next step for Vancouver—‘greenest city’,” Raiche-Savoie said at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre, where the exhibition launches on Thursday (April 16).
According to Raiche-Savoie, birds crash into windows—often fatally—because they either see the habitats reflected by the glass or don’t see the glass. She noted visual markers spaced no more than five centimetres vertically and 10 centimetres horizontally on the outside of windows are an effective deterrent.
Garbe, who’s a painter, told the Straight birds are most likely to hit windows up to the fourth floor of a building. He suggested the city could pass a bylaw to make meeting the Bird Friendly Design Guidelines a requirement for new developments.
“Personally, I would like to see that for large buildings, especially on shorelines,” Garbe said.
The Bird Friendly Design Guidelines include measures to increase the visibility of glass, reduce light pollution, and cut down on reflections.
“It is estimated that across Canada, 16-42 million birds are killed annually by collisions with buildings,” the guidelines state. “Bird collisions with windows are indiscriminate; they can occur anywhere, at any time, day and night, year-round, across urban and rural landscapes, affecting migratory, resident, young, old, large, small, male and female birds.”
While the guidelines are aimed at architects, builders, developers, land owners, and planners, Raiche-Savoie asserted it’s both easy and fun for anyone to make their homes bird-friendly. Her and Garbe plan to hold workshops about this during Bird Week, which runs from May 2 to 9.
On March 4, Seeing Spots, the artists’ bird-collision-deterring installation, went up at the West Point Grey Community Centre.
Dan Straker, urban wildlife programs coordinator for the Stanley Park Ecology Society, told the Straight the top three threats facing birds in cities are building collisions, habitat loss, and predation by cats.
“Not everybody really knows how big Vancouver is for birds, and how important our habitats are for birds as well,” Straker said at the Roundhouse.
The Bird Friendly Design Guidelines exhibition runs at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre until May 12.